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Text of

Austin Bicycle Laws (detailed)

We're not lawyers, so nothing on this site should be construed as legal advice. If you want real legal opinion, contact an attorney.

Traffic Laws

Austin & Texas (summary)

Austin (detailed)

Texas, Bikes (detailed)

Texas, Motorists (detailed)

Helmet Laws

Cyclists' right to the road handout

The original text for Austin-specific laws is the City's laws on bicycles. (If the link doesn't work go to the City of Austin website and go to Code of Ordinances, Chapter 12. By the way, we last checked the original code in 1999. Laws might have changed since then. We did update the Cars in Bike Lanes section, amended in 2000, the Helmet Law section in 2004, and the bike parking/confiscation sections in 2007.

Contents below:

Helmets required for children
12-2-31  Helmet required [for kids].
     (A)     Except as permitted by Section 12-2-33 (Health Condition Exemption) a child may not operate or ride on a bicycle, sidecar, trailer, child carrier, seat, or other device attached to a bicycle unless the child is wearing a helmet.
Full text of the law
 
Riding on Sidewalks
16-8-22 Can't ride on certain sidewalks. Circa 2001, the law was amended to specify exactly where cyclists can't ride:

16-8-22  BICYCLE RIDING ON SIDEWALKS.

(A)     Except as provided in Subsection (B), a person may ride a bicycle on a sidewalk.
(B)     A person may not ride a bicycle on  a sidewalk on the following streets:

(1)     100-1100 blocks of Congress Avenue;
(2)     1900-2500 blocks of Guadalupe Street;
(3)     100-1100 blocks of Brazos Street;
(4)     200-1100 blocks of Colorado Street;
(5)     from the 200 block of West 2nd to the 300 block of East 2nd Street;
(6)     from the 900 block of West 5th to the 800 block of East 5th Street;
(7)     from the 700 block of East 6th Street to the 1000 block of West 6th Street;
(8)     from the 100 block of West 8th Street to the 200 block of East 8th Street;
(9)     from the 100 block of West 9th Street to the 200 block of East 9th Street;
(10)     from the 200 block of West 11th Street to the 200 block of East 11th Street; and
(11)     from the 200 block of West 15th Street to the 200 block of East 15th Street.
(Ord. 020418-39)

Of course, police officers have been known to hassle cyclists riding on sidewalks in other parts of town. Also, note that cycle courier Jen Sigman was arrested (not just ticketed, but arrested) for biking on the sidewalk. This shouldn't surprise you, but if it does, you should check out our problems with police section.


Texas Civil Statutes, Article 6701d, Chapter 1A. Business and residence districts

Sec. 17. (a) Business District. The territory contiguous to and including a highway when within any six hundred (600) feet along such highway there are buildings in use for business or industrial purposes, including but not limited to hotels, banks, or office buildings, railroad stations and public buildings which occupy at least three hundred (300) feet of frontage on one side or three hundred (300) feet collectively on both sides of the highway.

(b) Residence District. The territory contiguous to and including a highway not comprising a business district when the property on such highway for a distance of three hundred (300) feet or more is in the main improved with residences or residences and buildings in use for business.

[By the way, the word "highway" is defined elsewhere to mean any roadway.]

 
 

Restrictions on bicycle parking
12-2-15  [Bike] Parking

(A)     A person may not park a bicycle:
(1)     in a manner that obstructs pedestrian or vehicle traffic; or
(2)     in a space designated as a vehicle parking place or between two designated vehicle parking places.

(B)     A person may not attach or secure a bicycle to public or private property in a manner that may damage, impair, or render the property unusable.

12-2-36  PENALTY; ENFORCEMENT.

(A)     A person commits an offense if the person performs an act prohibited by this article or fails to perform an act required by this article.
(B)     An offense under this article is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed:
(1)     $20 on a first conviction; and
(2)     $40 on a subsequent conviction.

[see below for confiscation / impoundment]

Cars in Bike Lanes

16-1-13 DRIVING VEHICLES UPON, IN OR ACROSS BICYCLE LANES.
 
(A) A person may not drive a motor-propelled vehicle in, upon, or across a bicycle lane, except to enter a driveway, building, or alley, or to park the vehicle, or to leave a parking space.
 
(B) Subsection (A) does not apply to a bicycle, a scooter, or other similar vehicle that is equipped with an electric motor that is capable of propelling the bicycle, scooter, or vehicle at a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour.
 
(C) A person may not drive onto or cross a bicycle lane as permitted by this section without first yielding the right-of way, if necessary, to avoid collision or interference with bicycle traffic.
 
('81 Code, 11-2-14) (Am. Ord. 000608-83) Penalty, see 1-1-99
 
[Note that it's perferctly legal for cars to park in bike lanes, unless there are signs that specifically prohibit parking.]

Cars can't park on sidewalks

16-5-16 PARKING PROHIBITED IN CERTAIN SPECIFIED PLACES
No person shall stop, stand or park a vehicle, except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with the directions of a police officer or traffic-control device ... on a sidewalk or any part of the sidewalk area... [see also the Texas version of this same law, and see below for additional restrictions on car parking]

Additional restrictions on car parking

Where there are not signs prohibiting parking, the only legitimate way to get cars removed is if they are in violation of other City ordinances. These are:
16-5-4 PARKING FOR SALE, WASHING, AND REPAIRING VEHICLES PROHIBITED
No person shall stand or park a vehicle upon any public street, park, playground, golf course, or athletic field for the purpose of displaying it for sale; and no person shall wash, grease or repair any vehicle upon any public street, park, playground, golf course or athletic field, except for such repairs as are necessitated by an emergency.
 
16-5-16 PARKING PROHIBITED IN CERTAIN SPECIFIED PLACES
No person shall stop, stand or park a vehicle, except when necessary to avoid conflict with other traffic or in compliance with the directions of a police officer or traffic-control device in any of the following places;
 
(A) on a sidewalk or any part of the sidewalk area, which is hereby defined as the space between the curbline or the lateral line of a roadway and the adjacent property line along any street, irrespective of whether such area has been improved by concrete, gravel or other walkways except where the Director of Public Works and Transportation has determined that such area or space may be used without conflict to pedestrian and vehicle traffic and such determination has been filed with the City Clerk and not rescinded.
 
16-5-19 PARKING OF CERTAIN NON-MOTORIZED VEHICLES ON CITY STREETS PROHIBITED
It shall be unlawful for any person to park or permit or cause to be placed, stored or parked any trailer, semi-trailer, boat-trailer, trailer house or other non-motorized device or equipment designed or intended to be towed upon the public streets by means of attachment to a motor vehicle or other self-propelled vehicle or equipment on any public street.
 
16-5-20 PARKING SELF-PROPELLED MOTOR HOMES OR SIMILAR VEHICLES IN STREET OR ALLEY FOR MORE THAN THREE DAYS
It shall be unlawful for any person to park or permit or cause to be placed, stored or parked any self-propelled motor home or other motor vehicle containing permanently installed sleeping facilities or human sanitary treatment or disposal facilities or both on any public street or alley for a period longer than 72 continuous hours.
 
16-5-21 PARKING BETWEEN THE CURBLINE AND THE PROPERTY LINE PROHIBITED
It shall be unlawful for any person to park or permit or cause to be placed, stored or parked any motor vehicle on that portion of the public right-of-way between the curbline and the property line.
These ordinances are all enforced by the Traffic Division of APD, so if you find a vehicle in violation, call them at 480-5363 (after hours, call the police non-emergency number: 311 [or 974-5750]).
 
Permit required for bike rides
From the Austin Police Department website:
 

"Any athletic type event such as runs, walks, or bicycle rides that traverse multiple public streets or thorougfares are required to have a street event permit."

Definition of Parade from Austin City Code, Volume 1, Chapter 8-11
"PARADE means any march or procession or similar display consisting of 50 or more persons, animals or vehicles, or combination thereof upon any public roadway which does not comply with normal and usual traffic regulation or controls."

Section 8-11-28 of the City Code further states:
" It shall be unlawful for any person participating in any parade, for which a permit hereunder has been issued, to fail to comply with all directions and conditions of such permit and all applicable laws and ordinances."

 

Confiscation & Auctions
12-1-53  IMPOUNDMENT OR REMOVAL OF VEHICLE.

(A)     A police officer or parking enforcement officer may impound a vehicle found in violation of:
(1)     Code Section 12-5-35 (Parking Areas Designated for Persons with Disabilities);
(2)     Chapter 545 (Operation and Movement of Vehicles), Subchapter G (Stopping, Standing, and Parking) of the Texas Transportation Code; or
(3)     Section 681.011 (Offenses; Presumption) of the Texas Transportation Code.

(B)     A police officer may impound a vehicle whose location or condition creates an immediate threat to the safety of persons or property.

9-1-1  [ABANDONMENT] DEFINITIONS.

     In this chapter:

     (1)     ABANDONED MOTOR VEHICLE has the meaning prescribed by Section 683.002 (Abandoned Motor Vehicle) of the Texas Transportation Code.

     (2)     ABANDONED PROPERTY means personal property, other than a motor vehicle, that is left unattended in a public place:

          (a)     in violation of law;

          (b)     for more than 48 continuous hours; or

          (c)     in a manner that interferes with vehicular or pedestrian traffic.

     (3)     INOPERABLE MOTOR VEHICLE means a motor vehicle that because of mechanical failure, breakdown, or disrepair cannot be started, driven, operated, steered, or stopped under its own power and without causing damage to the vehicle.

     (4)     JUNKED VEHICLE has the meaning prescribed by Section 683.071 (Definition) of the Texas Transportation Code.

9-1-2  [ABANDONMENT] PUBLIC NUISANCE; OFFENSE.

     (A)     Abandoned property, an abandoned motor vehicle, or a junked vehicle is a public nuisance.

     (B)     An inoperable motor vehicle left on public property for more than 48 continuous hours is a public nuisance.

     (C)     A person commits an offense if the person creates or maintains a public nuisance described by this section. Each day that the nuisance persists is a separate offense.

     (D)     A culpable mental state is not required, and need not be proved, for an offense under this section.

     (E)     An offense under this section is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $200.

  9-1-7  PROPERTY OTHER THAN A MOTOR VEHICLE.

(A)     The City may remove abandoned property to a place of impoundment designated by the city manager.

(B)     If the person's name and address is known, the city manager shall, no later than the 10th business day after the date of the impoundment, notify a person whose property is impounded under this section that the property has been impounded.

(C)     The City has a lien against impounded property for the fees provided by ordinance and for costs incurred by the City in impounding, storing, advertising the property, and providing required notices.  The lien is prior and superior to all other liens of every kind, except a lien for ad valorem taxes.  The City may retain possession of the property until all costs are paid and may sell the property as provided in this section.

(D)     A person legally entitled to possession of impounded property may redeem the property by paying the fees and costs described in Subsection (C).

(E)     The city manager may sell impounded property as provided in this subsection.

(1)     Before selling impounded property the city manager shall post notices at the county courthouse and at the city hall, and shall have the notice published once a week for two consecutive weeks in a daily newspaper published in the City.  The date of the posted notices and of the first published notice must be no later than the 14th day before the date of the sale. The notice must describe the impounded property, state that the property is unredeemed and will be sold, and state the date, time, place, and manner of sale.

(2)     If impounded property is not redeemed by the date and time stated in the notice, property shall be sold as provided in the notice. The buyer takes the property conditioned on the right of redemption under Subsection (F).

(3)     The city manager shall deduct the fees and costs described in Subsection (C) from the proceeds of the sale and hold the balance, if any, for the owner of the property.  If the owner fails to claim the proceeds before the 31st day after the date of the sale, the proceeds become the property of the City.

(F)     If the property has been sold, a person legally entitled to possession of impounded property may redeem the property from the buyer of the property by paying the buyer double the amount paid by the buyer of the property, and any reasonable expenses incurred by the buyer for keeping the property.  Property may not be redeemed under this subsection after the 30th day after the date of the sale.

Citizens may contact the City of Austin's auctioneer, Gaston & Sheehan, and request to be placed on their mailing list. They will then receive notices of City of Austin auctions, as well as the auctioneer's other auctions. In addition, notification of the auctions are published two weeks in advance, in the Austin American-Statesman, Public Notices section.



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