Resources for drivers

A message from the Austin Police Department

Austin Police Department Enforcement guidelines instruct officers to NOT issue a citation for driving to the left of double yellow lines when done in a safe manner AND to comply with the Vulnerable Road Users Ordinance. See video below:

 

Austin’s Vulnerable Road Users Ordinance

This is a summary. See below for the full text.

Vulnerable Road Users are people who are on foot, on a bicycle (including one driven or assisted by motors), on horseback, operating a motorcycle or moped, or operating a horse-drawn vehicle or unprotected farm equipment.

For our purposes here, we will be using ‘cyclist’ instead of ‘vulnerable road user’.

  • A driver passing a cyclist riding on a highway or street shall get in another lane, if there’s one going in the same direction; or pass the cyclist at a safe distance:
    • At least 3 feet if driving a passenger car or light truck;
    • At least 6 feet if driving a truck or commercial motor vehicle.
    • Note: This is the required distance from the outer edge of your mirrors or other items projecting from the vehicle.
  • Left-turning motorists must yield to close oncoming cyclists.
  • A driver may not overtake a cyclist and make a right-hand turn unless safely clear of the cyclist.
  • A driver may not maneuver the vehicle in a manner that:
    • is intended to cause intimidation or harassment to a cyclist; or
    • threatens a cyclist.
  • A driver shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any cyclist on a roadway or in an intersection of roadways.
  • It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that at the time of the offense the vulnerable road user was acting in violation of the law.
    • Cyclists: This means that a driver can be only be charged with an offense under this local ordinance if we are obeying the law when it occurs.
    • Drivers: The Texas Transportation Code outlines serious criminal offenses for using a vehicle in a threatening or dangerous manner.

    The Austin Police Department is actively enforcing this important safety requirement for people operating motor vehicles. They are also actively enforcing traffic safety infractions by people riding bicycles, and by people who are on foot.

    Making our road travel safer requires effort and attention on the part of all of us. The VRU ordinance was put in place in recognition of the fact that if that effort and attention is not given, the lives of people outside of a motor vehicle are at greatest risk. Please–the others around you are loved ones connected to many people’s lives. Treat them, and yourselves, with care.


    Here is the full text of the ordinance:

    CHAPTER 12-1. TRAFFIC REGULATION AND ADMINISTRATION.

    ARTICLE 3. TRAFFIC RESTRICTIONS.

    § 12-1-35 VULNERABLE ROAD USERS.

    1. In this section, a Vulnerable Road User means:
      1. a pedestrian, including a runner, physically disabled person, child, skater, highway construction and maintenance worker, tow truck operator, utility worker, other worker with legitimate business in or near the road or right-of-way, or stranded motorist or passenger;
      2. a person on horseback;
      3. a person operating equipment other than a motor vehicle, including, but not limited to, a bicycle, handcycle, horse-driven conveyance, or unprotected farm equipment; or
      4. a person operating a motorcycle, moped, motor-driven cycle, or motor-assisted scooter.
    2. An operator of a motor vehicle passing a vulnerable road user operating on a highway or street shall:
      1. vacate the lane in which the vulnerable road user is located if the highway has two or more marked lanes running in the same direction; or
      2. pass the vulnerable road user at a safe distance.
    3. For the purpose of Subsection (b)(2), when road conditions allow, safe distance is at least:
      1. three feet if the operator’s vehicle is a passenger car or light truck; or
      2. six feet if the operator’s vehicle is a truck, other than a light truck, or a commercial motor vehicle as defined by Texas Transportation Code Section 522.003.
    4. An operator of a motor vehicle that is making a left turn at an intersection, including an intersection with an alley or private road or driveway, shall yield the right-of-way to a vulnerable road user who is approaching from the opposite direction and is in the intersection, or is in such proximity to the intersection as to be an immediate hazard.
    5. An operator of a motor vehicle may not overtake a vulnerable road user traveling in the same direction and subsequently make a right-hand turn in front of the vulnerable road user unless the operator is safely clear of the vulnerable road user, taking into account the speed at which the vulnerable road user is traveling and the braking requirements of the motor vehicle making the right-hand turn.
    6. An operator of a motor vehicle may not maneuver the vehicle in a manner that:
      1. is intended to cause intimidation or harassment to a vulnerable road user; or
      2. threatens a vulnerable road user.
      3. An operator of a motor vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any vulnerable road user on a roadway or in an intersection of roadways.
      4. It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that at the time of the offense the vulnerable road user was acting in violation of the law.

      Source: Ord. 20091022-030.

      You can find this ordinance, and others in the Austin, Texas Code of Ordinances, on the American Legal Publishing Corporation website.