With more and more people turning to bikes as their primary form of transportation, cycling is as popular as ever in New York City. And given the number of bikes on NYC roadways today, it is a good idea for cyclists to review some of the many laws that may apply to them — especially that laws that outline their rights and responsibilities.

With that being said, here are five things that every bike rider should know:

  1. Do bike riders have to follow traffic laws?
    While some obvious exceptions exist, most New York traffic laws that apply to vehicles also apply to bike riders. Indeed, New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1231 even states that, “[t]raffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles.”
  2. Can a bike rider get a traffic ticket?
    Yes, if they are violating a relevant traffic law, they can get a ticket.
  3. Do bike riders have the same rights as other vehicles?
    Yes, if you are riding a bike, you generally have the same rights to the road as those driving motor vehicles. In fact, New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1231 expressly states, “Every person riding a bicycle […] upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights […] applicable to the driver of a vehicle.”
  4. Can bike riders take up the whole road?
    While bike riders may have the same rights as vehicles, they generally cannot take up the whole road. For example, New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1234 states the bike riders must use bike lanes, when available. If there is no usable bike lane, they should ride on the right shoulder, near the right curb or close to the right edge of the roadway. However, they can move to the left when reasonably necessary to avoid unsafe or hazardous conditions, but when doing so they must do everything possible to avoid undue interference with flow of traffic.
  5. Must bike riders wear helmets?
    Interestingly, helmets are only required for younger riders. For instance, cyclists who are five-years-old or more, but less than fourteen, must wear certified bike helmets. Children ages one to four must wear a certified bike helmet and ride in a child safety seat. Those under the age of one cannot be transported on a bike. In addition, you should always check your local community ordinances as they can — and often do — pass stricter bike helmet laws.

Sadly, even if you know every law on the books, there is no way to guarantee you will never be the victim of a bike accident, particularly because you have no control over road conditions or other vehicles on the road. This is why you need to be always vigilant as a cyclist, and knowing the rules of the road is simply the first step.