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Tennessee Bicycle Laws All Cyclists and Motorists Should Know

Nashville Bicycle Accident Attorney Explains State Regulations

In Tennessee, as in most states, bicycles are considered by law to be a type of vehicle. This means that cyclists have the same rights and the same responsibilities as motorists. Bicyclists must obey the same traffic signals and signs, and motorists must yield the right of way when necessary. However, Tennessee has additional state laws that apply to cyclists, and many cities and towns have further local regulations. These concern bicycle equipment, hand signals, bike lanes and more. Both cyclists and motorists should take steps to familiarize themselves with these laws.

Tennessee bicycle laws exist to prevent serious cycling accidents and injuries, which are typically much more severe for the bike rider. However, if a negligent motorist disregarded these laws and you sustained serious injuries, then you may be entitled to compensation. Nashville bicycle accident attorney Stanley A. Davis has been representing injured cyclists in Tennessee for over 20 years. He is also a Board Certified Civil Trial Specialist, and can use his expertise in the courtroom to help you stand up for your rights after a bicycle injury.

Does Tennessee Have a Bike Helmet Law?

Bicycle helmets reduce the risk of traumatic brain injury and wrongful death in the event of a bike crash. For this reason, many states require helmet use by all cyclists to promote safety. Currently, Tennessee does not have a universal bike helmet law. Helmet use is mandatory only for cyclists under the age of 16. However, cyclists should always wear a sturdy protective helmet when riding anyway, as bicycle accidents caused by negligent motorists are always a risk.

Still, even though bike helmet use is a good practice, you cannot be penalized for not wearing one. Tennessee bicycle laws include a specific provision that forbids insurance companies and other defendants from using your choice to forego a helmet as evidence against you. Often, these companies may try to reduce your settlement after a bike crash by claiming that your injuries would have been reduced if you had worn a helmet. Essentially, they try to blame the innocent victim for his or her own injuries. However, Tennessee law makes this practice illegal.

Tennessee Bicycle Laws for Cyclists

In addition to the state law that makes helmet use mandatory only for those under 16, Tennessee has several other provisions that apply to cyclists. These include:

  • Cyclist may ride on sidewalks, except where prohibited by local ordinances.
  • If a bike lane is available, it is often safest to use it. However, Tennessee law does not require cyclists to always use a bike lane where one exists.
  • Cyclists should ride in the far right lane, except when turning left. Additionally, cyclists should ride as far to the right as safely allowable. However, most roads in Tennessee are not wide enough to safely allow a car and bike to ride abreast (14 feet wide is the minimum for such a practice). On narrow roads, therefore, a cyclist may legally take the entire lane.
  • There is no specific law prohibiting cycling while intoxicated. However, cyclists could face charges of public intoxication or reckless endangerment if their impairment causes an accident.
  • Cyclists must follow all traffic lights and signs. This includes coming to a full stop at red lights and stop signs, and yielding the right of way when appropriate.

Tennessee Bicycle Laws for Motorists

Even if you follow all bike laws and maintain safe practices, it is not always possible to prevent all cycling accidents. Since many bicycle injuries result from motorist negligence, Tennessee bicycle laws also include provisions for drivers, such as:

  • Tennessee’s “Due Care Law” is broad. It prohibits distracted driving and requires motorists to drive at a safe speed, stay alert for hazards and devote their full attention to the road. The scope of this law includes being conscious of cyclists and exercising due care to prevent serious accidents and injuries.
  • Tennessee does not have a “dooring law”, which require motorists in some states to check before opening a door when parked alongside traffic. If a door opens suddenly in a cyclist’s path, a serious collision may result. Otherwise, the cyclist may swerve into traffic. While there is no specific dooring law in Tennessee, the Due Care Law is broad enough to cover this behavior. Additionally, Nashville has a local dooring law.
  • Since bicycles are vehicles by Tennessee law, motorists must treat cyclists like other drivers. This includes yielding the right of way when applicable, leaving safe traveling distance and obeying other rules of the road.

Hurt in a Bike Crash? Contact a Nashville Bicycle Injury Attorney Today

Tennessee bicycle laws exist to protect both cyclists and motorists from costly, damaging accidents. However, if you sustain serious bicycle injuries or lose a loved one because a motorist neglected these laws, then you may have grounds for a personal injury or wrongful death claim. Bicycle accident attorney Stanley Davis can explain your rights and represent your best interests in an insurance claim and/or lawsuit. He has a history of success with a variety of motor vehicle accident cases, including cycling accidents, and he can put that experience to work for you.

Contact our Nashville law firm online or call (615) 690-2080 today to schedule a free, no obligation case review.