Bike Law - Local Issues

As the number of bicyclists increase in Sumner County the frequency of issues with motorists increases. 
Most of our neighboring counties have already had serious issues that prompted them to consider banning bicycles from one of more roads. Those same problems have become a frequent occurrence on FOGBEE rides. So, it is time to remind everyone of the laws in order to eliminate unnecessary conflicts with motorists and to avoid a bicyclist getting hurt. These laws are available on the FOGBEE Web Site.

A bicycle is defined as a vehicle and bicyclists are subject to the same rights and responsibilities of other drivers, except those provisions which by their nature can have no application to bicyclists (55-8-101, 55-8-172). Bicyclists have a right to be on the road, but must follow the laws if they expect to be treated with respect. Courtesy is a two-way street!. RIDE IN TRAFFIC DIRECTION

All drivers, including bicyclists, must obey all official traffic-control devices (55-8-109). The new stop-light law allows bicyclist to pass through a red light ONLY when it has automatic detection loops that do not detect the bicycle. A bicyclist may not go through a RED LIGHT under any other circumstance.

Bicyclists moving more slowly than other traffic should ride as close as practicable to the right- hand curb or edge of the roadway, except:
  • When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction;
  • When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway; or
  • When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions including, but not limited to, parked vehicles, animals, surface hazards, or a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane (55-8-175).
Bicyclists are not required by Tennessee Law to ride on the shoulder, but if one is available, use it in a fashion that is safe and allows motorists to pass safely. Law enforcement has the authority to determine when a bicyclist is causing unnecessary endangerment.  Although the law permits bicyclists to ride the traffic lane when a shoulder is available it is STUPID and life-threatening to do so. 

Most bicyclists also ride along/near the fog line even though the highway has a wide shoulder.  This location generally has less debris because it is swept by wind of motorists.  However, this practice is also stupid since it increases the odds of a bicyclist being hit by distracted drivers.  RIDE SAFE, dodge the debris, and ride as far to the right as practical.

Bicyclists shall not ride more than two abreast, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. Persons riding two abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane (55-8-175). Two abreast is only legal when you are not impeding traffic. If a car approaches from behind, get into single file. (Riding single file is required within a National Park, including Foothills Parkway, Natchez Trace.)

Don't wave motorists on. It is their responsibility to decide if it's safe to pass you, not yours. You don't know how long it's going to take them to pass you. The slow moving vehicle law applies to bicyclists. When going 10 mph less than the speed limit and there are 5 or more vehicles behind, pull over when it's safe and let them pass. Do this even if there are fewer than 5 cars, esp if it's an area with a lot of blind curves and hills.

The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting such movement in safety. In no event shall such movement be made by driving off the pavement or main-traveled portion of the roadway (55-8-117, 55-8-118).

Bicyclists may not pass cars on the right, though it may be tempting. Motorists may suddenly turn right into a driveway, or pull out because they see a line of stopped cars, not the bicyclist.

Every bicycle when used at night must be equipped with a front white headlight visible at a distance of 500 feet, and a red rear reflector visible at a distance of 50 feet. (55-8-177). Dress to be seen! Looking like Johnny Cash may seem cool, but motorists can not see those bicyclists, especially in Tennessee hollows.