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New York Bicycle Ordinances and Bike Sharing Laws

Bicycling can be a great way to get around Manhattan. With over 700 miles of bike lanes citywide, including parks, greenways and on-street facilities, cycling in New York is more convenient and popular than ever. Unfortunately, biking can also be a dangerous activity for New Yorkers. Thousands of cyclists get into bike accidents every year in New York City (PDF).

In this article, FindLaw has highlighted some of New York's bicycle ordinances and bike sharing laws for you to review before hitting the open road. For a complete list of NYC bike laws, click here.

Which traffic laws apply to bicyclists?

On any given day in Manhattan, the road are jammed with cars, trucks, buses, and bikes. Even though it may seem so at times, automobiles do not rule the road. They must share it with bicycles. In turn, cyclists have to follow the law and if they don't, they can be cited. Essentially, the same laws that apply to cars, with some exceptions and special rules, apply to cyclists. Most importantly, bicyclists must obey and are protected by the rules of the road.

Do I have to wear one of those silly looking helmets?

You bet your bottom dollar you do -- if you are a certain age. In New York State, all bicyclists under the age of 14 years old are required to wear safety certified bicycle helmets when they are operators or passengers on bicycles. Those little kiddies you have ages 1 to 4 also must wear certified bicycle helmet and ride in specially designed child safety seats.

Thinking of taking your infant under the age of one year old for spin through rush hour traffic on your new Specialized hybrid? Think again, dear parent. All children under age one are prohibited from being transported on a bicycle. Think it doesn't apply to you? Try it. You'll likely be fined.

Adults, looks like you are free from the encumbrance of wearing a helmet through the pothole-ridden streets of the Big Apple. However, from a safety and common sense standpoint, everyone should wear a helmet while riding. In fact, the Department of Transportation fits and gives away the official New York City bicycle helmet at events throughout the city. Call 311 to learn more. You really don't have an excuse not to wear one, considering the danger even a minor fall may present to the helmet-less rider.

Do bicyclists have to obey traffic lights and signs?

Yes and yes. Bicyclists must obey all traffic lights and signs, and they must signal for turns whether riding on a roadway, a bike lane, or shared-use pathway with pedestrians. Also, bicyclists must ride with traffic and thus travel in the same direction as cars.

Can a bicyclist ride on a sidewalk?

Sidewalks are for pedestrians. Ride in the street, not on the sidewalks (unless the rider is age 12 or younger and the bicycle's wheels are less than 26 inches in diameter).

What about bike lanes?

Bike lanes are for bikes. Use them when available, except when making turns or when it is unsafe to do so. If the road is too narrow for a bicycle and a car to travel safely side by side, you have the right to ride in the middle of the travel lane. Bicycling is permitted on all main and local streets throughout the City, even when no designated route exists.

Do I have to have any special equipment on my bike?

Use a white headlight and a red taillight, as well as a bell or horn and reflectors.

Bike Sharing Programs: Citi Bike

Citi Bike is New York City's newest public transportation system. The program launched in May 2013 and is more popular than ever. Bikes are available 24/7, 365 days a year.

Station locations are based on population and transit needs. Each station has a kiosk, a map of the service area and surrounding neighborhood, and a docking system that releases bikes for rental with a card or key. You must be 16 or older to ride a Citi Bike. The cycling rules are essentially the same whether you own or rent a bike.

Remember to always ride responsibly. Don't text and ride, always yield to pedestrians, stay off the sidewalk, obey traffic lights, ride with traffic, and most of all, have fun. However, if you are unfortunately involved in a bike accident, you may wish to consult a New York personal injury attorney.

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