NYC Bike Laws - Legal Help

NYC Bike Laws - Legal Help

NYC Bike Laws - Legal Help

Living in a city like New York means having more than one option for getting around town. There are people who find that a bicycle works well for basic transport. In fact, there are several key statistics that help illustrate how common bike riding in New York City happens to be. 


A compilation of statistics provided by the New York City Department of Transportation reveals that:


  • As of 2021, there are almost 1,550 lane miles of bike lanes within the city
  • That includes 590 lanes miles that are protected lanes
  • Around 30% of the city's population ride bikes
  • A typical day in the city includes more than 550,000 cycling trips 


With so many bikes in use each day, it stands to reason that laws pertaining to the use of bicycles in the city are essential. Being aware of those laws, and how they apply to riders and other vehicle operators, is necessary.


Where Are Those Laws Found?

While some consider bikes in the city to be dangerous, they actually account for a small percentage of traffic-related accidents. When compared to the number of motor vehicle accidents taking place in New York, bike accidents pale in comparison.


Even so, the need for public safety is strong, and there are NYC bike laws designed to protect riders, pedestrians, and motor vehicle operators. Knowing those laws, and choosing to observe them carefully, reduces the potential for being involved in an accident. 


Where can you find information about bike usage laws in New York City? The New York City Department of Transportation provides access to the actual bike laws, as well as a simple breakdown of what those laws cover. The information is available online, and also in printed form from the NYCDOT.


And What Are Those Laws?

As you read through the laws related to riding a bike in New York City, don't be surprised if some of them seem to be common sense. Many of them are in fact simple rules that most people understand with ease. Keep in mind that not everyone has been exposed to rules of this nature, or may come from other jurisdictions where some of the laws are different.


Here are key basics to keep in mind:


  • The sidewalks are not intended for riding a bike. Current laws require most riders to use the street instead, preferably a bike lane. The exceptions are riders who are 12 years of age or younger, and are on bicycles with a wheel diameter of 26 inches or less.
  • Bicycle riders are to follow the same basic traffic laws as anyone else traveling on city streets. This means riders will stop at red traffic lights. They will also stop at stop signs, and yield the right of way when the signage indicates to do so. 
  • When using a pedestrian crosswalk to get across a street, follow the same rules that apply to pedestrians. Walk the bike across only when the pedestrian signal indicates it's safe to do so. 
  • Use marked bike lanes or paths when they are present. The exceptions are when no bike line is available, and when making right-hand turns. If a lane is not present and the street is narrow, bikers may ride in the middle of a travel lane, just like a motor vehicle operator. 
  • Current laws do require bikes to be outfitted with safety equipment. That includes a source of lighting, reflectors, and some sort of horn or bell. 
  • Bike usage is not restricted on any main or local street within New York City. Operating the bike responsibly ensures that biking privileges remain intact. 


Making Sure You're Observing All New York City Biking Laws

riding a bike

Using a bike to get around the city has its advantages. There are also responsibilities to observe. One of them is to make sure you understand all the laws pertaining to the use of your bike on city streets. 


It's up to you to proactively learn those laws and how they apply in your case. The goal is to make sure that they remain in compliance with those laws. That knowledge will also come in handy if you end up in an accident involving your bike. 


Remember that any type of legal issue is best left in the hands of a lawyer. Whether you're cited for failing to observe a law, or are involved in an accident, a lawyer with Linden Law can help. Making a call to that lawyer ensures all legal measures will be taken to protect your rights. There will also be a better chance of bringing the situation to a close in less time. 


Understanding the Penalties For Failing to Observe Current Bike Laws

It's not enough to know the current laws that apply to biking on New York City streets. You must also observe them. What can happen if you fail to follow those laws? Here are a few examples to consider. 


One possibility is that you may find yourself with a ticket. Since bicycle riders are responsible for observing most of the same laws as motor vehicle operators, failure to observe basic traffic laws will mean paying the fine. If you accrue too many tickets within a given time frame, there's also the possibility of moving past having tickets to pay and ending up with a little time in jail.


Failure to observe laws that have to do with bicycle usage in particular will also create problems. For example, an adult riding a bicycle with 28-inch diameter wheels on the sidewalk could face more than a ticket. This is especially true if the street is crowded, and the action increases the risk to pedestrians. 

In the event that your actions result in an injury, the action taken against you may be more severe. In addition to restrictions on cycling privileges, you may face a personal injury suit. Assuming that the suit has merit and proceeds, that could mean your bicycle insurance premiums increase, or you find that the current provider chooses to drop you altogether. 


Injuries that result in fatalities could mean additional legal woes. It's not necessary to be driving a motor vehicle in order to face charges of vehicular manslaughter or similar crimes. 


The bottom line is that it's in your best interests to know and follow all rules related to bike use within New York City. Not being familiar with those laws is no excuse. 


FAQs About Bike Riding in New York City and the State

riding bike

Many of the bike riding laws in the city are also found in other jurisdictions of the state. All laws enacted within the city are in harmony with biking laws that apply in other cities and towns. There are some laws covering situations in New York City that are either not covered elsewhere, or are a little different. In any event, laws within the city and the state are intended to protect people from harm. 


Here are some of the more common questions about bike laws, and what they mean for you:


Is it illegal to ride a bike on the sidewalk in New York State?


You may find smaller towns that do allow bikes to be ridden on sidewalks, but they are the exception rather than the rule. Most areas of the state utilize the same standards as New York City. That is, bike riding on the sidewalk is allowed for children under the age of 12, and only with bikes with wheels under a certain diameter. 


There may be signage that provides temporary permission to ride bikes on sidewalks. Unless such signage is posted, it's best to assume that bike riding for those over the age of 12 is reserved to the street. 


When are bicyclists required to wear helmets?


Current New York State bike helmet laws, as well as those that apply in the city, require children under the age of 14 to wear helmets while operating a bicycle. Older teenagers and adults may also be required to wear helmets, based on regulations enacted by the local jurisdiction.


When in doubt, consult the local authorities. What you learn will help you avoid fines and other unpleasant situations. 


What light should bicyclists use to be visible to other motorists?


Bikers should ensure their bicycles are outfitted with lights on the front and the back. Those lights should provide ample illumination to be seen during bad weather and at night. Along with making it easier for others to see the bike, the lights should allow enough illumination for the cyclist to proceed safely.


Red reflectors are also required in the city and many other parts of the state. Those also help to make the bikes more visible to others on the road, and minimize the potential for traffic accidents. 


What equipment must a bicycle have when used at night?


Along with lights that make it easier to see and to be seen, red reflectors are a must. It also helps if the cyclist chooses to wear some sort of attire that has reflective qualities. This helps to enhance the effect created by the use of lights, and reduces the potential for not being seen. 


Should bike riders wear certain colors of clothing?


As a general rule, wearing biking attire that prevents blending in with the surrounding area is a good idea. Bright colors are often a good choice during the day as well as at night. Any color combination that catches the eye and makes the biker more visible is a good thing. 


Are there colors to avoid? In general, stay away from anything that makes it more difficult for others to clearly see the bike. At night, that means refraining from wearing darker colors. During the day, opting for something like a bright yellow or a vibrant red would be better than a green or gray that looks a lot like the street and any foliage along the lane. 


If a road does not have a bicycle lane, where must a bicyclist ride their bicycle?


No bike lane means using the street, unless there is signage clearly indicating bike riders can use the sidewalk. For streets that are considered standard widths, staying closer to the curb so cars can get past is a good idea. 


When streets are narrower than the current standard, remaining close to the curb may not make any difference. In this instance, drive down the center of the lane. Whatever the width of the street, remember to ride with the traffic flow, and not against it. 


For more information about biking laws in New York City, and how they apply to something that's happened to you, contact the team at Linden Law today. 


Categories: All, Personal Injury, Tips from a Lawyer

(212) 804-8440