Thursday, April 23, 2009

Imaginary laws

"You have to stay to the side of the road."

The words were shouted at me by a motorist as he crowded me out of the lane.

This was Tuesday, on hwy 34 about four miles from Ennis, traveling west.

This particular motorist, driving a white SUV and towing a utility trailer, had been having a difficult time finding a safe place to pass, due to oncoming traffic and terrain.

He honked at me, and must have been surprised when I didn't pull over out of his way. When he finally had an opportunity to pass me (after being delayed for about 45 seconds) he pulled up in the oncoming lane and slowed down to pace me. His passenger window was down and he was screaming something at me.

At the same time he began crowding me with his vehicle, forcing me to give way toward the edge of the lane. I was tempted to begin pounding on the side panels of his car, but the trailer was wider than his vehicle and it spooked me. (This is usually rather effective though. The pounding can be very loud inside, and can be quite frightening for the motorist, while being unlikely to cause damage.)

Not understanding what he was saying, I yelled at him to "Follow the Law." I repeated it about three times. In the end, he crowded me all the way off the shoulder into the grass, then he sped away. He did this with two vehicles following behind him. The confrontation lasted about 10 seconds.


(a) An operator passing another vehicle:

(1) shall pass to the left of the other vehicle at a safe distance; and
(2) may not move back to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the passed vehicle.

(b) An operator being passed by another vehicle:

(1) shall, on audible signal, move or remain to the right in favor of the passing vehicle; and
(2) may not accelerate until completely passed by the passing vehicle.

At a minimum he violated this law, and I complied with it. I was riding legally in the lane in accordance with the slow moving vehicle law and bicycle specific lane positioning law. He failed to pass me at a safe distance (Sec. 545.053(a)(1)) and he pulled back into the lane when before he was properly clear of me. (Sec. 545.053(a)(2)) He did this with full knowledge of what he was doing as he was looking at me through his passenger side window.


(a) A person commits an offense if the person drives a vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.

(b) An offense under this section is a misdemeanor punishable by:

(1) a fine not to exceed $200;
(2) confinement in county jail for not
more than 30 days; or
(3) both the fine and the confinement.

Because he deliberately used his vehicle as a weapon, he also committed a reckless driving offense, wouldn't you say?


  1. How about this one:

    Sec. 551.103. Operation on Roadway.

    (a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), a person operating a bicycle on a roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway, unless:

    (1) the person is passing another vehicle moving in the same direction;

    (2) the person is preparing to turn left at an intersection or onto a private road or driveway; or

    (3) a condition on or of the roadway, including a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, pedestrian, animal, or surface hazard prevents the person from safely riding next to the right curb or edge of the roadway.

    (4) the person is operating a bicycle in an outside lane that is:
    (A) less than 14 feet in width and does not have a designated bicycle lane adjacent to that lane; or

    (B) too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to safely travel side by side.
    How were you doing with your lane position with respect to this law? I'm sure you felt you were doing the right thing, but would a jury of (mostly car driving) peers agree? Just something to think about.

    Be careful out there.

  2. My dear reader, Doohickie;

    Sec. 551.103. Operation on Roadway.

    (a) A person operating a bicycle on a roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway.

    The wording of the "far to right" (FTR) law is worded very similarly to the "slow moving vehicle" SMV law, which says;

    Sec 545.051(b) An operator of a vehicle on a roadway moving more slowly than the normal speed of other vehicles at the time and place under the existing conditions shall drive in the right-hand lane available for vehicles, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.

    So the question arises, what does the law mean by "roadway"? Does it include the shoulder?

    It does not. Sec 541.302(b)(11) "Roadway" means the portion of a highway, other than the berm or shoulder, that is improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel.

    (15) "Shoulder" means the portion of a highway that is:
    (A) adjacent to the roadway;
    (B) designed or ordinarily used for parking;
    (C) distinguished from the roadway by different design, construction, or marking; and
    (D) not intended for normal vehicular travel.

    So in the portion of the law you quoted, it was written to direct the lateral position of the cyclist within the travel lane, under certain conditions.

    If the travel lane meets various unusual and rare characteristics, I must drive my bicycle as close to the right edge of the travel lane as "practicable".

    In the unlikely event that I find myself traveling in a lane is that is wider than 14 feet and doesn't have a bike lane (exception (4)(A))AND has no hazards, parked cars, debris, potholes, or driveways or intersections, or anything that would make cycling on it's edge dangerous, AND the speed of overtaking traffic is low enough to make sharing a lane side-by-side with a motorist safe, then the law does restrict me to ride at the far right edge of the lane.

    I doubt I could find a road in all of Texas that meets all those conditions. Do you think you could? (That wider than fourteen foot lane part is a doozie- that's wide enough for two standard cars to drive side-by-side in!)

    And what about this strange word "practicable"? It shows up in both the FTR and SMV law. If cyclists have all the rights and duties of motorists, then we have the right to occupy the same amount of lateral space that a slow motorist would use on that rare and unusual road that would restrict us to the right. Otherwise, we would have a higher duty to stay out of the way of overtaking traffic than motorists do. (It would mean we have less rights and greater duties.)

    On this particular road that this happened, I was not impeding traffic. When opposing traffic permitted, overtaking motorists changed lanes and went around me. Unless you think it takes extraordinary skill to pass a bicycle.

    As to what a jury would think, I don't care. The law is clear. On all the roads I know of in my part of Texas, there is no lawful restriction on where I can drive my bicycle laterally within the lane. A jury cannot impose upon someone imaginary laws. They can only rule on whether you broke actual laws or not.