NEW YORK BICYCLE LAWS
It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in New York. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here).
For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorney Jim Reed directly.
Right to the Road
- New York bicyclists generally have the same rights, and same duties, as drivers of motor vehicles.
- Clinging to motor vehicles while biking is not permitted.
- Bicycles may only carry the number of persons for which it is designed, except an adult may carry a child in a backpack or sling.
- Sirens are not permitted on bicycles except for used by a police or fire department.
- There is no statewide requirement for helmet for adults, however, children under 14 years of age in New York must legally wear a helmet while riding in public.
- New York’s DWI statute does not apply to bicyclists.
Where to Ride
- Bicycles are to ride as close as practicable and safe to the right side of the roadway except when overtaking another bicyclist, when preparing to make a left turn, when necessary to avoid a fixed or slow moving object or vehicle or when necessary to avoid unsafe conditions.
- NY does not have any state-wide prohibition against riding a bicycle on a sidewalk. However, many municipalities do prohibit sidewalk riding.
Motor Vehicle Doors
- No person may open the door of a motor vehicle unless it is safe to do so.
Bike Lanes, Bike Paths and Multi-Use Paths
- When available, New York bicyclists are required to ride in or upon bike lanes or paths when it is adjacent to the roadway with exceptions for right and left turns and to avoid hazards.
- To turn left bicyclists may perform a “box turn” or use the left turn lane.
Stop Signs and Traffic Control Devices
- Bicyclists are required to come to a full and complete stop at all stop signs and traffic lights displaying a red signal.
- Bicyclists must use hand/arm signals when turning and stopping.
Drivers Overtaking Bicyclists
- In NY, a motorist overtaking a bicyclist must pass at a “safe distance until safely clear” of the bicyclist.
Bicycles Passing on the Right
- Bicyclists may pass motor vehicles on the right if it is reasonably safe to do so.
- Bicyclists may ride 2 abreast if sufficient space is available but shall ride single file when being overtaken by a vehicle.
- Every bicycle operated one-half hour after sunset until one-half hour before sunrise must be equipped with a white front facing headlight visible for at least 500 feet and a red rear light visible from at least 300 feet when used at nighttime.
- Every new bicycle must be equipped with wheel reflectors.
- Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.
Police Inspection of Bicycles
- A uniformed police officer may stop and inspect a bicycle at any time upon reasonable cause that a bicycle is unsafe or not equipped as required by law.
Electric Assist Bikes
- NY law on e-bikes is confusing as currently there is no state-wide definition for e-bikes (although there is a New York City definition). Accordingly, at this time e-bikes have not been deemed “legal” despite the fact that NY bike shops regularly sell e-bikes and many New Yorker’s regularly ride e-bikes. There is pending legislation seeking to resolve this legal confusion.