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Bicyclists and Motorists: Rights and Responsibilities Under Tennessee Law

Bicyclists and Motorists: Rights and Responsibilities

Under Tennessee law, any person riding a bicycle or an electric bicycle is granted all the rights and responsibilities applicable to a driver of a motor vehicle. Bicyclists, just like the driver of a car, must stop at a stop sign, signal turns, drive sober, keep an assured clear distance, etc. But beyond this general principle, bicyclists and motorists have other special obligations.

In Tennessee, bicyclists must:

  • Ride astride (not side saddle) a permanent and regular seat attached to the bike itself;

  • Not carry passengers unless the bicycle is a tandem or otherwise designed to carry more than one rider;

  • Not hold on to a vehicle or attach the bicycle to a motor vehicle on the roadway.

  • Operate “as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway” if they are traveling slower than the rest of the roadway traffic. This does not apply if the bicyclists is overtaking or passing a slower moving vehicle, turning or preparing to turn left, or if the bicyclists is trying to avoid a collision with some hazard along the right side of the roadway.

  • Not operate more than 2 abreast except for on designated bike paths. Bicyclists are not permitted to ride 2 abreast if it impedes normal and reasonable movement of traffic or on a landed roadway. Under such conditions, bicyclists are to ride single file.

  • Equip their bikes with brakes which allow the driver to stop within 25 feet if traveling at speed of 10 miles per hour on clean, dry, level pavement;

  • Equip their bikes with a lamp on the front that is visible from 500 feet if operating at nighttime;

  • Equip the rear of their bike with either a red light or red reflector visible from 500 feet, if operating at nighttime.

  • Not operate a bike while carrying any package or object that prevents the driver from keeping at least one hand on the handlebars.

  • Note: Certified police cyclists have separate rules not covered here.

As for motorists, Tennessee law requires:

  • The operator of a car or truck or other motor vehicle, when overtaking or passing a bicycle in the same direction, to leave a safe distance between the vehicle and the bicycle of not less than 3 feet and to maintain that distance until safely past the bike.

  • Operators of motor vehicles treat a bicyclist in the same manner as a regular motor vehicle. For instance, if the bicyclist beat you to the 4-way stop, then the bicyclist gets to go first just like a car would.

If you have been involved in a bicycle accident and you have questions or would like to discuss a possible claim, give us a call. We are happy to talk to you absolutely free. If we think we can help and you decide to hire us, we will handle your bicycle accident on a contingency basis, which means we only get paid if we recover money for you. Our award-winning lawyers can be reached at 615-742-4880 (Nashville) or 615-867-9900 (Murfreesboro) or 866-812-8787 (toll-free from anywhere in the State of Tennessee or elsewhere). We have recovered millions of dollars for our satisfied clients and we would like to help you too.


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