Being a bicyclist in Texas comes with several inherent risks. Distracted drivers, drunk drivers, roadway hazards and an increased chance of head injuries are some of the risks you take on as a cyclist. How you address these risks could determine whether or not you get into a bicycle accident. Texas crash statistics for 2018 show 72 pedal cyclist deaths in motor vehicle accidents. Protect yourself from an accident by knowing and exercising your rights as a cyclist in Texas.
The Right to Ride in the Road
Many drivers show signs of anger, frustration and road rage when driving behind bicyclists in Texas. They may tailgate you, honk their horns or pass too closely. It is your right as a biker, however, to ride in the road alongside motor vehicles. Bicycles are vehicles in Texas (Section 551.001). You have the right to take up a full lane of traffic when riding in the road. For safety reasons, keep as far to the right side of the road as possible except when avoiding obstacles or turning left. If a driver was infringing upon your right to the road, you may have grounds for a case against him or her after a collision.
If your city has a bicycle path available, use this to reduce your risk of getting into an accident. Texas law, however, does not require you to use a bike path if you would rather use a standard traffic lane. You may also have the right to ride your bicycle on the sidewalk if the area does not have any municipal rules forbidding it. Texas does not have a statewide rule against riding on sidewalks. Many major cities, however, including Dallas, have municipal laws prohibiting bicyclists from riding on sidewalks in central business districts. Learn the laws in your city before riding on the sidewalk.
Bicyclists in Texas receive the right-of-way when a motorist would have the right-of-way in the same situation. When at an intersection, for example, if you came to a stop first on your bicycle, you will have the right-of-way. It is against the law for a driver to ignore your right-of-way as a bicyclist. If a driver does not yield and causes an accident, he or she could be liable for your injuries and damages. You must also respect others’ rights-of-way. It is your duty as a cyclist in Texas to obey all roadway rules and traffic signs, including stop signs and traffic lights.
The Right Not to Wear a Helmet
Texas does not have a universal bicycle helmet requirement. Currently, the State of Texas does not require any bicycle rider to wear a helmet, regardless of age or level of experience. It is your prerogative to wear a helmet or not wear a helmet, unless the municipal rules in your city say otherwise. Cities that require the use of a bicycle helmet include Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, Houston and Bedford.
A defendant in a personal injury claim in Texas could not hold it against you if you were not wearing a helmet in a bicycle accident. You have the right under state law not to wear one. Even if the accident gave you a head, face or brain injury, the defendant could not use your lack of helmet wearing in a comparative negligence defense. Wearing a helmet, however, is a wise choice for your personal safety as a bicyclist. Wearing a helmet drastically decreases your chances of a serious brain injury in an accident.
The Right to Expect Reasonable Care From Drivers
Finally, as a bicyclist, you have the right to expect drivers and others on the road to treat you with reasonable care. All drivers owe duties of care to other drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians. These duties include obeying traffic rules and state laws. Driving drunk, texting and driving, driving negligently, and reckless driving are examples of common breaches of the duty of care by drivers in Texas. If a driver fails to respect one of your rights as a cyclist and this causes a collision, you could have the right to bring a claim against the driver for negligence. A Dallas bicycle accident lawyer could help you bring a cause of action in Texas.