Going through a book of laws is never fun. That’s why we’ve done it for you. Read up on these three simplified, all-inclusive sections on the laws that pertain to you as a rider in New York City. Educate yourself. Empower yourself. Enjoy yourself.
For a download of all these laws, check out Transportation Alternative’s Biking Rules! Handbook.
Laws for all traffic
Bikes are subject to all the rules and rights of cars
VTL § 1231 Bicyclists are granted all of the rights and are subject to all of the duties of the driver of a motor vehicle.
RCNY § 4-02 (a) The provisions of N.Y.C. Traffic Rules are applicable to bicycles and their operators.
Bikes must report accidents to the police, just like cars
RCNY § 4-12 (h) Cyclists involved in accidents resulting in death or injury to person or damage to property must stop and give name, address, insurance information, etc. and must report to the Police Department.
Laws to keep you safe: for drivers
Cars must keep bike lanes clear at all times
RCNY § 4-08 (e)(9) It is against the law to park, stand or stop within or otherwise obstruct bike lanes.
RCNY § 4-12(p) Other vehicles shall not drive on or across bike lanes.
If a car door injures a biker, the vehicle occupant is liable
RCNY § 4-12(c) It is illegal to get out of a vehicle in a manner which endangers cyclists (often referred to as "dooring").
Drivers must communicate actions with bikers
VTL § 1146 Drivers to exercise due care to avoid colliding with any bicyclist, upon any roadway and shall give warning by sounding the horn when necessary.
Laws to keep you safe: for bikers
Keep one ear open at all times
VTL § 375 (24)(a) Cyclists may not wear more than one earphone attached to a radio, tape player or other audio device while riding.
Use bike lanes unless conditions are unsafe for riding
RCNY § 4-12 (p) Bicyclists should ride in usable bike lanes, unless they are blocked or unsafe for any reason.
Use hand signals for lane changes and turns
VTL § 1237 When turn signals are required, left turns shall be signaled with the left hand, and right turns may be signaled with either hand. For a guide on hand signals, see the Biking Rules Hand Signals Section, courtesy of Transportation Alternatives.
Stay off the sidewalks if you’re 13 or older
AC § 19-176 Bicycles ridden on sidewalks may be confiscated and riders may be subject to legal sanctions (see also: RCNY § 4-07(c)(3)).
RCNY § 4-07 (c)(3) No driving bikes on sidewalks unless sign allows or wheels are less than 26 inches in diameter and ride is twelve years or younger (see also: AC § 19-176).
When riding on greenways, stay on designated paths. No bicycle riding is permitted on pedestrian paths unless otherwise indicated. Violators are subject to fines and confiscation of their bicycles.
Dismount in parks
RCNY § 4-14 (c) No person shall ride a bicycle in any park, except in places designated for bike riding; but persons may push bikes in single file to and from such places, except on beaches and boardwalks.
Ride on the left or right side of one-way side streets
RCNY § 4-12 (p) Bicyclists may ride on either side of one-way roadways that are at least 40 feet wide.
Stay off the freeways
RCNY § 4-12 (o) Bicycles are prohibited on expressways, drives, highways, interstate routes, bridges and thruways unless authorized by signs.
Keep one hand on the bars at all times
RCNY § 4-12 (e) Cyclists must have at least one hand on handlebars at all times.
Don’t draft or hitch to another vehicle
VTL § 1233 Clinging to vehicles or attaching bike to another vehicle being operated on roadway is prohibited.
Have a working saddle, feet on pedals, and the right number of riders
VTL § 1232 Cyclists must ride on a permanent seat, feet must be on pedals, and bike must carry only the number of persons for which it is designed and equipped.
Laws regarding equipment
Bikes need front and rear lights when riding at night in addition to bells, reflectors, and brakes at all times
VTL § 1236 (a) and (e) Bicycles must have a white headlight, a red taillight and reflectors between dusk and dawn.
(b) Bicycles must have a bell or other audible signal.
(c) Bicycles must have working brakes.
(d) Bicycles must have reflectors, reflective tires and/or other reflective devices.
Wear a helmet if ages 5 to 13
VTL § 1238 (a) Children under 14 but older than 5 must wear an approved helmet.
(b) A child under one is not permitted to ride on a bicycle.
(c) A child one or more years of age but less than 5 must wear an approved helmet and be carried in a properly affixed child carrier.
Delivery cyclists must display business info and wear a helmet
AC § 10-157 Bicycles used for commercial purposes.
Working cyclists must wear business identifying information on bike and body, including operator's identification number.
Business must provide working cyclist with a helmet according to A.N.S.I. or Snell standards.
Working cyclists shall wear the helmet provided by business.
Working cylists must carry and produce on demand a numbered ID card that included operator's photo, name, home address and business' name, address and phone number.
Working cyclists must abide by all equipment requirements stated in VTL 1236.
Business must maintain log book that includes the name, identification number and place of residence of each working cyclist; and the date of employment and discharge. The log book must also include information on daily trips, identifying the working cyclist's identification number and name; and name and place of origin and destination.
Owner of business must file an annual report with the Police Department identifying the number of bicycles it owns and the identification number and identity or any employees.
VTL = Vehicle and Traffic Law (New York State)
RCNY = Rules of the City of New York
AC = Administrative Code (NYC)
For a link to the NYC Department of Transportation's list of Laws click here.
Some of this text was developed by Transportation Alternatives and is reproduced here with permission.