As a cyclist, you have responsibilities to yourself, to motorists you will interact with, and to pedestrians you are sure to encounter every time you ride your bike. Taking time to familiarize yourself with a few basic guidelines will help keep the ETSU roadways safe for everyone.

What do Tennessee state laws say about bicycles?

Overview of Bike Safety

  1. Obey all traffic signs and ride on the correct side of the road.
  2. Ride smart - choose your lane positioning based upon immediate conditions.
  3. Ride predictably and signal your intentions.
  4. Be courteous; yield to pedestrians, announce your presence and intentions.
  5. If you ride at night, use a light!
  6. Protect your thought process-always wear a helmet.

According to Tennessee Code Annotated, § 55-8-175, traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles. Although not defined as a vehicle, a bicyclist upon a roadway shall have all the rights and responsibilities of a vehicle operator. On the road you are not a pedestrian; you are considered a vehicle and must operate your bicycle in compliance with all applicable traffic regulations, including speed limits. Johnson City Bike Laws

Riding in Traffic: Lanes, Intersections and Roundabouts

Riding right begins with riding on the right.

A bicyclist upon a roadway shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. You make the decision as to where in the lane it is safe to ride at any given time. Ride as far to the right as you feel it is safe to ride-considering pavement, traffic, and weather conditions. But...

Don't be afraid to "take the lane" when needed as you're riding. "Taking the lane" essentially means riding in the center of your lane, as opposed to the outer edge. It can be used to avoid bad pavement or debris often found at the edge of a lane. It can also be used to minimize the opportunity for vehicles to illegally pass you, especially when you're about to turn. It makes you much more visible to traffic passing you in both directions. Additionally, one of the most common causes of bicycling injury is when a motorist "cuts off" or turns in front of the cyclist. You can eliminate this hazard by choosing the proper lane positioning and being alert at all times.

Round-about Do not pass vehicles from behind on the right, especially at intersections. At traffic signals, wait your turn. It is illegal for you to pass other stopped vehicles to move to the front of the line. If you occupy a space next to a right-turning vehicle and are struck, you are at fault. At some locations on campus, you may find it is better to dismount and walk your bike with the flow of pedestrians. Additionally, when a bike encounters another bike head-on, it should always pass on the right.

There are two important rules to remember when approaching a traffic circle or "roundabout":

  • Always ride counter-clockwise through the circle
  • Always yield right-of-way to any bike or vehicle already in the circle

Hand Signals for Cyclists

Use hand signals to indicate left turns, right turns, or that you are slowing or stopping. When turning, signal continuously for at least 100 feet before the turn and while you are stopped, waiting to turn, unless use of your hand is needed to control your bicycle.

Hand Signals

Peaceful Coexistence with Pedestrians

Side-walks on the ETSU campus were developed for foot traffic-not cyclists. Here is often too little space for pedestrians and bikes to safely share. When cyclists encounter pedestrians, they should be courteous and announce their presence and their intentions with phrases such as:

  1. "Passing"
  2. "On your left"
  3. "Behind you"

Just like in a car, a cyclist must give pedestrians the right-of-way, even on side-walks. If you must use the side-walk, dismount and walk your bike with the flow of foot traffic.

Why Wear a Bicycle Helmet?

Riding without a bicycle helmet significantly increases the risk of injury in the event of a crash. Non-helmeted riders are 14 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than helmeted riders. The rigid crushable foam inside a helmet prevents banging the brain against the inside of the skull. Bike Safety Lights

Protect your thought process - wear a helmet when you ride your bike-always!

See and Be Seen

A bicycle used at night-time must be equipped with a headlamp and rear red reflector. A lamp emitting a red light may be used to supplement the rear reflector.


Additional Bike Resources

(These are just recommendations and are not necessarily endorsed by ETSU)

Local Bike Shops:

Helpful Websites

Campus Resources

  • ETSU Public Safety (423) 439-6900 (Non-emergencies)
  • Basler Center for Physical Activity (423) 439-7980 (General Information)
  • ETSU Environmental Health and Safety (423) 439-6028