Austin Cycling News

Cycling in Austin

The legal right to “Take the lane”

By • Aug 6th, 2008 • Category: Info

The official vehicle code.

Note the word UNLESS,

§ 551.103.  OPERATION ON ROADWAY.  (a)  Except as
provided by Subsection (b), a person operating a bicycle on a
roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway
shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the
roadway, unless:

Now note condition 4.

(4)  the person is operating a bicycle in an outside
lane that is:
	(A)  less than 14 feet in width and does not have a
designated bicycle lane adjacent to that lane;  or
	(B)  too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle
to safely travel side by side.

Now the next time you drive, measure the width of the roadways without bike lanes, if they are less than 14 feet a bicycle is legally allowed to take the whole lane.

Now what if the lane is less than 14 feet and does have a bike lane? Let us look closely at B

(B)  too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle
to safely travel side by side.

So even if there IS a bike lane, and the road is say 10 feet wide, which would not be safe for a bicycle and a 9′ wide vehicle to pass, especially if you start factoring in items like a 3 foot minimum passing distance required for the safety of the bicycle operator. So in a lane less than the width of a bicycle 2′, plus the 3′ passing distance, and a modest 1′ from the curb and the width of a car (About 7′, so that brings us to about 13′ wide), the cyclist is allowed to legally consume the whole lane. And note the wording, safely travel side by side, not “physically fit side by side”. So the intent is obvious that there should be enough room to safely pass.

I encourage you to actually measure a few as I have and start to get a feel for it. A large number of vehicle lanes are 10′ wide with no bike lane, which clearly gives the cyclist the legal right to operate in the entire lane. And even if the bike lane were 12′ wide with a bike lane, the cyclist may be within his legal rights operating in the full vehicle lane. 1′ left of the curb, 2 foot wide for the bike, 3 feet from the cars, and a 7′ wide car. (I get 13′ in that case).

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3 Responses »

  1. It’s a good point, although I doubt many motorists would be sympathetic or aware of the rules.

  2. As long as they do not intentionally run me over I am safer.


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