Generally, bicycles are treated as motor vehicles under Texas state law. However, there are key differences between laws that motor vehicle drivers and bicyclists must follow, some of which are harsher than expected.
Understanding those differences can be vital to riding a bicycle safely in the area and preserving your right to pursue civil litigation if someone else’s negligence leads to a bicycle accident. A skilled bike crash lawyer could provide more information about traffic laws for bicyclists in Houston and help you understand the requirements set out by law.
Neither state nor local law differentiates meaningfully between motor vehicles and bicycles in terms of where they can travel and what they can and cannot do while on public roadways. Therefore, bicyclists must follow all the same traffic laws as motor vehicles while riding on public streets in Houston—for example, stopping at stoplights and signs, yielding the right-of-way to other drivers and pedestrians in accordance with state law, and riding with the flow of traffic.
By the same token, though, bicyclists have the same rights as motor vehicle drivers, including the right to a reasonable and safe amount of separation from other vehicles around them. Specifically, motor vehicle drivers are required by law to give bicyclists at least three feet of space while driving near them.
In most cases, bicyclists can ride in roadways, and if multiple bicyclists are riding together on a road at once, they can ride two abreast within a single lane of traffic. However, they must stay within their lane and follow all other traffic markings and signals as they would if they were operating a motor vehicle. That said, riders should stay on designated bike paths whenever available.
It should also be noted that the Houston Code of Ordinances §45-302 prohibits bicycles from riding on sidewalks inside business districts, including downtown Houston. Sidewalk riding is not illegal in other areas of the city. However, riders must audibly signal to pedestrians—generally using either a horn or a bell attached to their bike—when passing pedestrians on sidewalks in Houston.
Bicycle riders over 18 years old are not required to wear helmets while riding on public roads, but the same freedom is not granted to minors. Under Houston Code of Ordinances §45-326, anyone under 18 riding a bicycle or traveling in a bike attachment such as a sidecar must wear a helmet at all times. In fact, parents and guardians can face legal penalties for knowingly allowing or permitting a child under 14 to ride a bike without a helmet.
Following traffic laws for bicyclists in Houston is essential to keeping you safe and preserving your legal rights after a bike accident caused by a negligent individual. Unfortunately, if the court finds that you contributed to your accident by violating a traffic law, your damage award may be limited or denied altogether. Therefore, calling a tenacious attorney is crucial.
If you have questions about how state and local law applies to you as a bicycle rider, a bicycle accident lawyer could provide the answers you need. Call today for a consultation.