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#1 2010-10-24 14:22:02

CharlesDuffy
Member
Registered: 2009-07-03
Posts: 56

Is cycling in the crosswalk legal outside downtown?

Per subject. Here's what brings this up --

Google's bicycling directions has a recent history of giving me directions which I can't legally follow as a vehicle -- proceeding straight across turn-only intersections, turning left at a straight-only intersection, etc. Indeed, there are two of the former cases on my regular commute route (Westbound at Lamar and Morrow; crossing Airport to or from Wilshire).

I've been dealing with the situation by dismounting at these intersections, pushing the pedestrian button at the crosswalk, waiting for the signal, walking across on foot, and remounting my bike on the other side.

Is this the only unambiguously legal way to handle these intersections? Can I ride in the crosswalk when there isn't enough pedestrian traffic to conflict? Is a better approach available?

Thanks!

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#2 2010-10-24 20:51:41

tomwald
Moderator
From: 78722
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 288

Re: Is cycling in the crosswalk legal outside downtown?

Is riding in crosswalks legal in Austin and/or Texas?  There is still room for debate on this one, but I'm convinced that it's legal.  An exception would be where the sidewalk leading to the intersection prohibits bikes, in which case it seems that it would illegal to ride in that crosswalk.  (Of course, you can ride _across_ a crosswalk in any case any other vehicle can, and can presumably ride _across_ a sidewalk that is illegal to ride on.)

I cross Airport Blvd. at Wilshire/Aldrich at least a few times a month, since I live so close to it.  When I am traveling on Wilshire Blvd. eastbound to Mueller (perhaps thought of as northbound), I enter the sidewalk/trail parallel to Wilshire Blvd. early, then stop at the corner and press the pedestrian signal light.  I ride my bike across.  When I get about 3/4 the way across Airport Blvd., I signal left to enter the bike lane on Aldrich St.  It seems that this is completely legal.  The only question would be that when I exit the crosswalk to become the driver of a street vehicle, I technically may be required to come to a complete stop, just as any vehicle must do when exiting a driveway onto a street.

When I am traveling on Aldrich St. to go westbound from Mueller, I enter the left turn lane, and proceed to make a left turn, just as any other street vehicle would do (including signaling left).  When I get about 3/4 the way across Airport Blvd., I signal right, and enter the crosswalk ramp that I depart from when I am going eastbound.  From there I continue on the sidewalk/trail until I have an good opportunity to re-enter the street.

Note that no traffic signs at Airport & Wilshire/Aldrich explicitly prohibit these maneuvers.

Westbound at Lamar and Morrow has changed sometime over the last ten years, and I can't remember the exact configuration currently.  However, if you can cross Lamar Blvd. legally as a pedestrian, then you can likely use a maneuver similar to the one described above.

There is a provision in the Austin traffic law that does prohibit some of the special bike maneuvers that may be legal, if it weren't for the specific Austin law:

§ 12-2-12  OBEDIENCE TO TRAFFIC-CONTROL DEVICES.
(C)     A bicyclist shall obey traffic signs that prohibit a right, left, or "U" turn, except when the bicyclist dismounts from the bicycle to make the turn.  A bicyclist who dismounts shall obey regulations applicable to pedestrians.

Note that if the sign prohibits going straight, e.g. "all traffic must turn", that this ordinance does not apply in such a situation.

These are my interpretations of the law, and may be incorrect.

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#3 2010-10-29 23:30:13

LL
Member
Registered: 2010-10-29
Posts: 1

Re: Is cycling in the crosswalk legal outside downtown?

This post was really interesting to me, since I almost got nailed by a car while crossing at a walk sign today.  I got online this evening to look into the logistics/legalities of the incident (i.e., who was "really" wrong?) and couldn't quite tell.  From the sounds of TomWald's reply, as well as a review of Austin's bike laws, it appears that I was indeed allowed to be on the sidewalk and cross with the walk sign.  However...man, that guy would've slammed into me, laws or no laws! 

I looked before crossing, of course, but it was the intersection at Barton Springs Dr. and Robert E. Lee, and he popped into the left turn lane onto R.E. Lee right as I started to cross.  After reading some online tips (e.g., slow to a complete stop before crossing, make eye contact with driver), I've decided that perhaps I'll just stick to street riding from now on.  It's hard to make eye contact with a driver who comes flying into the left turn lane in a minivan, just wanting to speed through the turn before more cars come.  Where does this leave us bikers, particularly at some of the less bike-friendly intersections around town?  I based my daily use of the sidewalk at the intersection today on what I've seen the majority of other local bikers doing; frankly, it's a bad spot b/c Robt. E. Lee is so narrow and the cars on Barton are all flying to/from the Mopac.  Still, it doesn't do much good for me to say "But I had the cross signal" if I get smashed by some dude in a hurry who isn't paying attention (even less so if the law isn't necessarily on my side). 

Any constructive suggestions would be greatly appreciated!  I bike to/from work every day and this is one of the few problem spots that I have yet to sort out.  (It's also perhaps the only place in town where I ride on the sidewalk.)  Thanks!

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#4 2010-11-03 15:15:08

maastrichtian
Member
Registered: 2010-11-03
Posts: 3

Re: Is cycling in the crosswalk legal outside downtown?

Interesting discussion, thanks.  I don't have an answer, but I will say that you guys seem to be much more disciplined than I.  I consider myself to be a very law-abiding, courteous bicyclist, but if there are no pedestrians around (there never are on my one crosswalk that I take), I just ride through it.  Slowly, carefully, and courteously, but I still ride through it.

However, I do suffer near-misses, and eventually I'm going to get hit, so I will probably select a new route tonight.  This will add at least a mile one-way to my commute, but whatever, it's worth it.

Ride safe!

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#5 2013-10-24 13:07:34

josh777
Newbie
Registered: 2013-10-24
Posts: 1

Re: Is cycling in the crosswalk legal outside downtown?

On my ride in to work today I was crossing North Lamar at the pedestrian light at W 31st. I pushed the button to request the walk signal, waited for the light to change and traffic to stop (I was at a complete stop while waiting), then started to ride carefully across the street in the crosswalk.  It so happened that an Austin police car was waiting at the light. The officer got on his loudspeaker and told me to get off the bike and walk across the intersection. So, I stopped mid-way across and got off. I walked the rest of the way across the street. From my perspective there was no safety reason for this and there were no pedestrians in the crosswalk. Also, I only use that pedestrian light and crosswalk to get across Lamar. I ride on the streets otherwise. Just thought I'd add that experience to the conversation. Whether it was legal or not, that particular officer didn't want me riding in the crosswalk.

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