6 Bike Safety Tips for NYC Cyclists

As the weather turns warmer, more and more New Yorkers are taking advantage of the health and economic benefits of bike riding, as seen in a recent cycling trends report from the NYC DOT. Every May, Bicycle Safety Month provides a great opportunity to celebrate safety and raise public awareness of safe cycling best practices.

Thanks to one of the nation’s most robust Vision Zero safety initiatives, including the announcement of a $100 million project to connect existing bike-and-recreational paths in Manhattan, New York City is often ranked among the most bicycle-friendly cities in the United States.

However, cyclist deaths soared during New York City’s last fiscal year, and thousands were seriously injured - one lost life is too many. With more bikes on the road, safe, responsible biking is a practice we can all stand behind.

Below is our list of six bike safety tips for NYC cyclists.

Bicycle Ridership in NYC is Increasing, and Fast

On an average day in New York, we share the road with over 450,000 bicyclists, and that trend is continuing to grow faster than any other major city.

In fact, from 2010 to 2015, the number of people who bicycle to work has grown nearly twice as fast in New York than any other major metropolitan area in the US (including Seattle, Boston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, and Chicago).

Among the five boroughs, Manhattan has experienced the highest growth rate in bicycle commuters in recent years – and with good cause. Data from Citi Bike, the country’s largest bike-share system found that in Midtown, bicycle speeds now outpace cabs by 2 mph.

Understanding New York City Bike Laws

While the average risk of a cyclist being severely or fatality injured has decreased 72% over the past decade, the number of cyclist deaths rose 25% in New York’s last fiscal year (7/2015 to 6/2016) according to the Mayor’s Management Report.

NYC bike laws grant bicycle riders with the same rights and duties as their motor vehicle counterparts, however, when a collision occurs the resulting damage is often not equal. Bicycle laws in New York City are few, but adhering to them are important to ensure your safety - these are the most important bike laws you should know:

Never ride on the sidewalk. (§19-176) Not only does New York City prohibit bicycle riding on the sidewalk, but doing so could result in you having your bike confiscated as well as subjecting you to legal sanctions.

Have the proper safety equipment. (§1236) New York City riders are required to have a bell or audible signal, working brakes, reflecting devices, and, if riding after sunset, a white headlight and red taillight.

Maintain awareness and control at all times. (§4-12(e), §1232, §1237) New York bike laws require riders to have one hand on their handlebars, or steering device, as well as feet on the pedals. In addition to control of the bicycle, riders also cannot use more than one earbud and must use hand signals when turning and stopping or decreasing speed.

Bike Safety Tips for New York City Cyclists

When navigating through a pedestrian and vehicle dense locale, awareness is one of a cyclist’s greatest assets.  Follow these six bike safety tips to help you get to your destination safely.

1) Use your brain, protect your head. The saying goes, “There are those who have fallen and those who will.” A recent study estimates that bike helmets can reduce a cyclists risk of head injury by 60% and brain injury by 58%.

(2) Plan your bike route. For most New Yorkers “spare time” is a fond daydream. Taking a few minutes to find bike lanes and plan your route can save you a logistical headache or worse. Use the “bicycling” feature on Google Maps or download an NYC bike map at nyc.gov.

(3) Watch out for car doors. Crashes involving motor vehicles are the most common cause of bicycle accidents in New York City. Dooring, or the process in which a motorist swing opens their door into a bike or car, can have fatal consequences. Unsafely exiting a vehicle is illegal (Section 1214 of the State Vehicle and Traffic Law), but allowing enough space between your bicycle and a car door is a wise, proactive measure.

(4) Keep (at least) one hand on the handlebars. This may seem obvious, but each year numerous cyclists and pedestrians are injured due to loss of control or the inability to avoid a hazardous situation. Aside from NYC bike law, having proper control of your moving transportation should be a no-brainer.

(5) Report vehicles blocking bike lanes. New York City is using technology to help crack down on bike lane blockers. The city recently added a new option to make a complaint against a lane obstructing vehicle. Cyclists can report a lane squatter through its 311 app or website. To make a complaint, select the “Illegal Parking” drop-down and specify “Blocked Bike Lane.”

(6) Listen to your surroundings. Bicycle safety starts with an acute awareness of your surroundings, including the audible signals of danger such as screeching tires, horns, emergency vehicles, or even some four-letter words. NYC bike laws restrict the use of headphones to one-ear, excluding GPS systems. As Bicycling.com writer Neil Bezdek wrote, “Like motorists who insist that they can safely text and drive, perhaps cyclists should skip the headphones simply because it’s unfair to take unnecessary risks in other people’s road space, regardless of personal risk tolerance.”

When Defensive Cycling Isn’t Enough, We Can Help

Defensive bike riding is the first step to safe cycling, but sadly, many accidents are caused by another driver’s negligence.

At Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm we know the dangers bicycle riders face when sharing the road with motor vehicles, and have proudly helped injured cyclists recover after being hurt in a bicycle accident in New York City, including a $500K settlement for a restaurant worker who was struck by a vehicle while cycling to work.

To learn more about our New York City bicycle accident lawyers, call 212-268-3222 or complete the contact form on our website.

Howard Raphaelson
Howard A. Raphaelson founded Raphaelson & Levine Law Firm, P.C. in 1992 after graduating from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Established in New York, NY, his personal injury law firm has obtained numerous million-dollar verdicts. With over twenty-five years of experience as a personal injury attorney, he has earned a trusted reputation from his peers, judges, and top leaders, including recognition among the top 5% injury attorneys as a “Super Lawyer” (Thomson Reuters) and “New York’s Best Lawyers” (New York Magazine).
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