Governor's Traffic Safety Committee

Bicycle and Wheel Sport Safety

Introduction | Programs & Solutions | FAQs | Safety Tips
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Enjoy Safe Bicycling

bike safety

See Be Smart. Share the Road with Bikes


The Bicycling and Walking in the United States 2010 Benchmarking Report, produced by the Alliance for Bicycling and Walking, states:

A bicycle is often the first vehicle a person gets, usually as a child. It may, therefore, be thought of more as a toy than as a vehicle. Furthermore, having a bicycle is often one's first taste of independence and mobility. With a bicycle, a child has access to roads where he or she may have walked or crossed before. Now as a bicyclist the child must be aware of, and follow, a new set of laws and regulations. While bicyclists may complain that automobile drivers do not "see" them on the road, drivers complain that bicyclists ignore, whether deliberately or through ignorance, safety rules and state/local laws.

Motorists must be alert to the presence of cyclists and drive responsibly. A cyclist should not assume that the motorist has seen them. The cyclist should attempt to establish eye contact and adjust his/her activity in anticipation that the motorist is not aware of their presence. According to the "Capital Times of Madison", Wisconsin (July 8, 1995), "Motorists failing to yield the right of way to a bike caused 42 percent of [their] accidents. Another 39 percent occurred because cars were making turns and didn't notice a bike."

It is the responsibility of each bicycle user to know and follow the New York State Vehicle and Traffic (V&T) Law whenever operating a bicycle on roads or bicycle paths. There are Penal, Highway, Parks and Recreation, Education, and Environmental Laws of New York State as well as the Department of Motor Vehicles' Rules and Regulations concerning bicycling.

Your city, town or county may also have local bicycle ordinances.

Programs & Solutions

Bicyclists are required to follow the same laws and rules of the road as motorists. This includes riding on the right side of the road as well as obeying traffic signs and signals. Riding on the left side of the road, facing traffic is a common action on the part of the bicyclist that can cause a crash. Other actions or "missing actions" on the part of the bicyclist that can cause crashes are:

(From the Consumer News Service #13, Jeanne Mackin of the Cornell Cooperative Extension. 2/88)


Frequently Asked Questions

Which traffic laws apply to bicyclists and in-line skaters?

Bicyclists and in-line skaters must obey all traffic signals, signs and pavement markings. Bicyclists and in-line skaters who violate the law are subject to traffic tickets. Parents can be held responsible for violations by their minor children.

On what roads are bicycling and in-line skating permitted?

Bicyclists and in-line skaters have the legal right to share the road on most public highways, but they are prohibited on interstate highways and expressways. In addition, authorities with jurisdiction over other controlled-access highways may prohibit bicycles.

Must bicyclists and in-line skaters ride with traffic?

The law requires that bicyclists ride and in-line skaters glide with traffic. Bicycling and skating against traffic are leading causes of crashes. Moving with traffic makes bicyclists and in-line skaters more visible, and their movements more predictable to motorists. Riding or gliding with traffic also prevents interference with the flow of traffic and pedestrians.

Where on the road may a bicyclist ride and an in-line skater glide?

If there is a usable bicycle or in-line skating lane, the bicyclist and in-line skater must use it. If there is no lane or it is unusable due to parked cars or other hazards, the bicyclist may ride and the in-line skater may glide either on the right shoulder, or near the right edge or curb of the roadway. A bicyclist or an in-line skater may move further left to avoid hazards such as parked cars or debris, or to turn left but the bicyclist and in-line skater must avoid undue interference with other traffic.

A path is separate from the roadway, and a bicyclist or in-line skater may use either the path or the roadway. In some cases, a roadway may be safer than a nearby bicycle or in-line skating path, as well as more convenient.

May bicyclists ride and in-line skaters skate side-by-side on a roadway?

Yes. They may ride two abreast on roadways, but they must ride or skate single file when being overtaken by other vehicles. Bicyclists and in-line skaters may only travel more than two abreast on a shoulder, lane or path intended for bicycling and skating use if there is sufficient space. However, they must be single file when passing vehicles, pedestrians and other bicyclists or in-line skaters.

How should a bicyclist and in-line skater prepare for turns at intersections?

Generally, bicyclists and in-line skaters should use the same through or turning lanes as motorists. However, a bicyclist or in-line skater may choose to dismount and use the pedestrian crosswalk, especially in heavy traffic. After crossing at an intersection, a bicyclist and in-line skater should move to a usable right-hand shoulder or to the right side of the right-hand lane.

The position a bicyclist and in-line skater takes in preparing for a turn is governed by the turning rules that apply to other traffic. A bicyclist and in-line skater should move to the center of the lane when preparing for either a right or left turn, to prevent a following motorist from sharing the lane. It can be very dangerous for a bicyclist or in-line skater to turn, while sharing a lane with a motorist.

If there is more than one left turn lane, use the one furthest to the right. After any left turn, move to the right as soon as it is safe to do so.

Does the law require me to wear a helmet?

Yes, if you are under 14 years of age. Effective June 1, 1994, all bicyclists under the age of fourteen are required to wear approved bicycle helmets when they are operators or passengers on bicycles. Child passengers one through four years of age must wear approved bicycle helmets and ride in a specially designed child safety seat. Children under the age of one are prohibited from being transported on a bicycle.

Effective January 1, 1996, in-line skaters under the age of 14 are required to wear approved bicycle helmets.

Effective July 1, 2002, persons under the age of 14 years old are required to wear certified bicycle helmets when riding a non-motorized scooter.

Effective January 1, 2005, persons under the age of 14 years old are required to wear certified bicycle helmets when operating a skateboard.

Any parent or guardian whose child violates the helmet law is subject to a fine of up to $50.

Certain localities within the State of New York have passed local ordinances regarding helmet use for bicyclists. For example, Rockland and Erie Counties require all people riding bicycles on county property, regardless of age, to wear an approved bicycle helmet.

Every bicyclist, in-line skater or scooter rider, regardless of age, should wear an approved helmet. Helmets significantly reduce the risk of sustaining a serious head injury. A helmet should fit squarely on top of the head in a level position and cover the top of the forehead extending down to about an inch above the eyebrows. The helmet should not be able to slide back and forth on the head or rock from side to side.

What equipment is required on bicycles?

A bicycle must be equipped with:

Are there any equipment requirements for in-line skating?

In-line skate manufacturers are required to put warning labels on skates urging users to wear protective gear and they are required to equip skates with a stopping device. In addition, retailers who sell in-line skates are also required to sell protective gear such as helmets, elbow and knee pads and wrist guards. Manufacturers or retailers who don't comply can be fined as much as $500.

What other Vehicle & Traffic laws apply to bicyclists and skaters?

As a bicyclist, the law also requires you to:

Regarding in-line skaters, the law states:

Safety Tips

To help avoid a crash and be a responsible cyclist you should:

Be Predictable!

Bicyclists are more likely to be seen by other motorists if they behave like motorists, that is if they are where other motorists are expected to be and doing what other motorists are expected to do. Therefore, don't ride the wrong way on a one-way street, or on the wrong side of the road, and don't disregard stop and yield signs.

Be Seen!

Be Careful!

Be Smart!

Please remember - A helmet only works if it is BUCKLED and fits properly

Whether you are riding a bicycle or driving a vehicle on the street in front of your house or on some other familiar road, remain alert.

Be Informed!

In the event of a bicycle crash resulting in a fatality or serious injury, it is required that a written accident report be filed with the Commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles within ten days of the crash. Should the injured operator be physically incapable of submitting the report, they must submit it when they have sufficiently recovered. In the event that the operator of the bicycle is a minor, his or her parent or guardian must make the report within ten days of learning of the crash.

You may obtain more information from:

Bicycle Information at NHTSA:

New York State Department of Transportation (DOT):

For bike and skate helmet information and/or health and safety information, please call the NYS Department of Health at (518) 474-7354.

For a copy of the "Sharing the Road Safely" brochure, please call the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee at (518) 474-5111, or it may be printed from our Media Resources page.

New York Bicycling Coalition

The Cornell Bicycle & Pedestrian Homepage

Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute

New York Statewide Bicycle Advisory Council

New York State Governor's Traffic Safety Committee,
6 Empire State Plaza, Room 410B,
Albany, New York 12228
Phone: (518) 474-5111 FAX: (518) 473-6946