Sharing The Road: Rules For New York City Cyclists
Cyclists are the fastest-growing commuter group in New York City, but sadly, many bicycle riders helmet up and hit the pedals with little or no regard for their responsibilities on the road, law enforcement officials said.
Data just released by the NYPD reveals a startling 754 collisions involving bicycles and motor vehicles were reported city wide in the last three months of 2011. Those accidents resulted in three fatalities and 755 injuries, police sources said.
The data shows 178 crashes were reported in Queens in the last three months of 2011. Moat of those accidents were reported in Jackson Heights, where a total of 24 crashes were reported to police, the sources said.
“Remember, those are the accidents that were reported,” a Queens police official said. “There is a real problem with people who refuse to call 911 when they’re involved in a crash involving a car and a bicycle, but under the law it is illegal to fail to report those accidents.”
Bicycle riders in New York City are obligated to follow the same rules of the road that apply to motorists, including:
Stopping at red lights and stop signs
Riding with traffic on one-way and two-way streets
Stopping ahead of crosswalks to give pedestrians the right-of-way
Never hitting the pedals when under the influence of drugs or alcohol
Cyclists must use hand signals when making turns
Infants under one-year-old are not permitted to ride on bicycles in New York City
Children 1-5 years old must wear an approved helmet and be carried in a properly affixed, approved child carrier
Children 5-14 years old must wear an approved helmet when biking
Cyclists may not wear more than one earphone attached to a radio, tape player, iPod, Smart Phone or other audio device while biking
It is illegal for cyclists to ride on sidewalks, fail to give way to pedestrians and emergency response vehicles, cut ahead of motorists, ride facing traffic, or ignore “useable” bicycle lanes on local streets
Failure by cyclists to comply with these traffic rules can result in a ticket or violation punishable by a fine, jail time or both.
Cyclists should visit a reputable bike shop or contact the Community Affairs office at their local police precinct for information on purchasing approved child helmets and child carriers.
Under current New York City law, cyclists are required to equip bicycles as follows:
Bicycles pedaled between dusk and dawn must have a white headlight, a red taillight and reflectors
Bicycles must have a bell or other audible signal
Bikes must have working brakes
Bikes must have reflectors, reflective tires and/or other reflective devices
Many riders use bicycles for commercial or employment purposes. Working cyclists are required to follow these rules:
You must wear clothing that identifies your employer or the business you work for
The name and address of the business must be posted on the bicycle, including the operator’s identification number.
Business owners must provide company bicyclists with an approved helmet – and cyclists must wear the helmet while on the street.
Working cyclists must carry and produce on demand a numbered ID card that includes the operator’s photo, name, home address and business name, address and phone number.
Business owners are required to maintain a logbook that lists the name, identification numbers and home address of every working cyclist, along with the date of employment and date they were fired or quit the job.
The logbook must also contain information on daily trips and list the biker’s name and identification number.
Business owners are required to file an annual report with their local police precinct that provides the number of bicycles they own and the identification number and identity of each cyclist they employ.
Councilmember James Vacca, chair of the council’s transportation committee, has introduced legislation to the Council that calls for penalties for business owners if their employees are caught breaking traffic rules while biking.
The proposed legislation would also require delivery cyclists to wear helmets and to undergo training in bike riding.
More Rules Of The Road
The city has compiled a list of “Rules Of The Road” for cyclists to follow. They include:
Riding your bicycle on the sidewalk will result in an immediate summons – and the offender can be arrested or detained by police.. The penalty for riding on the sidewalk is a whopping $1,000.
Bicyclists are prohibited on expressways, highways, interstate routes, bridges and thruways, unless authorized by posted signs.
Cyclists are required to use hand signals when making turns on city streets. Left turns must be signaled with the left hand and right turns may be signaled with either hand.
Cyclists must keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times.
Riding your bike on the sidewalk will result in an immediate summons. The penalty for riding on the sidewalk is a whopping $1,000 – and you could find yourself behind bars.
Fines and Summonses
Errant pedal pushers are subject to fines for failure to follow the above traffic rules. Depending on the type of violation, cyclists must report to Queens Criminal Court or a state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) Court on the date specified on the summons.
If you fail to appear in Criminal Court on the date indicated on the summons, the judge will issue an arrest warrant – and police will knock on your door to take you in.
Cyclists issued a traffic ticket have 15 days to mail their plea or pay the fine following instructions listed on the back of the ticket. If you choose to plead “not guilty,” you will be notified of a hearing date within 15 days after the DMV receives the plea.
If you are issued a ticket for an equipment violation, you may bring the ticket, with proof that the violation has been corrected, to Criminal Court or the precinct that issued the ticket to clear your record.
Bicycling Under The Influence
A 2008 study of cyclist fatalities and serious injuries published by the NYC Department of Health (DOH) revealed that roughly 20 per cent of cyclists killed between 1986 and 2005 had alcohol detected in their body at the time of their death.
The decision to ride sober on the streets of New York City is a no-brainer. Staying alert and conscious of your surroundings is a bicyclist’s best protection, but riding while under the influence of alcohol makes navigating New York City streets a hazardous task.
If you are planning to drink, don’t bring your bicycle, a DOH spokesperson said. Ask your host, a waitress or bartender to call you a cab and park your bicycle at a safe, secure location.
If you are stopped by police and they determine you are driving under the influence, you will be arrested and face the same charges as motorists.
What To Do In An Accident
Accidents happen – just ask any insurance agent. The following is a “What To Do” guide for cyclists who find themselves in a crash or fender-bender:
At The Scene:
All parties involved in a crash are required by law to remain at the scene of a crash until police arrive to take an accident report
Get the name and phone numbers of eyewitnesses. Get license plates, name, phone number, address and date of birth of all parties involved in the crash
If the motorist refuses to stay, or provide ID, get his or her license plate number, along with the state of issuance
When Police Arrive:
Tell police you want to file an accident report and make sure your account of the accident is included
Jot down the name and precinct of the responding officers
Ask the officers to issue a summons for the person that hit you
Go to the hospital with emergency medical responders if you are injured. Get your injuries documented for use in future legal action
Go to the precinct that responded to obtain a copy of the accident report for your personal use
Remember to always carry photo identification when biking in New York City. If you are stopped by the police and you can’t provide ID, you can be arrested.
Bikes In Transit
In 1993, the advocate group Transportation Alternatives won cyclists the right to bring their bikes on all New York City subways, 7-days a week, 24-hours a day.
The following is a guide for cyclists who must bring their bikes on New York City subways, buses, ferries and railroads:
NYC Subways: Bicycles are allowed on all subway lines 24-hours a day, seven days a week. The folks at Transportation Alternatives urge cyclists to be aware of straphangers and considerate of their needs.
NYC Buses: Folding bikes are permitted on local and limited buses at all times. All other bicycles are prohibited.
Metro North/LIRR: Bikers are required to purchase a lifetime $5 permit to bring bikes on trains. Rush hour restrictions apply. Folding bicycles are permitted at all times and do not require a permit.
PATH: Bicycles are prohibited from 6-9:30 a.m. (inbound to NYC) and 3-6:30 p.m. (outbound from NYC) on weekdays.
New York Water Taxi: No permit required and there are no rush hour restrictions.
New York Waterways: $1 fee required. No bicycles allowed between Port Imperial – Weehawken and Wall Street. Folding bikes are allowed on all ferries at no charge.
Enjoy The Ride
New York City cyclists have access to some of the most innovative programs in the United States.
City officials have redesigned local streets to provide a safe ride for bikers and motorists, installed racks for bicycle street parking and introduced a “bike share” program that will provide access to bicycles to all New Yorkers..
Safe city cycling means knowing and following the rules of the road. Following the rules will help keep pedestrians and motorists safe – and cyclists ticket-free, police said.
Cyclists may stay on top of rules and regulations, resources and initiatives by clicking on these sites:
Bike New York @ bikenewyork.org
Biking Rules @ bikingfules.org
Transportation Alternatives @ transalt.org
Streetsblog @ streetsblog.org