In What Manner Can a Bicyclist Use the Roadways?

Under New York Vehicle and Traffic Law, Section 1234, bicycles on a roadway “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 that would make it unsafe to continue along near the right-hand curb or edge.”

When driving, you MUST be aware that you are sharing the road with bicycle riders and keep an eye out for them. Even though bicyclists are required to adhere to all the same traffic laws as motor vehicle drivers, they often fail to do so. In a recent 10-year period, more than 7,300 pedal cyclists died in traffic crashes in the United States. The number of bicyclists injured each year averages 45,000. NHTSA statistics show that approximately 40 pedal cyclists are in New York due to motor vehicle traffic crashes each year.

Motor vehicle drivers must be willing to share the road with bicyclists and must be willing to give up the right of way, thus protecting themselves and the rider of the bicycle.

According to the NHTSA:

  • Most bicyclist fatalities happen between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m.
  • Bicyclist deaths are more common in urban areas than in rural areas.
  • Fewer than 40% of these deaths occur at intersections.

Common types of motorist-caused bicycle collisions include:

  • The driver opens a vehicle door in front of a bicyclist.
  • The motorist pulls out onto the roadway from a driveway, alley, or parking lot.
  • The driver turns right or left across the path of the bicycle traffic.
  • The motorist passes a bicyclist going in the same direction.
  • The driver simply doesn’t notice the bicyclist is there.

Many of these crashes can be avoided if drivers properly scan the road and watch for bicyclists. In all of these situations, remember that your responsibility as a driver is to share the road with bicyclists just as you do with drivers of other motorized vehicles.

New York Laws

  • All children under age 14 who are either operators or passengers on bicycles must wear helmets. This includes two-wheeled bicycles also equipped with training wheels.
  • All child passengers between the ages of one and five must be carried in a specially designed child safety seat. The seat must be securely attached to the bike, equipped with restraints to secure the child in the seat, and designed to protect the child from all moving bike parts.
  • Important: It is illegal to carry a child under one year old as a passenger on a bicycle, even if the child is in a pack fastened to the operator.


  • An adult operator of a bicycle may be fined up to $50 for each child bicycle passenger violation.
  • Parents or guardians are responsible for all bicycle helmet violations by children under age 14. The parent or guardian may be fined up to $50 for each such violation.

Tips for Drivers About Bicycles

Some specific tips for sharing the road safely with bicyclists:

  • Yield to bicyclists just as you would to a motorist in the same position.
  • When turning right on a red, always look to your right and behind you for a bicyclist who might be approaching from the right rear.
  • Give bicyclists plenty of space, passing only when it is safe to move into the next lane.
  • Pass as you would another vehicle, but not so fast or so close that the tires throw dirt or stones into the rider’s face.
  • Never crowd a bicyclist in a manner that might cause a crash or require the rider to alter his or her path of travel.
  • Watch carefully for bicycles in traffic or when you are parking. You do not want to inadvertently pull into a lane where a bicycle already is or open a car door in front of one as you exit your car.
  • When following a bicycle, leave plenty of space. A bicyclist who falls for any reason is much more vulnerable than the driver of a stalled car. Never follow a bicyclist so closely that you risk running over the rider if the rider fell. Pass the bicyclist as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Don’t underestimate how quickly a bicyclist might travel.

Regardless of what precautions you might take on the road, the negligent actions of other drivers can lead to a devastating bicycle accident. If you suffer injuries in a bicycle accident, a lawyer can help give you a better idea of your next steps, including how to protect yourself and the compensation you may deserve.

Contact an accident attorney as soon after the accident as possible to increase the odds that you will get the full compensation you deserve.