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How to Cycle Safely in New York: Useful Resources and Important Rules


Lyudmila Balabay

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In the first nearly five months of 2023 on the roads of New York City perished already 13 cyclists. This is a record for the first half of the year.

So we decided to explain the do's and don'ts for cyclists in the Big Apple.

For a free New York City Bike Map, call 311 or visit special page on the City Hall website.

Rules for cycling in New York

  • Give way to pedestrians
  • Stop at red lights and in front of a STOP sign
  • Drive in the direction of traffic
  • Sidewalks are not allowed (does not apply to children under the age of 13)
  • Use the bell to alert others of your approach
  • At night, turn on the white front and red rear lights
  • Do not use more than one earbud while riding

Bicycle helmets in New York

New York State law requires cyclists under the age of 13 to wear a helmet (74% of deaths are due to head injuries).

The New York City Department of Transportation is distributing free helmets for cyclists. You can call 311 and make an appointment to try on protective headgear.

On the subject: Top 6 Best Bike Tours in New York

Common mistakes when wearing a helmet

Protective headgear is only effective if worn correctly.

To get the most protection from your helmet, avoid these common mistakes:

  • Helmet offset. Protective headgear should be worn evenly and positioned two fingers' width above the eyebrows.
  • Belts badly tightened. Make sure the straps are tight. Only 2 fingers should fit under the belt.
  • The size. The helmet should fit snugly to the head, not hang on it. Use the foam pads included with the helmet or the internal tensioner to adjust the helmet size.
  • helmet orientation. The widest part of the helmet should be close to the back of the head. Most helmets have a sticker on the inside indicating the front.

Know your stripes

Bicycle infrastructure in New York has a total length of more than 800 miles (about 1300 km) and is divided into three categories:

  • Bike Lane. Street bike lanes are protected from traffic by parked cars or a physical barrier. Outdoor bike lanes are located along the coastline of the city and in many parks.
  • Bicycle lane. Cycle lanes are marked on the roadway. They are usually located next to the parking lane and are marked with a bicycle symbol. Some lanes are separated from vehicular traffic by a specially colored buffer.
  • Common lanes. Common lanes are used by both cyclists and car drivers. They are marked with sharrows (a picture of a bicycle with double angle brackets) and road signs. Such markings are located at a sufficient distance from the edge of the sidewalk to prevent a collision with opening car doors.

How to turn if you're cycling in New York

1. Before turning or changing lanes, look over your shoulder and honk.

2. Check again to make sure the maneuver is safe.

3. Signal with your hand to let the drivers know what you are going to do.

Infographics: ForumDaily

4. Do not change lanes abruptly. Signal your intended direction ahead of time.

5. If you are unsure when entering traffic or turning, stop at the sidewalk and wait for vehicles to pass.

How to park a bike in a building

If you work in a commercial office building with a freight elevator, the Bikes in Buildings law requires your employer to obtain permission for you to enter the building with a bicycle.

How can an employer request a bicycle parking space inside the building:

  • The employer determines the number of bicycles to be accommodated
  • Employer contacts building owner or manager with request for bike parking
  • Within 30 days after receiving the request, the building owner must: implement and post Bicycle Access Plan or, within 15 days of receiving the tenant's request, apply for an exemption due to A) alternative bike parking or B) lack of freight elevators in the building

Resources for cyclists in New York City

Cycling advocacy organizations:

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