The University of Tennessee, Knoxville

Tennessee County Municipal Advisory Service

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Regulation of Bicycles

Reference Number: MTAS-593
Tennessee Code Annotated
Reviewed Date: September 19, 2017
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Bicycles Subject to Traffic Rules
T.C.A. §§ 55-8-171–178 contain special rules for the operation of, and equipment required on, bicycles. Generally, bicycle riders are granted the same rights and are subject to the same rules of the road that apply to drivers of motor vehicles, except those that do not by their nature apply. T.C.A. § 55-8-152. T.C.A. §§ 55-9-602–603 contain an outline for the distribution of fines and costs for convictions under that law.

Child bicycle safety regulations also are found at T.C.A. §§ 55-52-101, et seq. These regulations:

  • require children 16 years of age and under to wear a helmet that meets standards contained in the law when riding a bicycle upon any highway, street or sidewalk;
  • require any passenger on a bicycle who weighs less than 40 pounds or is less than 40 inches tall to be properly seated and adequately secured to a restraining seat; and
  • prohibit the rental or lease of any bicycle to, or use by, any person under 16 years of age unless the person is in possession of a protective helmet of good fit, or the rental or lease includes such a helmet "and the person intends to wear the helmet ... at all times while operating or being a passenger on the bicycle."

Any parent or guardian of a person under 12 years of age who knowingly permits that person to ride or be a passenger on a bicycle in violation of these regulations is subject to a civil penalty of $2. Any other adult person who permits any person to ride or be a passenger on a bicycle in violation of these regulations is subject to the same penalty; however, the offender must be issued a warning on the first offense and a citation on the second and any subsequent offense. No arrest or custody of the offender is permitted in either case.

T.C.A. §§ 55-8-171–177 make the state’s traffic regulations applicable to bicycles. Motorists overtaking a bicycle traveling in the same direction must leave a safe distance of at least three feet between the vehicle and bicycle. Violation is a Class C misdemeanor. T.C.A. § 55-8-175.

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