Active Transportation Legislation & Resources

Bicyclists, pedestrians, and motorists all have certain responsibilities when operating within or crossing the public right-of-way. Generally in Texas, bicyclists are entitled to all rights and obligated to all duties of the road that apply to an operator of a motor vehicle, except where specifically prohibited by posted notice.

The resources below contain summaries from federal, state, and local laws and regulations related to walking and bicycling. Please contact Daniel Snyder if your community has ordinances and policies which may be included as an additional resource.

Contents:

I. Federal
  • Bicycle Commuter Tax Benefit

II. State
    A. Bicyclists
  • Bicyclist Rights and Duties
  • General Operation of a Bicycle
  • Bicycle Operation on Roadway
  • Bicycle Safety Equipment
  • Turn Signals for Bicyclists
  • Blocking Sidewalks
  • Competitive Bicycle Races
     B. Pedestrians
  • Pedestrians Crossing a Signalized Intersection
  • Pedestrians Crossing in an Unmarked Crosswalk
  • Pedestrians Using Sidewalks
  • Traffic Control Signals
     C. Other
  • Texas Driver’s Handbook (Texas Department of Public Safety)
  • Guidelines Emphasizing Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodations (Texas Department of Transportation)

III. Local
  • Overview
  • Bicycle Helmets
  • Bicycle Parking Ordinances and Regulations
  • Bicycling and Walking on Freeways
  • Clinging to Motor Vehicles
  • Dockless Vehicles (Bicycles and Electric Scooters)
  • Protecting Vulnerable Road Users
  • Riding on Sidewalks

Disclaimer: This information should not be construed as legal advice. NCTCOG takes no responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions. Please contact an attorney for legal opinions or assistance related to bicycle and pedestrian transportation legislation. All information and links on this website are current as of January 2015.

 

I. Federal

Information on Bicycle and Pedestrian Legislation in Title 23 United States Code (U.S.C.) can be found here.  The website also provides additional information about FHWA Legislation and the FHWA Memorandum designating Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinators within State Department of Transportation.  In 2010, the United States Department of Transportation released a Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation Regulations and Recommendations. This statement emphasizes the importance of active transportation and the agency’s commitment to integrating these modes of transportation into their projects and everyday line of work.
 

Bicycle Commuter Tax Benefit

“Any employer, if they chose to do so, may provide a reimbursement of up to $20 per month for reasonable expenses incurred by the employee in conjunction with their commute to work by bike. The reimbursement is a fringe benefit paid by the employer the employee does not get taxed on the amount of the reimbursement.”

Click here for an in-depth overview of the Bicycle Commuter Act and tax benefit covered in section 132 (f) of the Internal Revenue Service Code (26 U.S.C. sec. 132(f)). 
 
 

II. State

Texas Transportation Code (State Laws Governing Bicycling and Walking)

The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) provides a website compiling frequently asked questions involving state laws that apply to bicycles and pedestrians. A sample of questions in the FAQ include:
  • What traffic laws apply to bicyclists? What traffic laws do not?
  • Are pedestrians allowed to walk on the roadway or a bike lane?
  • Is it legal to ride a bike on interstate highways?
  • If there is a bike path adjacent to the roadway, does a cyclist have to use it or can they use the roadway?

The citations below are a selection from the Texas Transportation Code.

A. Bicyclists

Bicyclist Rights and Duties (Sec. 551.101)

A person operating a bicycle has the rights and duties applicable to a driver operating a vehicle.

 

General Operation of a Bicycle (Sec. 551.102)

A person may not use a bicycle to carry more persons than the bicycle is designed or equipped to carry.  A person operating a bicycle may not use a bicycle to carry an object that prevents the person from operating the bicycle with at least one hand on the handlebars.
 
While bicycling, ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway, unless:
  • Passing another vehicle moving in the same direction;
  • Preparing to turn left;
  • A condition of the roadway prevents the bicyclist from riding next to the curb or edge of the roadway; or
  • Roadway is too narrow for a bicycle and motor vehicle to safely travel side by side.
 
 

Bicycle Operation on Roadway (Sec. 551.103)

Bicyclists may ride two abreast in a single lane.  Persons riding two abreast may not impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic on the roadway.

 

Bicycle Safety Equipment (Sec. 551.104)

All bicycles must be equipped with brakes. In order to ride at night, a bicycle must:
  • Be equipped with a white light on the front visible from a distance at least 500 feet.
  • Be equipped with a red light on the back visible from a distance at least 500 feet.
  • Be equipped with a red reflector on the back.
 


Turn Signal Methods for Bicyclists (Sec. 545.107)

To signal a left turn, extend left hand and arm horizontally. To signal a right turn, either (1) extend left hand and arm upward or (2) extend right hand and arm horizontally. To signal a stop or decrease in speed, extend left hand and arm downward.

 

Blocking Sidewalks (Sec. 545.302)

A bicycle may not be parked on a sidewalk, in an intersection, on a crosswalk, on a bridge or railroad track, or where an official sign prohibits stopping. If the bicycle does not impede the normal and reasonable movement of pedestrian traffic, parking a bicycle on the sidewalk is allowed.

 

Competitive Bicycle Races (Sec. 551.105)

A sponsoring organization may hold a competitive bicycle race on public roadways with the approval of the appropriate local law enforcement agencies.


 

B. Pedestrians

Pedestrians Crossing at a Signalized Intersection (Sec. 552.002)

A pedestrian facing a “Walk” signal may proceed across a roadway in the direction of the signal, and the operator of a vehicle shall yield to the pedestrian. A pedestrian may not start to cross a roadway in the direction of a “Don’t Walk” or a “Wait” signal. A pedestrian who has partially crossed while the “Walk” signal is displayed shall proceed to a sidewalk or safety island while the “Don’t Walk” signal or “Wait” signal is displayed.

 

Pedestrians Crossing in an Unmarked Crosswalk (Sec. 552.005)

A pedestrian shall yield to a vehicle if crossing a roadway other than in a marked crosswalk or in an unmarked crosswalk at a mid-block crossing. A pedestrian may cross a roadway intersection diagonally only if authorized by a traffic control device.

 

Pedestrians Using Sidewalks (Sec. 552.006)

A pedestrian may not walk along and on a roadway if an adjacent sidewalk is provided. If a sidewalk is not provided, a pedestrian walking along a roadway shall walk on the left side of the roadway or the shoulder of the roadway facing oncoming traffic.

 

Traffic Control Signals (Sec. 552.001)

If no special pedestrian control signals are present at a crossing or intersection, a signal displaying green, red, and yellow lights applies to pedestrians. A pedestrian facing a green signal may proceed across a roadway within a marked or unmarked crosswalk unless the green signal is a turn arrow. A pedestrian facing a red or yellow signal may not enter a roadway.


 

C. Other Guidance

Texas Driver’s Handbook (Texas Department of Public Safety)

This chapter includes laws and safety tips for pedestrians and motorists.
 
This chapter reviews traffic laws and safety guidelines for bicyclists.

 

Guidelines Emphasizing Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodations

The Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) encourages accommodating all modes of transportation, including bicycling and walking. A copy of their March 23, 2011 memorandum regarding Guidelines Emphasizing Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodations can be found here.
 

III. Local Ordinances in the North Central Texas Region

Most municipal ordinances in our region related to bicycle and pedestrian transportation reference the State Transportation Code. The following ordinances are a sample of local laws passed by municipalities within the North Central Texas region, organized by topic.
 

Bicycle Helmets

There is no state law requiring bicyclists to wear a helmet. However, various local governments may have specific requirements. Check with your local community to find out the rules where you ride.
 

Bicycle Parking Ordinances and Regulations

Local laws can encourage bicycling by making bike parking more widely available. New developments of a certain size constructed in the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth are required to provide parking for bicycles. In addition, cities such as Denton have guidelines encouraging the location and placement of bicycle parking accommodations.
 
Information and guidance on drafting an ordinance for bicycle parking is available here.


Bicycling and Walking on Freeways

In addition to the Texas Transportation Commission, municipalities may prohibit the use of bicycling and walking on freeways within their jurisdiction.
 


Clinging to Motor Vehicles


Dockless Vehicles (Bicycles and Electric Scooters) 

Dockless bicycles and electric scooters are operated by private companies in the public right of way. The bicycles are inexpensive to rent, they are not returned to docking stations, and they are tracked and used with GPS and Bluetooth technology. Because of this, municipalities around the region have crafted regulatory ordinances to ensure safe parking and fair operation within city boundaries and special districts, and include data sharing requirements.
 
  • Dallas: The City of Dallas’ Dockless Vehicle (Bicycle and Scooter) Ordinance and Permit Application identify the requirements of companies to obtain a permit to operate.
  • Denton: The City of Denton's ordinance includes a pilot program and permit requirement to operate within the city.
  • Plano: The City of Plano’s ordinance establishes a pilot program to award permits to bike share companies that meet the requirements.
  • Town of Highland Park:  The Town of Highland Park’s ordinance has prohibited dockless bicycles from being parked within the city limits.
     
Guidance and Case Studies

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) developed Guidelines for the Regulation and Management of Shares Active Transportation. More information can be found here.  

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) recently published a new case study in its livability series highlighting how Seattle adopted dockless bike share and the manner in which the city successfully leveraged innovation in the private sector to improve mobility in the city. 

 

Protecting Vulnerable Road Users

Bicyclists and Pedestrians are inherently more vulnerable to injury than drivers of motor vehicles. Several local communities have ordinances to hold accountable reckless and negligent motorists who injure or kill a bicyclist or pedestrian.
 
  • Dallas: This law requires a motor vehicle shall pass a vulnerable road user at a safe distance (three feet if the operator’s vehicle is a passenger car, six feet if the operator’s vehicle is a truck or commercial motor vehicle). An operator or passenger of a motor vehicle may not throw any object at a vulnerable road user. An operator of a motor vehicle commits an offense if they overtake a vulnerable road user traveling in the same direction and subsequently makes a right-hand turn in front of the vulnerable road user unless the operator is safely clear of the vulnerable road user. (For the full language of this ordinance, click Chapter 28, Article VI, Sec. 28-58.2. Protection of Vulnerable Road Users)
  • Fort Worth: The same guidelines as Dallas, adding: An operator of a motor vehicle may not maneuver the vehicle in a manner that is intended to cause intimidation or harassment to a vulnerable road user. (For the full language of this ordinance, click Chapter 22, Article 3, Sec. 22-95. Safe Passing of Vulnerable Road Users )
     
The League of American Bicyclists provides additional information and model legislation on protecting vulnerable road users. Recognizing that a safe passing distance between vehicles requires further definition, a Safe Passing Law model is also available.



Riding on Sidewalks

There is no state law prohibiting riding a bicycle on sidewalks. However, various local governments prohibit bicycling on sidewalks in specific areas such as a central business district.