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Biking Laws You Need to Know in New York

Jan 11, 2019 | Bicycle Accidents

New York is a bicycle- and pedestrian-heavy state, with 1,133 miles of bicycle lanes in New York City alone. Over the last several years, biking has become even more popular in the state of New York, resulting in an increase of bicyclists on the roads. Unfortunately, this can also mean a greater number of accidents. In 2017, 4,397 bicyclists suffered injuries and 24 died throughout all five of New York City’s boroughs. Obeying biking laws can help you avoid collisions.

Bicycles as Vehicles

A bicycle in New York is a two- or three-wheeled human-powered device. Motor-powered bicycles fall under different laws than standard bikes. All bicyclists in the state of New York are subject to the provisions of state and city traffic rules. Laws that apply to motor vehicles and their operators also apply to bicyclists, except where not applicable. Bicycles have a right to the roadways when bicycle lanes are unavailable.

Rules of the Road

Bicyclists must stay as far to the right-hand side of the road as possible, traveling in the same direction as surrounding traffic. They must obey all traffic laws, including speed limits, right-of-way rules, roadway signs, and traffic signals. Cyclists must stop at intersections and yield the right-of-way to pedestrians or motor vehicles, as appropriate.

Riding on Sidewalks

It is illegal to operate a bicycle on the sidewalk in New York’s business districts, including within the limits of New York City. The only exceptions are if the bicycle has wheels smaller than 26 inches in diameter and the rider is 12 or younger, or if the city has posted a sign permitting bicycles. When these standards do not apply, a bicyclist must ride in a provided bike lane. It is illegal for anyone to stand, stop, or park vehicles within a bicycle lane. Bicyclists must use the roadway when no bicycle lanes exist.

Bicycle Helmet Laws

In New York State, bicyclists must wear approved helmets if they are under the age of 14 years old. Children and adults 14 and older do not have to wear bicycle helmets unless municipal law states otherwise. Children one to four must ride in approved safety seats on their parents’ bicycles. Children under the age of one cannot ride on bicycles in New York. An approved helmet is one with state or federal safety certification.

Bicycle Equipment

All bicyclists in New York need proper equipment to lawfully ride. This includes a white headlight and red taillight the bicyclist must use from dusk to dawn, an audible signal such as a bell or horn, working brakes, and reflective tires. Bicycles must also have permanent seats for each rider or passenger, as well as pedals for each passenger. It is illegal to operate a bicycle without proper equipment.

Hand Signal Etiquette

New York law requires bicyclists to use hand signals for turns and stops. This will let other road users know where the bicyclist plans on going, to help prevent collisions. To indicate a left turn, the bicyclist should extend the left arm out to the left. To indicate a right turn, the bicyclist can either extend the right arm out to the right or extend the left arm to the left, bent upward at the elbow. The sign for a stop is extending the left arm to the left and bending it downward at the elbow.

Bicycle Rights

Bicyclists also benefit from the same rights and protections as drivers in New York. Motorists must respect bicyclists’ rights to the road, and operate safely around them. Infringing upon bicyclists’ rights, such as tailgating or ignoring right-of-way, could result in driver liability if an accident occurs. Injured victims in bicycle accidents may have the right to file personal injury claims against negligent drivers in serious collisions in New York. If you want to do this, speak to a New York City bike accident lawyer now.