Passing laws: Tennessee requires that in the event a motor vehicle passes a bicycle it shall leave a safe distance, not less than 3 feet, when passing the bicycle.
Helmet law Tennessee requires the operator or passenger of a bicycle under the age of 16 to wear a helmet. However, in no event shall the failure to wear a helmet be admissable evidence in a trial of any civil action.
Vulnerable User Laws to Protect the Bicyclist: Tennessee has not enacted any vulnerable user laws at this time.
Distracted Driving Laws: As almost every bicyclist knows, distracted driving creates one of the most dangerous risks to a bicycle on a public road way. Every state has varying laws to attempt to reduce the amount of distracted driving that exists. Nonetheless, it still presents a serious problem.
In Tennessee there have been laws passed to attempt to reduce distracted driving by punishing violators. Here is a summary of the present laws:
- A person who holds a learner permit or intermediate license may not drive a vehicle on a roadway while using a wireless phone;
- A person, regardless of age, may not use a wireless phone at any time while operating a motor vehicle on a roadway in a school speed zone, or in a roadway work zone;
- A person may not operate a motor vehicle on a roadway while using an electronic communication device to read or send a text message; and
- A person shall not operate a motor vehicle with a video or television screen capable of displaying video that produces entertainment or business applications, if the monitor or screen is intended to display images visible to the driver in normal position when the vehicle is moving.
Lane Position Laws for a Bicyclist (Where to Ride): Generally speaking Tennessee law requires the bicyclist to be as close to the right hand edge of the road as possible. However there are some important exceptions that I will outline below:
- When passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction;
- When preparing to take a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway; and
- When reasonably necessary to avoid unsafe conditions such as riding in a lane that is too narrow.
Sidewalk Riding: Tennessee does not have a law that either permits or prohibits riding on the sidewalk. In addition, Tennessee does not require a bicyclist to use any lane other than normal vehicular traffic lane. So, if there is a sidewalk, it would seem you can decide where to ride.
Riding a Bike under the Influence: Tennessee’s law prohibiting driving while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances is written so that it applies to automobiles and therefore does not directly apply to bicyclists. However bicycles should not be operated while under the influence.
Stop Sign Laws: Tennessee provides that, notwithstanding any law to the contrary, when an intersection is controlled by a traffic control signal that fails to recognize a bicycle a bicycle may proceed on a red light, provided he/she:
- Comes to a complete and full stop at the intersection; and
- Exercising due care, as provided by law, may proceed with due caution when it is safe to do so.
However, if in fact the light does detect a bicyclist or was not defective, then the cyclist could be issued a citation, despite the fact the cyclist believed the light did not recognize bicycles. So be sure you are not recognized before proceeding!
Important Resources and Links