Rules of the Road

With all the controversy surrounding the hike and bike plan and our recent elections, you may have been hearing many people say that “the mixing of cars and bicycles is unsafe” (especially with drunk drivers on the road) or that parks or even sidewalks are an appropriate place to ride a bicycle.  You may question those notions, as someone who rides on streets.  Or you may share those sentiments, as someone who may not feel comfortable riding on the street.

Well, our roads were made for bikes (learn more about the Good Roads Movement, in which cyclists helped lead the way to having paved roads in the first place) as well as cars.

There are rules of the road that car drivers and bike riders must follow so that we can all safely and comfortably get to where we need to go.  And they’re pretty simple:

  • ride in the same direction of traffic
  • follow traffic laws – that means stopping at lights and stop signs
  • ride to the right, unless:
    • passing another vehicle
    • preparing to turn left
    • avoiding some obstacle in the road
    • the right-most lane is less than 14′ and has no adjacent bike lane, then take the lane
    • the road is too narrow for a cyclist and car to safely ride side-by-side, then take the lane
    • it’s a one-way street with more than 2 lanes (such as the Center/Mesquite couplet), in which case you may ride in the left or right lane
Also, you must:
  • have a brake
  • have a front, white light when riding at night
  • have a rear, red light or reflector when riding at night
  • signal when:
    • turning right: put your left arm up at a 90 degree angle or put your right arm straight out
    • turning left: put your left arm straight out
    • stopping: put your left arm down at a 90 degree angle
  • wear a helmet, if under 18 years old (Arlington specific)
The full bike laws are available at BikeTexas, taken from the Texas Transportation Code, chapters 545 and 551.  Arlington’s regulations are available here.  Bicycle Austin also has a Right to the Road handout that you can print and keep with you for reference or to give away to help educate on sharing the road.  It’s a great resource and we highly recommend it!  Another great resource is BicycleSafe.com which shows 10 potential conflict situations and how you can ride to avoid them.
Each municipality may have its own additional laws concerning bicycles.  In many cities bicycles are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk.  Why?  Because the many driveways and curbcuts can make riding unsafe, as drivers who are turning into or out of such driveways are usually not expecting to encounter a relatively fast-moving bicycle on the sidewalk, so they are more apt to have accidents:
Arlington traffic regulations (PDF) are not explicit about sidewalks, but they do say that “no person shall operate or use a bicycle or motor vehicle…on a trail or path not designated for use by such vehicle,” and we could assume that sidewalks are not designated for use by bicycles.
Now you know the rules.  As a driver you know what to expect when you see a cyclist, and as a cyclist you know what is expected of you when you’re riding in the road.
But let’s say you’re 8 years old.  Or 80.  Or want to ride your bike with someone who is.  Or you’re uncomfortable riding on the road. For those new to cycling or who simply can’t or don’t want to get out on the road with car drivers, on street-bike facilities can give you a higher level of safety and comfort, but still allow you to use your bike for transportation and get where you need to be.  And let’s face it, if you’re 8 or 80, you can’t drive either.
On-street bike facilities can provide the flexibility and safety needed to allow everyone, from 8-to-80, to ride their bicycle to their destination, so they can work, go to school, and spend money in our great city.
We’ll give more info on the benefits and types of on-street bike facilities soon, but in the meantime, our friends at Bike Friendly Oak Cliff have a great FAQ section on bike lanes.
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