What Do Drivers Need to Be Aware of When Sharing the Road With Bicyclists in TN?

Post By Corey Heit

Bicycling is an extremely popular form of transportation – from kids riding their bikes for fun to adults using a bicycle as their main mode of transit. In 2021, the number of people riding bicycles throughout the United States hit 51.4 million which included all manner of bike riding from daily riding to mountain and BMX biking.

When it comes to bicycling, each country and state handles the laws surrounding bicycling differently. And the same is true in Tennessee. It is important for drivers and cyclists in Tennessee to understand how to share the road safely together.

So, what are some tips you can follow as a driver to share the road with bicyclists, skateboarders, and other pedestrians? Below, our pedestrian and bicycle accident lawyer takes a closer look at how to share the road with cyclists and others in Tennessee.

What are the Bicycle Laws in Tennessee?

First and foremost, it is important to know that Tennessee has given bicycles the legal status of a vehicle. What this means for cyclists is that they have the exact same rights and responsibilities on roadways as a driver of any motor vehicle.

According to the Tennessee Department of Transportation, some additional key traffic laws that bicyclists need to be aware of include:

  1. Cyclists need to ride on the right-hand side of the road in the same direction of traffic.
  2. They must use hand signals to communicate any intended movements.
  3. They must obey all traffic signs and signals, such as stop signs and traffic lights.
  4. Cyclists need to equip their bicycles with a “front white light visible from 500 feet and either a red reflector or a lamp emitting a red light which shall be visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet (500′) to the rear.”

Other relevant laws for cyclists to keep in mind as they are riding in Tennessee including that all bicycle operators under 16 years of age are required to wear a helmet on any sidewalk, street, or highway.

Additionally, any child passenger who is 40 pounds or 40 inches in height should be “seated and secured in a child restraining seat or a bicycle trailer.”

How to Share the Road with Cyclists

Now that we have a decent understanding of bicycle laws in Tennessee, we can dig into how to best share the road with cyclists and others.

  1. Do not drive in bike lanes unless you are on a bicycle.

This may seem like a simple tip, but it can be helpful to keep in mind. If you are in a motor vehicle, be aware of designated bike lanes around you. Bike lanes are intended for bicyclists to ride in. The only time you should ever drive through a bike lane is when you need to turn across the bike lane after yielding to any cyclists in the lane.

  1. Be sure to give space to cyclists.

Under Tennessee law TCA 55-8-175, drivers of motor vehicles are required to “leave a safe distance between the motor vehicle and the bicycle of not less than three feet” when they move to overtake and pass a bicycle that’s going the same direction as them. That distance should be maintained until they have passed the bicycle.

  1. Cyclists should use hand signals.

As mentioned above, cyclists need to use hand signals to indicate when they are going to be turning. Other common hand signals that cyclists can use to indicate to other cyclists and drivers on roadways include when they are slowing down, stopping, or when there is a road hazard approaching.

  1. Follow the right of way – whether you are a cyclist or driver.

As bicycles are classified as vehicles under state law, cyclists need to follow all applicable traffic laws that other motorists follow as well. In return, drivers in motor vehicles should also treat cyclists as they would treat other drivers. This means that both cyclists and motor vehicle drivers need to yield the right of way to each other when sharing the road.

  1. Pass cautiously – on a bicycle or in a motor vehicle.

Whether you are on a bicycle or in a motor vehicle, passing others on the roadway should be done with caution. For motor vehicles, taking the time to slow down as you pass a cyclist can be important, especially because you are larger and heavier than someone on a bicycle. Cyclists have been found to be at the largest risk of severe injuries when they collide with a motor vehicle, in part due to the size of motor vehicles and the amount of energy that the cyclist absorbs.

Cyclists should also pass motor vehicles with caution, especially as they may find themselves in a vehicle’s blind spot at times.

Contact a Trusted Pedestrian and Bicycle Accident Lawyer

If you have been injured in a bicycle-related accident, you may be feeling a little lost on what steps to take next. Speaking with an experienced Nashville car accident lawyer can be a good next step to take. A lawyer can help ease the process of filing a claim after an accident, allowing you to focus on your recovery and ensuring that you understand the legal process.

Here at Heit Law, LLC, our experienced Nashville personal injury lawyer Corey Heit can help. Contact us today to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 615-962-3000 or online.

Search Our Site

Consultation Form

Columbus Location

2600 Corporate Exchange Dr #109
Columbus, OH 43231
Phone: 614-898-5300
Toll Free: 877-898-HEIT


Nashville Office

555 Marriott Dr Suite: 315
Nashville, TN 37214, USA

Phone: 615-962-3000