If you caught yourself walking around town lately wearing just a light sweater or jacket it’s not because your blood has gotten thicker like a hibernating bear’s after months of combating single-digit winter temperatures.  I’ve got good news for you. Spring is here!  And, with it comes warmer weather and the unofficial start of cycling season.

And, to be sure, New York City is a great town to cycle around.  “Provided it’s done safely and with a healthy respect for the rules of the road,” Mitchel Ashley, founding partner of The Ashley Law firm, a top New York City bicycle accident injury lawyer said.

To help prevent cyclists from getting hurt, or worse, as the heart of the cycling season gets underway, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) has published a new manual for cyclists that spells out in simple, unambiguous terms, the laws regarding the safe use of bicycles in the city.

Ashley said the DOT’s Official Guide to Cycling in New York City is a helpful handbook with information on making your cycling safer and easier, including tips on using newer bike facilities such as protected lanes and bike boxes.

DOT’s NYC Biking Laws

The handbook makes it perfectly clear that cyclists are subject to all of the duties, responsibilities and regulations applicable to drivers of motor vehicles.  Such as:

  • Ride with traffic, not against it.
  • Ride only on streets and avenues, and not on the sidewalks.  (The one exception is riders 12 years of age or younger whose bike wheel circumference is less than 26 inches in diameter).
  • Come to a complete stop at red lights and stop signs.
  • Stay alert at all times and exercise care to avoid colliding with pedestrians, motor vehicles or other cyclists.
  • Ride in marked bike lanes or paths when available.  The exceptions, of course, are when making turns, or if obstacles in the roadway prevent safe passage.
  • Bicycling is permitted on all main and local streets throughout the City, even when no designated route exists.
  • Night riding.  The DOT recommends riders always use a white headlight and a red taillight plus reflectors.
  • Bikes should be equipped with a bell or horn to alert pedestrians who may not see the cyclist coming, particularly in situations where the rider is passing a pedestrian from behind.


  • Look, signal and look again before changing lanes or making a turn. Establish eye contact with drivers. Seeing a driver is often not enough. Make sure drivers see you before turning in front of a car, or if you’re riding in front of a car that could be turning.
  • Be especially careful when riding in “door lanes.” Be vigilant and watch out for car doors.  Always be prepared for the possibility that a car door may be opened in your path.  If it’s safe to do so, and whenever possible, leave room between yourself and parked cars.  The DOT generally recommends trying to leave 3 feet between your bike and park cars to avoid running into a door that opens unexpectedly.
  • Wear brightly colored clothing for daytime riding. At night, use lights and reflectors.
  • Use a horn or bell.  Use them to alert drivers, pedestrians and other cyclists to your presence.
  • DO NOT wear earphones.  The law allows wearing one ear bud.  But the DOT says keeping both ears clear is a much safer choice.
  • Helmets are required by law for children age 13 or younger and for working cyclists.  However, the DOT strongly recommends wearing a helmet regardless of your age. “It’s the smart choice.”  Hundreds of head injuries are prevented each year when cyclists wear helmets.

NOTE: The DOT fits and gives away the official New York City bicycle helmet at events throughout the city. You can call 311 to schedule a fitting. In order to receive a helmet you must: be present, learn how to properly fit and wear a helmet, and sign a waiver. A parent or legal guardian must sign for children under 18.


  • Children under age one cannot be carried on handlebars or crossbars of a bicycle.
  • Children must be carried in a properly affixed child carrier.
  • Cyclists under age 13 must wear an approved helmet.

If you are injured by a motor vehicle when riding a bicycle in New York City, we recommend you contact The Ashley Law firm immediately for a free consultation.  The number is: 212-513-1300.

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