For the most part, yes, in New York, bicyclists are subject to the same rules of the road as motor vehicles. In fact, in New York City it is not uncommon for bicyclists to be “pulled-over” and issued tickets for violations committed while traveling on their bicycles. There are, of course exceptions which will be discussed below. Generally, a bicycle is defined under New York law as a two or three wheeled device propelled by human power. The definition however, does not include devices with solid tires intended to be used by pre-teenage kids on the sidewalk. (See VTL § 102 for the exact definition).
Generally, bicyclists must obey the same rules of the road as operators of other vehicles. See VTL § 1231 which provides in pertinent part that anyone riding a bicycle or in-line skates are subject to all the rights and duties applicable to drivers of more common vehicles except for certain regulations and provisions which by their very nature have no applicability. VTL § 1231
For example, a bicyclist must stop at a stop sign. Trzepacz v. Jara, 1 A.D.3d 531, 782 N.Y.S.2d 852 (2nd Dept. 2004). And a bicyclist operating on a roadway, with few exceptions, bears virtually all of the same responsibilities a driver of a motor vehicle does. Redcross v. State, 241 A.D.2d 787, 660 N.Y.S.2d 211(3rd Dept. 1997). Just as a bicyclist must obey the same rules as the operator of a more conventional vehicle, the bicyclist is also entitled to the same rights or “right of way” as the more conventional vehicle. Therefore, a motorist must yield the right of way to a bicyclist who is already lawfully in the intersection. People v. Marr, 187 Misc.2d 280, 721 N.Y.S.2d 737 (2001 Jus. Ct. Vil of Horseheads)(Motorist found guilty for failing to yield right of way to bicyclist, who motorist subsequently hit, at an intersection where bicyclist had the right of way.)
However, one law that bicyclists are exempt from is VTL § 1163(b) which requires that an intention to turn left or right be given continuously for a least one hundred feet prior to the turn. This does not mean that a bicyclist is totally exempt from signaling their intention to turn. However, due to the obvious safety concerns associated with a bicyclist operating his or her bike for 100 feet with only one hand on the handlebars as he or she uses the other hand to indicate their intention to turn, bicyclists are exempt from the 100 foot requirement found in VTL § 1163(b). However, while exempt from the 100 foot requirement, bicyclists must indicate their intention to turn by some hand signal although it need not be for the full 100 feet as required by VTL § 1163(b) see e.g. Blitstein v. Capital District Transportation Authority, 81 A.D.2d 981, 439 N.Y.S.2d 768 (3rd Dept. 1981) see also Secor v. Kohl, 67 A.D.2d 358, 415 N.Y.S.2d 434 (2nd Dept. 1979)(Requirement of Vehicle and Traffic Law that turn signals be given continuously for at least 100 feet before turning is gauged to speeds of automobiles and cannot be reasonably applied to much lower speeds of bicycles.).
If you have been issued a ticket or summons anywhere in New York State for an alleged violation committed while riding your bike, you should contact an experienced New York traffic court law-firm to defend you. You should also always carry identification with you when you are out riding because there are far too many police officers who will arrest you and put you through the criminal justice system for 24 hours locked up with the worst of the worst until you get to see a judge. For more information contact Tilem & Campbell PC at 1-877-DR-SUMMONS (1-877-377-8666).