How can cyclists and motor vehicles safely share New York roads?

As the weather warms, more and more people will head out onto New York streets on bicycles. Many people may choose to bike just for exercise, although some people commute on their bikes or even earn their living as bike messengers or delivery people.

Regardless of why you intend to bike on city streets, it’s important that you understand the basics of safely sharing the road with enclosed motor vehicles. The more people who understand and obey bicycle laws on the road, the better acclimated drivers will be to sharing the road with cyclists, which could reduce the risk of crashes between bikes and cars. 

Bikes should ride with traffic and follow the same basic laws

People often confuse biking rules with pedestrian rules, which can lead to unsafe situations on the road. Bicyclists typically follow the same traffic laws as motor vehicles. For example, they bike with the flow of traffic, not opposing it. Additionally, unless there is a bike path specifically in place, cyclists should stay off of sidewalks, which are there for pedestrians, not vehicles.

Much like drivers, cyclists must indicate their intentions prior to turning. They can do so using either hand gestures or turn signals with LED lights. In theory, adequate visibility and adherence to safety rules should allow cyclists to safely share the New York streets with motor vehicles. Unfortunately, people in cars, trucks and SUVs often aren’t paying attention and watching for people on bikes.

Try to make yourself visible and anticipate other drivers’ negligence

There are many ways to improve your visibility to other people on the road. These include the installation of battery- or kinetically-operated lights and bright colors for your bike itself and your biking attire.

Making yourself more visible is an important step, but you should still assume that drivers will fail to notice you. In other words, you will want to double-check your surroundings, monitor traffic carefully and err on the side of caution when it comes to making maneuvers. If a driver doesn’t indicate that they see you, you should assume that they don’t.

While it may be frustrating to wait for an extra turn or two at a four-way stop, assuming that other drivers aren’t going to be safe could help you avoid a potentially serious accident.