You might have heard about the Vulnerable Road Users Law that was passed several years ago in Austin, but what does this really mean both to cyclists and to drivers?
It is important to know the rights and responsibilities that all parties have to share the road. First, we must ask who is a vulnerable road user? Essentially, a vulnerable road user is anyone who might be on the road in something other than a vehicle. This includes bicycle riders, motorcyclists, pedestrians, or even someone riding a horse! Whether you are a driver or a vulnerable road user, there are certain things you should know about what the Austin law requires.
· If you want to pass a cyclist going in the same direction and there’s another lane also going in that direction, you must move into the other lane.
· If there’s not another lane going the same direction, then pass the cyclist only if it can be done at a safe distance. A safe distance is considered 3 feet for cars and light trucks. For trucks and other commercial vehicles, the required safe distance is 6 feet. Note that this distance is measured from the edge of your mirror or from the item that projects farthest from your vehicle, not from the body of the vehicle.
· Drivers making a left-hand turn must yield to vulnerable road users approaching from the opposite direction.
· Drivers may not make a right-hand turn in front of the cyclist unless there is clearly a safe distance between the car and the cyclist at all times.
· The driver should take due care to avoid hitting cyclists on the roadway or in intersections.
· Drivers may not in any way threaten, intimidate, or harass cyclists.
· It is the cyclist’s responsibility to obey all traffic rules and regulations. If you are breaking a law when riding, the city may not be able to prosecute a driver under the Vulnerable Road Users Law.
· Stay alert. Just because it’s a law doesn’t mean that the driver will heed it. Even if you may be in the right, it’s still better if you can avoid injury in the first place.
· If you have been injured, contact Shefman Law, where an experienced bicycle accident attorney can help you with your case!
Other cities, such as Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio, El Paso, and Beaumont, have also passed laws related to vulnerable road users and/or safe passing.
Additionally, numerous bills are currently before the state legislature that would provide increased protection for cyclists and other vulnerable road users. Bike Texas has some excellent information on the legislative history of such bills.
If you support the passage of the state-wide Safe Passing Ordinance, you can also sign a petition to let legislators know!