Bicycle riding, otherwise known as cycling, is not only a fun activity. It has several health benefits. It is beneficial for building stamina, strength, and aerobic fitness. As a mode of transportation, it replaces the sedentary (sitting) time spent driving motor vehicles.
However, as fun and beneficial riding a bicycle is, there are many issues about bicycle safety. Like motorcycle riders, a bike rider is prone to several hazardous conditions on the road that might result in an accident. These conditions put the bicyclist’s life in danger, and many have lost their lives to bike accidents.
For this reason, bikers must know and follow traffic laws and safety tips. This article takes an in-depth look at bike safety in Houston and the relevant bicycle laws. If you suffer injuries from a bike accident, contact our injury lawyers at McDonald Worley Law Firm to find out about your rights.
Is Houston Bike Friendly?
Once upon a time, Houston was not the best place to ride bikes. Despite being famous for its space, bayous, and energy, it wasn’t precisely an outdoorsy place. But if you look closely enough, Houston is an ideal place for several outdoor activities, like biking.
In the past decade, the city became more friendly to bicyclists. It currently boasts of about 340 miles of high comfortable bike lanes. It has 22 miles of on-street protected bike-only roads, meaning that people of all ages can safely ride their bicycles.
Below are some famous bike trails in Houston:
- Buffalo Bayou Hike and Bike Trail, located outside downtown Houston, with epic views of the city.
- White Oak Bayou Trail, covering nearly 17 miles of Houston green areas and one of the longest continuous trails in the city.
- Brays Bayou Greenway Trail if you like to conduct your bicycling activity with few people around.
- Memorial Park, which lies in the west of downtown Houston in a family-friendly neighborhood.
- Rice University and Hermann Park, a beautiful picturesque environment, perfect for early morning bike rides.
Other known trails are Height Hike and Bike Trail, George Bush Park, Zube Park, Terry Hershey Hike, and Bike Trail. Avid bicyclists also ride in Jack Brooks Park Trail, Spring Creek Greenway Trail, Huntsville State Park, The Woodlands, and Galveston Island..
What Are the Applicable Bicycle Laws in Houston?
In Texas, a bicycle is equivalent to a motor vehicle. It means that a bicycle rider must follow the same traffic laws that apply to drivers. For example, a passenger vehicle must stop at a four-way intersection until they have the right of way. Similarly, a bicyclist is not to ride through an intersection unless they have the right of way.
Aside from traffic rules and regulations, other laws apply to bike riders. Houston permits a bicyclist to ride on roadways unless there is a dedicated bike lane. Drivers of large vehicles and smaller cars must keep at least three feet distance between them and a bicycle.
When on a one-way roadway, a bicyclist must travel in the same direction as traffic flow. They must keep as far to the right as possible. The only time a bicycle rider should deviate from the preceding is:
- When there is a passing vehicle
- When a car is making a left turn; or
- When the bicyclist is trying to avoid an obstacle.
Biker riders can ride two abreast of one another on a single lane. But they must stay within one lane so as not to impede traffic.
Can a Bicyclist Ride on Sidewalks in Texas?
Under section 45-302 of the Houston Code of Ordinances, it is against the law to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk. Thus, a bicyclist in downtown Houston must stay on the road unless there is a dedicated bike lane. In other parts of Texas, where bicycle riders can travel on sidewalks, they must yield the way to pedestrians.
Bicycle and pedestrian safety tips and laws require bicyclists to give an audible signal. This involves honking or ringing a bell when overtaking pedestrians on sidewalks. Also, traffic engineers have the right to put traffic signals in business districts preventing bicyclists from using the sidewalk.
Houston Helmet and Equipment Laws
Texas does not operate a universal bicycle helmet law requiring adults to wear one. But in Houston, children under the age of 18 must wear approved bicycle helmets at all times. This law applies whether they are riders or passengers.
The helmet must meet the standard of federal organizations like Snell or the Department of Transportation. They must fit correctly on the child’s head. A parent who knowingly allows a child to ride a bicycle without a helmet breaks this law. However, if the child is on private land or roadway, they do not have to wear the headcover.
Furthermore, all Houston bicyclists must ensure their bikes have a white light visible from at least 500 feet. The bicycle must also have a red-rear reflector from 50 to 300 feet from the bike’s back. Additionally, all bicycles must have brakes capable of stopping the vehicle on a clean, level, and dry pavement. It is against the law to ride a bike without the proper safety equipment.
How Common Are Bicycle Accidents in Houston?
While bicycle accidents are not as common as other vehicle collisions, they happen enough to cause concern. According to Bike Houston, there were 2,290 crashes between 2013 and 2018 and some parts of 2019. The publication reported that most bike crashes occur during the daytime, at corners, and away from bike lanes.
The SuperNeighborhood of Houston averaged 26.3% of the total number of accidents, with an annual 4.1% average. The Texas Department of Transportation notes that in 2019, there were 2,547 pedal cyclist crashes statewide. Sixty-eight riders died while thousands suffered injuries.
More data shows that between 2009 and 2018, 160 bicyclists died in Houston. Cyclists’ death rose by 46% during that period. All these show a need for riders to follow bicycle safety tips and rules of the road.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents?
Accidents happen for several reasons, whether you plan for them. Knowing what caused a bicycle accident makes it easier to determine if you are the fault party or not. If the fault lies with another person and not you, you have a valid personal injury claim.
Below are some of the most common causes of bicycle accidents:
- Distracted driving
- Failure to leave an adequate buffer
- Weaving through traffic
- Unsafe lane changes
- Turning without looking
- Running a red light or stop sign
- Failure to yield
- Impaired driving
- Driver fatigue
Once you discover that a bike accident is not your fault, contact a bicycle accident lawyer. The attorney would help you commence the claims process and get a settlement as soon as possible.
Safety Tips for Riding a Bicycle in Houston
A bicycle accident can lead to death or severe injuries for the rider. There is no limit to the type of injury a bicyclist can sustain; it ranges from broken bones to a head injury. This is why bicycling safety and bicyclist behavior on the road is crucial.
Below are safety tips for bicyclists in Houston to follow as recommended by the Texas Department of Transportation.
- Wear a bike helmet
- Dress appropriately (wear bright and reflective clothing and avoid loose clothing)
- Obey traffic signs and signals
- Ride with traffic and not against it
- Use paved shoulders and bike lanes when available
- Always look out for road hazards or debris
- On narrow roads without a bike path, ride in single file
- Use hand signals to indicate when you want to turn
- When riding early in the morning or at night, use a headlight, taillight, and reflectors
- Use caution when riding at sunrise or sunset, as the bright sunlight can make it difficult to see
- Make eye contact with motor vehicle drivers when you can; never assume they can see you or you have the right-of-way
- Never catch a ride by holding onto or attaching your bicycle to another vehicle
- Keep at least one hand on the handlebars always
- Avoid wearing headphones as they block sounds when you need to hear
Lastly, always expect the unexpected and stay alert and aware of your surroundings. You must always have your safety and that of others in mind. However, as careful as you are, another person’s mistake can cause an accident. When this happens, you need to know the step to take..
What Should You Do After a Bike Accident?
It is common for surviving crash victims to feel disoriented after an accident. However, the moments following the occurrence are crucial, so you must do all you can to pull yourself together. Once you’ve composed yourself, do the following:
- Call the police to report if there is injury or death or you suspect the vehicle driver is intoxicated. You should also contact the police if the driver leaves the scene or has no insurance.
- Whether you sustained an injury, get a medical checkup or treatment if needed.. It would help your injury claim.
- Contact a bike accident attorney to discuss the accident facts and find out the available compensation.
Let McDonald Worley Law Firm Help You!
The personal injury claims process can be long and tiring without an attorney carrying the load. This is because dealing with insurance companies is not as easy as most people expect. But with an attorney by your side, you can have a smooth journey and be guaranteed fair compensation. Contact us today at McDonald Worley Law Firm for a free consultation on your case. We demand no upfront fee and work on a contingency basis.