The Rules of the Road For Bike Riders in Austin

Biking is a popular form of transportation in Austin; our city is small, so that makes biking from one place to another relatively easy and manageable. Even so, there are certain rules of the road that you need to be aware of to keep yourself and others safe.

Here's a comprehensive list of safety tips and bike laws that could affect your day to day, whether you're a bike rider who's only visited Austin a few times or a proud Austinite.

General Safe Biking Tips

  • Always ride with traffic, never against it.
  • Obey traffic signs and signals like any other vehicle you share the roadway with.
  • Make sure to observe who has the right-of-way. Bicycles are legally considered “vehicles,” so they're required to yield to pedestrians and not always granted the right of way. (For example, when turning left at an intersection, you must yield to oncoming traffic like another other motor vehicle.)
  • Don’t pass other vehicles within the same lane.
  • Keep a steady speed that's not too fast or slow, so you can brake efficiently. 
  • Stay visible to drivers by wearing bright colors during the day.
  • Make sure your bike is equipped with lights at night. Collision by a larger vehicle is one of the most common ways that bikers can get hurt, especially at night. 
Photograph by Joe Van.

Photograph by Joe Van.

  • Always bike in a predictable manner. Surprising other drivers can have serious consequences.
  • Never ride with headphones. As a cyclist, you need to be alert to other drivers and your surroundings. 
  • Wear a helmet! In the event of an accident, a helmet will be your best friend.
  • Don’t pass on the right. Drivers may not look for or see a bicycle passing on the right. Like other vehicles, pass on the left.
  • Make eye contact with drivers. Always assume that drivers can’t see you unless you make eye contact. Don’t be afraid to smile and even wave to ensure that they know you are there.
  • Scan the road behind you. Practice glancing behind yourself without losing your balance or swerving. Some bikes do come with rearview mirrors, but it’s still always a good idea to do a quick glance over your shoulder just to be sure.

Signaling on a Bike

It's important for you to communicate effectively and efficiently with other drivers and cyclists on the road. Here are the basic hand signals provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):

Biking Laws in Austin

  • Some streets in Austin restrict bicycle use. Here's a map of sidewalks where it's prohibited to bike. (provided by www.austintexas.gov):
  • You may not park a bicycle in a manner that obstructs any form of traffic.
  • You may not park a bicycle in a space designated as a vehicle parking place or between two vehicle parking places.
  • You may not secure a bicycle to public or private property in a manner that may damage the property.
  • If you are riding a bicycle on a roadway and moving slower than the other traffic, you must ride as close as possible to the right curb or edge of the roadway.
  • You may not operate a bicycle unless the bicycle is equipped with a brake that is capable of braking on dry, level, clean pavement.
  • You may not operate a bicycle at night unless the bicycle is equipped with:
    • A lamp on the front of the bike that emits a light visible from a distance
    • A red reflector on the rear of the bicycle

Here's a great guide by the city of Austin to help ensure that your bike is safe for the roads:

  • Do not drink and bike. Although there is currently no law in Texas against drinking and biking, it is still a punishable offense, because you will be a major road hazard to yourself and others. The penalties for drunk biking varies depending on the nature of the situation, but you could be charged with public intoxication which carries a fine up to $500.

For more information about state imposed safety regulations, laws and fines, check out our friends at Bike Austin. Bike safe, y'all!