Bicycles are a handy, healthy way to travel, exercise, or just relax. In addition, they are becoming a primary means of transportation for many of us in Western New York. As the number of cyclists increases on our roads, preserving their safety by educating motorists and ensuring the rules of the road are followed becomes more and more important. In this post, we answer some FAQs about the rights and duties of cyclists and motorists, as well as certain safety requirements mandated by New York law.
We have helped many clients who, due to the negligence of others, were injured while riding their bike. So, if you were injured while riding a bicycle, feel free to give us a call at 716-992-2222 for a free consultation, or complete the form on this page.
Yes. Children less than one-year old are not allowed to be on bikes. Children between one and five years old must wear an approved helmet and be carried in a properly affixed child carrier. Children between five and thirteen must wear an approved helmet. Technically, a child’s fourteenth birthday means they no longer “must” wear a helmet. However, the most important advice we can give is that anyone, of any age, should ALWAYS wear a helmet while bicycling.
It depends where you are in the state. New York Vehicle & Traffic Law doesn’t expressly regulate sidewalk bicycling. Instead, New York General Municipal Law § 180(6) permits municipalities to regulate this specific issue. Therefore, the answer will vary depending on what city or town you’re in. In Buffalo, sidewalk bicycling is prohibited except for children 14 and under
Probably not. If you’re riding on a roadway, then the maximum allowed to ride “abreast”, or parallel to one another, is two. You must also revert to single-file if you see a vehicle that intends to overtake/pass your group. If you’re riding in a shoulder or a designated bike lane, you may have two or more people riding parallel so long as the lane/shoulder is sufficiently wide to allow safe passage for all riders. However, when you’re passing/overtaking someone or something in the lane or shoulder, then the group must pass single-file. VTL § 1234(b).
New York law clearly states that “No person shall open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic…until it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic.” VTL § 1214. This means that drivers are responsible for checking to make sure they don’t “door” bicyclists.
Yes, but you must keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times. VTL § 1235. And for good measure, the law also requires cyclists to ride on a “permanent seat,” with feet on the pedals and only carrying the number of persons for which the bike is designed and equipped. VTL § 1232
A nonexhaustive list of the sort of unsafe “conditions” referred to above includes: pedestrians, fixed or moving objects, other vehicles, other bicyclists, animals, surface hazards (ice/mud/rubbish), or lanes that are too narrow for a vehicle to travel safely side-to-side with cyclists.
If the roadway you’re riding on has a designated bike lane, you’re required by law to use that bike lane. If the road doesn’t have a designated bike lane, but does have a usable right-hand shoulder, you should use the shoulder. If there is neither a bike lane nor a usable shoulder, then you must ride “near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway…in such a manner as to prevent undue interference with the flow of traffic, except when preparing for a left turn or when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that would make it unsafe to continue along near the right-hand curb or edge.” VTL § 1234(a).
No. New York law requires bicycles to be equipped with working brakes.
Yes, but only with one headphone/earbud inserted in your ear – your other ear must be free. VTL § 375 (24-a).
The law requires that drivers exercise “due care” to avoid colliding with bicyclists (as well as pedestrians and domesticated animals such as horses). When necessary, drivers must also provide a warning by sounding their horn. VTL § 1146(a). If a driver wishes to pass a cyclist, they should do so to the left of the cyclist and at a safe distance until safely clear thereof. VTL § 1122. Drivers can pass to the right of cyclists only under the following conditions: when the cyclist is making or about to make a left-hand turn; when the street is wide enough (with unobstructed pavement not occupied by parked vehicles) for two or more lines of moving vehicles in each direction; and on one-way streets that are free from obstruction and sufficiently wide for two or more lines of moving vehicles. VTL § 1123. Finally, drivers may only pass on the right when conditions permit a safe maneuver (i.e., clear weather, no ice or water on the road, and so on). VTL § 1123(b).
The right side, i.e., with the flow of traffic. VTL § 1234(a).
If you intend to use your bicycle while it is dark outside (defined as “the period from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise”), then you will need to equip your bike with lamps/lights that meet certain specifications. You must have a lamp on the front of your bike that emits a white light that can be seen from at least 500-feet away in darkness. On the back of your bike, you need to have a lamp that emits a red or amber light that is visible for at least 300-feet to the rear of the bicycle. Additionally, at least one of these lights needs to be visible for at least 200-feet from each side of the bicycle. VTL § 1236(a). You also need to have a bell or other device capable of being heard from at least 100-feet away. However, that device cannot be a siren or a whistle. § 1236(b).
New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Laws apply to persons riding bicycles. “Every person riding a bicycle…upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle.” VTL § 1231. Basically, if you can’t do it while driving a car, you also shouldn’t do it while riding a bicycle. Also, New York City Traffic Rules apply to bicyclists within the five boroughs. § RCNY 4-02(a).
We Can Help
We have helped many clients who, due to the negligence of others, were injured while riding their bike. Call us at 716-992-2222 for a free consultation.
Example Bicycle Accident Verdicts/Settlements
Provenz v. Styles (N.Y. Sup. 2012) – Injured cyclist awarded $1,241,000 jury verdict after being struck by a negligent driver who was on a cell-phone and ran a red light.
Lui v. Serrone (N.Y. Sup. 2014) – Plaintiff was hit by a semi-truck while biking. He suffered head wounds, broken ribs, and a broken jaw. The parties ultimately settled for $2,000,000.
Saenz v. Zelaya (N.Y. Sup. 2016) – An adult man died after being struck at an intersection by a truck. His estate sued the driver and the driver’s employer, who owned the truck. Jurors awarded the deceased man’s estate $1,400,000.