As the spring thaw sets in and warm weather returns, dedicated cyclists are taking back to the roads in greater numbers. According to the Department of Transportation, the number of bicyclists in New York City has grown nearly each year over the past decade, hitting a new peak in 2014. This trend is likely to continue, with the establishment and popularity of New York City’s Bike Share program, and increasing traffic congestion within the City. Bicycle ridership has likewise been growing on Long Island, both for its health benefits and as a means of transportation. In fact, local municipalities have been creating or expanding the availability of bike lockers at LIRR train stations. However, with this increase in ridership comes increased opportunity for bicycle v. motor vehicle collisions occurring.
Cyclists are especially vulnerable to injury, and it is imperative that all available steps be taken to minimize the risk of a collision occurring. Being familiar with applicable traffic laws and cycling rules can be as important to ensure your safety as wearing a helmet. Under New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law, bicyclists are granted all of the rights and are subject to all of the duties of the driver of a motor vehicle. This means that bicycles must not be ridden on sidewalks (in fact, NYC cyclists riding on sidewalks can have their bicycle confiscated). For cyclists on Long Island, the bicycle must be ridden on the right side of the road near the right hand curb, with no more than two cyclists abreast. However, this rule does not apply to NYC cyclists, who need only remain in the proper travel lane. Furthermore, bicyclists are legally obligated to stop at red lights and stop signs, in the same manner that a car or truck is. Just as a motor vehicle must signal a turn, likewise, hand signals must be used to indicate a turn on your bicycle. Every bicycle on the road must be equipped with brakes and a bell. To ensure safety when riding after dark, the cyclist must have a white light on the front and red light on the rear of the bicycle, along with reflectors.
Even where a cyclist has followed all applicable traffic rules, and taken all measures to ensure their safety, collisions can still occur as a result of the motor vehicle driver’s negligence. Should this occur, taking steps to protect your legal rights is essential. Should you be involved in a collision with a motor vehicle while cycling, make sure a police accident report is filed, or at a minimum get the name, license plate and insurance information of the driver. Under New York’s No Fault law, the motor vehicle’s insurance policy is responsible to pay for all “reasonable and necessary medical expenses” related to the collision, and to pay lost wages you may suffer as a result. Application for these benefits must be filed within 30 days. Furthermore, should you suffer injuries related to a bicycle vs. motor vehicle collision, you may be entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering your injuries have caused.