Biking The Big Apple - NYC Bike Laws & Safety Tips

It’s easy to be overwhelmed in New York City when it comes to biking on the street. With a city that never sleeps and the constant rush of traffic and people who are looking to get to where then need to go, can make you feel unshakable when it comes to hopping on a bike and riding through the NYC streets. But understanding the bicycle laws can make it a fun activity and safe environment for visitors, locals, and commuters daily. It’s important to follow the rules and make smart decisions while riding through the city. Here are things to keep in mind.

Ride in the street – We may think it’s safe to ride on sidewalks, but it’s not. Biking on sidewalks can be dangerous to pedestrians and yourself. There are many things to keep in mind when deciding to ride on the sidewalk. For one, people may not be paying attention and looking ahead. Many people can be distracted by their mobile phones and/ or speaking with a group of people. In addition to this, riding on the sidewalk is dangerous because people often walk in and out of local stores shopping and running on the side walk for exercise or to catch a train, bus or taxi.

 

Avoid riding on the sidewalk and instead take the street and ride with the flow of traffic. If a bicycle lane isn’t present, keep in mind to obey all traffic signals just as a motor vehicle should. Use front and rear day time running lights for visibility and wear bright clothing to be seen and a helmet for safety.

 

Ride with Traffic – Riding with traffic on a bicycle is the proper and safest was to navigate your way through the city. New York City has a combination of double lane traffic and one-way traffic only streets. Be sure to always ride with the flow of traffic and not against it. When you come across a street where traffic is flowing in the opposite direction, ride up another block or two and you should be able to find a street that will allow you to flow in the right direction. Remember, the right direction is the safest direction.

 

Stop at red traffic lights and stop signs – This is often overlooked by many bicyclists in New York City. It is our job while biking on the city street to also obey the laws of the road just like cars. 89% of accidents occur at intersections. Avoid colliding with pedestrians and motor vehicles by riding in designated bicycle green lanes, stopping at red lights and stop signs along with looking both ways when crossing an intersection. Installing a bicycle bell will also be beneficial as it will alert pedestrians that you are near by.

 

Use designated bike lanes or paths – New York City now has about 1,260 miles of bike lanes that include park byways and green lanes in the street. It is crucial to use these lanes when cycling through the city. They are traffic lanes built specifically for you to ride in and provide you with safety when against motorist and pedestrians on the street. Bike lanes may have two or one-way traffic. When riding the lane in a one way make sure you are riding the the direction of cars and not against them. Riding against them will increase your chances of a crash with another cyclist.

 

Many NYC bike lanes that were early retrofitted to the city are located in the “door zone” that is within 4 or 5 feet from a parked car making cyclist vulnerable. To avoid getting doored ride on the farthest side of the lane to avoid any possible incident.

 

Pedestrians have the right of way first –  When riding on the street or a designated bike lane you may still be vulnerable to pedestrians who are walking across the street or in the bike lane. While this may be frustrating to cyclist it is our job to yield to them. They may not be paying attention and nobody wants to be startled. Take precaution and slowly allow yourself to be seen by them or use a bicycle bell to alert them when you are on the same path.

A Few Safety Tips To Note

Wear a helmet – Helmets are required by law for children at age 13 or younger but are a great idea for bicyclist of all ages no matter if you are commuting, going to the grocery store or out for a casual ride in the park. Safety is the main priority.

 

Look twice then go – Just like cutting wood… measure twice and cut once, the same rule applies. Before rolling through an intersection, changing lanes or turning a corner, always look twice. Make eye contact with pedestrians and motorist to let them know what you are doing. Using hand signals also is a huge benefit. See our hand signal chart below.

 

Stay visible – Wearing bright clothing and high reflective garments are a great way to stay safe. Using front and rear bike lights in the day and at night also lets motorist and pedestrians see you from far away.

 

Use a bicycle bell – Bike bells alert drivers and pedestrians along with other cyclist that you are present.  

Cycling in New York City is fun and getting better every year. Cyclist have the right to use almost any road in New York and by being aware of these laws and safety tips it will allow you to be more comfortable in traffic and more responsible when riding with motorist and pedestrians.

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Ridden & Written by

Dwayne Burgess / Manual Pedal

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