Cyclists’ Rights and Responsibilties

| July 10, 2011 6:00 PM

The Department of Transportation reported that bicycle commuting into Manhattan increased by 13 percent in 2010. The department’s Sustainable Streets Index found that in the same period, subway and bus ridership dropped by a little more than 2 percent, and car traffic rose slightly.

In the past decade, bicycle commuting in New York City increased by 262 percent. Along major bike routes in Brooklyn and Manhattan, cyclists make up a third of the evening rush hour traffic. Now, more than half a million adult New Yorkers ride bicycles at least several times a month.

Traffic Laws for Cyclists

Bicycles are defined as vehicles under the New York State law. Cyclists have all the rights and are subject to all of the duties and regulations applicable to drivers of motor vehicles.

Don't stand on this man. MetroFocus/Sam Lewis.

Traffic Rules that Protect Cyclists in NYC:

  1. It is against the law to park, stand or stop within or otherwise obstruct bike lanes.
  2. Other vehicles shall not drive on or across bike lanes.
  3. It is illegal to get out of a vehicle in a manner which endangers cyclists (often referred to as “dooring”).
  4. Drivers to exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicyclist, upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary.

Cyclists in New York City must:

  1. Ride on the street, not on the sidewalks (unless rider is age 12 or younger and the bicycle’s wheels are less than 26 inches in diameter).
  2. Ride with traffic, not against it.
  3. Obey all traffic signals, signs and pavement markings. Cyclists must come to a complete stop at red lights and stop signs. Cyclists are required by law to exercise due care to avoid colliding with pedestrians, motor vehicles or other cyclists.
  4. Use marked bike lanes or paths when available, except when making turns or when it is unsafe to do so, etc. If the road is too narrow for a bicycle and a car to travel safely side by side, cyclists have the right to ride in the middle of the travel lane. Bicycling is permitted on all main and local streets throughout the City even when no designated route exists.
  5. Not ride on expressways, drives, highways, interstate routes and thruways unless authorized by signs.
  6. Not wear more than one earphone attached to an audio device (e.g. radio, ipod, walkman).

Use the following safety and visibility equipment:

  • White headlight and red taillight must be used from dusk to dawn.
  • Bell or horn (not whistle).
  • Working brakes.
  • Reflective tires or reflectors.
  • Helmets must be worn by children age 13 or younger, and helmets are strongly recommended for all others.

This information was culled from the Department of Transportation’s website.

    • Jack Farrell

      There is a tremendous amount of animosity between bicyclists and mototists. With this surge in bicycle use I wonder if there is police summons activity compiled and available. I know that if I go through a stop sign or red light I have a much better chance of getting a summons than would a cyclist doing the same thing. Any moving violation I receive affects my insurance rates significantly. What are the consequences for a bicycle rider? How many motor vehicle accidents, with and without injuries, are caused by careless or reckless bicycle riders. I’d be interested in that data.

    • Marlise

      Bicycles – not cars – make it dangerous to walk in NY. Most will go through red lights, weave through pedestrians, etc, and all that at great speeds! Could they be required to have licenses, with license plates, and receive warnings, tickets with points and fines. NY would be much safer if bicyclists obeyed the law!

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