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This interactive map has been produced as an extension of the BikeTexas 2012 Benchmark Study. The Policies chapter was in need of updating due to several cities changing policies since the project was published. Putting this chapter online also allows us to add cities that were too small to be included in the Benchmark Study but which do have policies that support cycling in their communities. This map also allows each city, for the first time, to have its own page with a brief overview of that city’s laws as they pertain to biking and walking.
The policies that cities and states enact to support and encourage cycling and walking can have a positive impact on how many people participate in these activities. Policies can help provide necessary infrastructure to connect bike and pedestrian routes, as well as support a culture of activity that makes people feel encouraged and safe while biking and walking. When created and effectively applied, policies can do a lot to create an environment that makes alernative transportation a viable, appealing option to citizens.
Criteria for inclusion on this map are as follows:
1. Inclusion in the BikeTexas 2012 Benchmark Study (35 largest cities in Texas); or
2. City is one of 23 in Texas with a Safe Passing Ordinance.
To enlarge the map to fullscreen for easier viewing and navigation, click the [ ] in the upper right-hand corner. Click on a city for a short overview of bicycle policies in the city and a link to the city’s page.
Unless otherwise indicated, all photos are BikeTexas images.
The policies recorded for each city, and why they benefit people who ride bikes or walk, are explained here.
Complete Streets: A Complete Streets policy stipulates that all road users (children, seniors, those without access to vehicles, those with disabilities, people on bikes, and motor vehicle users) must be considered when building or rebuilding a road controlled by the city. A complete street might have bike lanes, sidewalks, crosswalks, pedestrian islands, or whatever features meet the needs of the community. Complete Streets policies usually include an exemption of adding these features will significantly increase the cost of the project. Some cities have elements of Complete Streets policy, such as a Bicycle Accommodation policy, which would require the city to consider bicycle users but not necessarily pedestrians, seniors, and so on. Learn more about Complete Streets here.
Cell Phone Use: This is separate from the texting ban as the two laws are listed separately by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. A ban on cell phone use bans both talking and texting while driving. Bus drivers, novice drivers, and all drivers in school zones are banned from all cell phone use by state law.
Texting While Driving: This law bans texting, but not talking, on a cell phone while driving. Texas has no statewide law banning texting while driving; such a law passed the legislature in 2011 but was vetoed by the governor.
Helmets: Most public health advocates contend that wearing a helmet decreases the likelihood of brain injury in the event of a bicycle crash. In an attempt to protect people who ride bikes, some localities have entacted helmet laws. Typically, bicycle advocates do not support all-ages bicycle helmet laws, as these laws have a history of enforcement that unfairly targets poorer cyclists who have no other means of transportation (often called non-discretionary cyclists). A universal mandatory helmet law can actually deter people from choosing to bicycle, reducing the number of people cycling, and thereby increasing the danger for all people on bikes. Additionally, no bike share program has ever been successful in a city with a mandatory helmet law.
Safe Passing: Safe Passing ordinances require drivers to give sufficient space, usually three feet for cars and six feet for commercial vehicles, when passing an unprotected road users such as a pedestrian, construction worker, horseback rider, wheelchair user, bicyclist, and so on. This law is usually meant more for education for motorists on how much space other road users really require, rather than for penalizing the motorist; in fact, many enforcement operations in Texas have focused on stopping and cautioning drivers who pass too closely to a bicyclist, as the driver is often unaware of how little clearance they’ve given the other road user. A statewide Safe Passing Law passed the legislature in 2009 but was vetoed by the governor. Learn more about Safe Passing here.
Riding on Sidewalks: Riding on sidewalks can be helpful to a person on a bicycle in heavy traffic conditions where there are no shoulders or bike lanes, and if the sidewalk has few driveways that are potential dangerous points for interactions with cars. However, the person on a bicycle must look out for pedestrians on the sidewalk and for traffic at intersections that may not be looking for a bicycle on the sidewalk. Some cities prohibit all riding on sidewalks, while others prohibit it in a business district where there is heavy foot traffic.
Complete Streets: TxDOT has a Complete Streets policy, but it is the weakest in the nation (among states that have such a policy). A statewide Complete Streets policy would require developers to consider all road users when they are planning to build or rebuild any road under state jurisdiction.
Cell Phone Use: Bus drivers and novice drivers are banned from using cell phones while driving, either handheld or hands-free. Cell phone use is banned for all drivers in active school zones.
Texting While Driving: Bus drivers and novice drivers are banned from texting while driving. Texting is banned for all drivers in active school zones.
Helmets: Texas has no statewide helmet law.
Safe Passing: Texas has no statewide safe passing law.
Riding on Sidewalks: Texas has no statewide law about riding on sidewalks.