What Are the New York Bicycle Laws?
There are various reasons why it’s important for bikers to obey cyclist laws. Not only can it help you avoid unwanted fees and traffic tickets, but it also protects your safety. Obeying state cyclist laws could save your life. Whether you’re a biker or a driver, it’s imperative for anyone operating a means of transportation to understand traffic regulations to stay safe on the roads.
If you’re a biker who was injured in a bicycle accident as a result of careless driving, it’s crucial to understand New York laws so you can collect the compensation you rightfully deserve. Are you familiar with your biker rights in NY? Keep reading to learn more about cyclist laws in New York.
7 New York Cyclist Laws Every Biker Should Know
It’s important to understand that the same laws that apply to motor vehicle operators (with a few obvious exceptions) also apply to cyclists on NY roads.
Considering the vast differences between riding a bike and driving a vehicle, you may be wondering how cyclists and drivers are expected to lawfully coexist, especially in the hustle and bustle of New York City. Consider the following answers to common FAQs about bicycling in New York.
#1. Are bikers required to wear a helmet?
Only bikers under the age of 14 are required to wear a helmet under New York Law. However, it’s always best practice to wear sufficient safety equipment while biking.
In the U.S. alone, there are 800 biking fatalities each year. An additional 500,000 cyclists end up in hospital emergency rooms on an annual basis. Of these, 2/3 of fatalities and 1/3 of injuries involve injury to the head and face. Studies also show that wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury (such as traumatic brain injuries or internal bleeding) by 85%.
Keep in mind that certain New York communities may have passed local ordinances that require helmet use for riders of all ages. For example, Rockland County and Erie County require helmets for all bikers riding on county property.
#2. Should bikers ride with or against traffic?
New York law requires bikers to ride with traffic, not against it. This is the safest practice considering bikers are required to obey the same laws that apply to motor vehicles.
As you can imagine, riding with the flow of traffic allows cyclists to obey traffic signs (such as traffic lights and stop signs) and signal to other drivers and riders accordingly. Riding with traffic also reduces confusion for fellow cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians.
#3. Can bikers use the sidewalk?
New York City Traffic Rules prohibit bicycles from operating on sidewalks, unless signs permit, with the exception of children 12 and younger when the wheel diameter is less than 26 inches.
The laws are less strict in New York State outside of New York City, but it’s always best to avoid cycling on sidewalks when possible, as doing so can cause confusion near pedestrians and even lead to crashes. To stay safe, it’s always wise to use designated bike lanes when they are available.
#4. Are bikers required to use designated bike lanes?
New York law stipulates that bikers should use designated bike lanes when they are available; however, it does allow exceptions for safety reasons. The best rule of thumb is to use the bike lane whenever possible, as the safety benefits outweigh the risks.
Designated bike lanes help keep cyclist traffic separate from motor vehicle traffic, reducing the risk of crashes and fatal accidents. They also allow cyclists to be more visible to motor vehicle operators, making it easier for drivers to give bikers the right of way when needed and keep an eye out for a signaling cyclist.
#5. Are cyclists required to signal when turning?
New York bike laws require bikers to utilize hand signals to alert surrounding drivers when they’re about to turn. This is a safe practice that should always be implemented to avoid crashes and fatal collisions with surrounding traffic, including pedestrians, and make sure that you’re seen by motor vehicle operators around you.
Here’s what you need to know about turn signals when cycling:
- Left turn: Fully extend your left arm out parallel to the ground. This signal should be made within 100 feet before the turn so you can replace both hands on the bike when making the turn.
- Right turn: There are two ways to signal a right turn. The first and most common is to fully extend your right arm out parallel to the ground. The second practice is to extend your left arm out with your forearm lifted at a 90-degree angle. Again, this should be done within 100 feet of the turn so you can replace both hands on the bike while making the turn.
- Stop: This is a crucial signal considering that bikes typically lack the brake lights that cars have. To indicate that you’re coming to a stop, extend your left arm out to your side and downturn your forearm at a 90-degree angle.
#6. What criteria must a bike meet to be legally used in NYC?
To be considered legal, New York law requires that bicycles be properly equipped. All bikes must have:
- A brake that is capable of making tires skid on dry, level pavement.
- A bell, horn, or another device that can be heard at least 100 feet away. Sirens and whistles aren’t allowed.
- A headlight and taillight. Bicycles ridden within a half-hour of sunset or sunrise must be equipped with a white front headlight visible in darkness for at least 500 feet and a red taillight visible for at least 300 feet. One of these lights must also be visible on the side for at least 200 feet.
- Wheel reflectors. Bikes are required to have reflective tires or wide-angle spoke-mounted reflectors. They must be colorless or amber for the front wheels and colorless or red for the back wheels.
#7. Are cyclists allowed to wear earbuds/listen to music?
Yes and no. Listening to music with both earbuds is not permitted under New York law. However, bikers are permitted to have one earbud in, so long as the volume does not distract the bike operator from their surroundings on the road.
Although using one headphone or earbud isn’t technically illegal, bikers should refrain from using headphones entirely if it’s at all distracting to what’s going on around them, as this can lead to injuries and fatal accidents with surrounding traffic and pedestrians.
We’re Here to Fight for Maximum Compensation
Our hardworking team at Koenigsberg & Associates is committed to fighting for maximum compensation on your behalf. With over 25 years of experience, we have a proven track record of protecting the rights of clients like yourself. We believe that New York bikers have the right to stay safe on our roads, which is why we’re here to advocate tirelessly for you until the gavel drops.
No one deserves to be hit or injured by a reckless driver. We’re proud to offer award-winning legal services to injured bicyclists in NYC. If you suffered an injury due to someone else’s recklessness on the road, you have the right to fair and swift compensation. In these situations, it’s essential to put your trust in an experienced personal injury attorney with real-world experience assisting clients like you.
Were you injured in a biking accident? Don’t wait to secure the strong legal representation you deserve. Call (718) 690-3132 today or contact us online to request your free consultation.