LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Brian C. Pascale | Jan 26, 2011

New York Vehicle & Traffic Law as it Applies to Bicyclists

Both drivers and bicyclists have a duty at all times to keep a lookout for one another. A driver’s violation of the "rules of the road" can constitute negligence. Drivers can be negligent in multiple ways, whether it be speeding, ignoring traffic control devices (i.e. traffic lights or stop signs), or driving in an aggressive manner. When bicyclists are added into the mix there can be problems due to an ignorance of who has the right of way. In New York bicyclists must follow the same rules of the road as motor vehicles when it comes to traffic control devices.

Below are several pertinent sections of New York’s VTL as they apply to bicyclists:

VTL § 1238 – Passengers on bicycles under one year of age prohibited; passengers and operators under fourteen years of age to wear protective headgear:

(1) Children under the age of one (1) years-old may not ride as a passenger on a bicycle; if caught the operator may be fined $50 for the second offense.

(2) Children between the ages of one (1) and five (5) years-old may ride as a passenger on a bicycle if : (a) the passenger is wearing a helmet with a good fit and securely fastened to their head; and (b) the passenger is placed in a separate seat attached to the bicycle. If caught violating this section the operator may be fined $50.

(3) Children between the ages of five (5) and fourteen (14) years-old may ride a bicycle if they are wearing a helmet with a good fit and securely fastened to their head. If caught violating this section the operator (more likely their parents) may be fined $50. The child’s parent or guardian may be fined if the child is in violation of this section in the parent or guardian’s presence.

VTL § 1234 – Riding on roadways, shoulders, bicycle or in-line skate lanes and bicycle or in-line skate paths:(a) Upon all roadways, any bicycle or in-line skate shall be driven either on a usable bicycle or in-line skate lane or, if a usable bicycle or in-line skate lane has not been provided, near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway or upon a usable right-hand shoulder 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. (b) Persons riding bicycles or skating or gliding on in-line skates upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast. (c) Any person operating a bicycle or skating or gliding on in-line skates who is entering the roadway from a private road, driveway, alley or over a curb shall come to a full stop before entering the roadway.

VTL § 1236 – Lamps and other equipment on bicycles:(a) Every bicycle when in use during the period from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible during hours of darkness from a distance of at least five hundred feet to the front and with a red or amber light visible to the rear for three hundred feet. (b) No person shall operate a bicycle unless it is equipped with a bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least one hundred feet. (c) Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement. (d) Every new bicycle shall be equipped with reflective tires or, alternately, a reflex reflector mounted on the spokes of each wheel. (e) Every bicycle when in use during the period from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise shall be equipped with reflective devices or material.

VTL § 1237 - Method of giving hand and arm signals by bicyclists: All signals herein required to be given by bicyclists by hand and arm shall be given in the following manner and such signals shall indicate as follows: (1) Left turn. Left hand and arm extended horizontally; (2) Right turn. Left hand and arm extended upward or right hand and arm extended horizontally; (3) Stop or decrease speed. Left hand and arm extended downward.

VTL § 1232 – Riding on bicycles:(a) A person riding a bicycle shall not ride other than on a permanent, regular, seat attached thereto, nor shall they ride with their feet removed from the pedals. (b) No bicycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed and equipped.

This next section should not need to be stated: VTL § 1233 – Clinging to vehicles: No person riding upon any bicycle, coaster, in-line skates, roller skates, skate board, sled, or toy vehicle shall attach the same or themselves to any vehicle being operated upon a roadway. Likewise, no person shall ride on, or attach himself to, the outside of any vehicle being operated upon a roadway. Lastly, no vehicle operator shall knowingly permit any person to attach any device or himself to the operator's vehicle.

Additional resources provided by the author

This guide is for information purposes and may not contain every law applicable to pedestrians in New York. If you have a question regarding any type of law it is important that you always speak with a qualified attorney who specializes in that area of law. If you do not know one, you can quickly find an attorney in your local area on this website.

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