Commuting By Bike on Austin's Tollways

Chuck Thomas

The Austin American-Statesman had an interesting article by Ben Wear yesterday that is making the bike blog rounds. I thought it worth mentioning here. “Man braves cars, bureaucrats to bike on tollways” features Chuck Thomas’ quest to make his daily bicycle commute on the Texas 45 North tollway legit by getting a TxTag.

Favorite quote:

“As far as I know, he’s the only tollway bicycle commuter in Austin. And as far as I know, he’s not deranged.”

Chuck e-mailed the Texas DOT trying to find out if riding a bicycle on the tollways in Austin was legal. The response he got was that it was legal … but they hoped he wouldn’t do it. He carries a copy of the e-mail reply with him and has had occasion to show it to authorities who have tried to stop him.

In my state, riding on highways is illegal. I couldn’t imagine having a semi blow by me at 70 MPH. The article, however, makes a good argument.

“He uses the shoulders, of course, not the highway lanes. The shoulders are a spacious 8 feet wide, Thomas says, and, being relatively new and made of concrete, are unusually smooth. There’s very little trash, unlike Loop 360, for instance, where many cyclists ride, and traffic is much lighter than on 360 or other Austin highways. He says he feels safe.”

I chatted with Fritz about this earlier and he says he has ridden this type of limited access highway in Colorado and the shoulders are normally wide and clear and nice to ride on. He went on to say that the tollway Chuck is riding on is probably an excellent cycling facility. Fritz did say that noise is a big problem and “very unpleasant.”

If you are Chuck or know Chuck, contact us here at, we’d love to talk to you.

Photo by Larry Kolvoord of the American-Statesman

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0 thoughts on “Commuting By Bike on Austin's Tollways”

  1. Robert Sorenon says:

    That is cool. Man the noise must be nasty. I live in Wisconsin and it is illegal to ride the interstate. The signs are actually posted at the on ramps. There are times I wish I could take the interstate for the ease and straight shot to work. On the other hand traffic in Green Baay is not too bad so I will stay on the city roads.

  2. Jim Carson says:

    Washington permits riding on the shoulder of the interstates with some limits. (For example, I’ve ridden I-90 from Issaquah up to Snoqualmie Pass. The Rapsody ride follows along a couple of miles of Interstate 5. It’s not the most pleasant option, but it works.

  3. Fritz says:

    The noise is really the only issue – I’ve never been worried about getting rear ended or been blown over by the wind of passing semis. The traffic noise, though, really rattles your teeth.

    You also have to be on your toes at onramps and offramps.

  4. doug says:

    i ride on the US-101 in humboldt county in california to work every day, as well as to other points in the county.

    my commute takes me on the “safety corridor” bewteen the towns of arcata and eureka. there is a very wide shoulder, about eight feet, and the traffic is only going 50-60 usually. feels pretty safe, and caltrans just installed “SHARE THE ROAD” signs which is nice.

    the noise isn’t terrible, but when it’s raining i get a little freaked because the water makes the cars way, way louder. there’s a lot of junk on the road, too. i found my trusty hunting-orange beanie on the road, as well as a full bag of fun-sized snickers bars.

    as far as safety, i feel okay most of the time. once, my rear light fell off and broke, forcing me to ride home with only a tiny flashing LED in the rear. freaky. also, a local geology professor got smashed on the same road i ride by a drunk driver at 2:00 pm several months ago. he survived but was in a coma for a few weeks. nasty.

  5. James says:

    I ride 3.5 miles of the limited access freeway (no bicycles, farm equip etc) on OH Route2 over the Sandusky Bay when I head west. Crossing the Sandusky Bay bridge is the easiest and shortest way to stay along the lakeshore heading west toward Toledo and Michigan. It has a wide shoulder up to the high level arch. At that point it narrows to a curb as wide as a sidewalk. Enough to ride or walk on. It’s not my commuting route but it is a ride I take when visiting friends at the Lake Erie islands, Catawba or Marblehead. Alternatives are only riding 35 miles around the bay through Freemont, risk walking a 1.5 miles train tressle over the bay with my bike, or hitching a ride on a local’s powerboat. I normally follow road rules and I do explore the boat option first if I can meet my friends on shore but I conciously make the decision to take the risk of citation if I have no other alternative.

  6. Mark says:

    I live near the tollway described in the article…I don’t know Chuck, but frankly, he’s a genius – although the traffic on that road is fast, it’s still probably the safest route for him in this part of town. The east-west surface roads he would have to use to get to the same destination don’t have shoulders at all. I’d definitely consider joining him if my route took me in that direction.

    I’ll keep an eye out for Chuck and let him know you’re looking for him…

  7. Mike Myers says:

    I don’t know. Even though he has a nice wide shoulder, that still seems pretty scary. How fast are cars going there, 70mph?

  8. Ryan says:

    Speed limit is usually 65, but most cars on the tollway are going faster than 70

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