Passing laws: New York requires that in the event a motor vehicle passes a bicycle it shall leave a safe distance while passing the bicycle.
Helmet law: All cyclists or passengers under the age of 14 are required to wear a helmet. However, the failure to wear a helmet will not be considered contributory negligence or assumption of risk, or diminish or limit any recovery in personal injury proceeding.
Laws to Protect the Bicyclist: There are certain laws entitled “vulnerable user laws.” These laws, in essence, require the vehicle least at risk to yield to the vehicle most at risk. By example, a motor vehicle would have to yield to a bicycle and a bicycle would have to yield to a pedestrian. New York does not have any specific vulnerable laws.
Distracted Driving Laws: As almost every bicyclist knows, distracted driving creates one of the most dangerous risks to a bicycle on a public road way. Every state has varying laws to attempt to reduce the amount of distracted driving that exists. Nonetheless, it still presents a serious problem.
In New York there have been laws passed to attempt to reduce distracted driving by punishing violators. Here is a summary of the present laws. There will be links at the end of this article to the specific laws in full detail.
- No person shall operate a motor vehicle upon a public highway while using a cell phone the vehicle is in motion;
- An operator of a motor vehicle who holds a mobile telephone to, or close to his or her ear while the motor vehicle is in motion is presumed to be engaging in a call;
- No person shall operate a motor vehicle while using any portable electronic device while such vehicle is in motion; and
- In New York City, the taxicab passengers’ bill of rights includes the right that a driver does not use a cell phone (hand-held or hands free) while driving.
Lane Position Laws for a Bicyclist: Generally speaking New York law requires bicyclists to be as close to the right hand edge of the road as possible. However there are some important exceptions that I will outline below:
- When preparing to take a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway; or
- When reasonably necessary to avoid unsafe conditions such as riding in a lane that is too narrow;
Sidewalk Riding: There is no rule that either authorizes or prohibits riding on a sidewalk in New York. However, in New York City you are prohibited from riding a bicycle on a sidewalk unless there is an official sign that specifically permits it. In addition, the law states that if there is an established bicycle lane, then the bicycle must use it.
Riding a Bike under the Influence: Obviously, it is never a good idea to drive any vehicle under the influence of alcohol. However, in New York the law is written to specifically exclude bicycle from all laws prohibiting driving while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances
Stop Sign Laws: Generally, in New York bicycles have to follow the same rules as motor vehicles regarding the requirement to come to a complete stop when directed to stop by traffic control devices and New York does not authorize bicyclists to disobey traffic lights that fail to detect bicyclists.
Important Resources and Links
A. The laws regulating the operation of bicycles in the state of New York are generally found in Title 7, Article 34 of the Vehicle & Traffic Consolidated Laws of New York (N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law), click here for a link to all the statutes.
B. New York City Biking Laws, click here.
C. For a good summary of Safety Laws in New York State, click here.
D. For a good summary of New York State bicycle laws click here.
E. New York City Rules of the road, click here.