In 2018, there were more than 178 million cycling trips across New York City streets. Fortunately, most of these rides were incident-free, but almost 6,000 crashes did occur, resulting in 4,688 serious injuries and, tragically, 10 fatalities. The fact that these bike accidents may statistically be few and far between is irrelevant for these people, their friends and loved ones, whose lives were forever changed.  

Single-bike accidents, crashes involving more than one bike, or pedestrians do occur, but the vast majority of injury-related bike accidents involved a crash with a motor vehicle. It is important to note that New York State law requires motorists to drive responsibly, taking specific actions to protect bicyclists' safety. For example, motorists must yield to a bicyclist who has the right of way. With few exceptions, motorists cannot drive or park in a designated bike lane, and they cannot overtake and pass a bicyclist.

According to an analysis of New York City police officers' on-scene observations, cyclists are likely to sustain a severe injury if any of the following occurred during the accident:

  • Unconsciousness or concussion
  • Injury to the head (including eye injuries)
  • Severe bleeding
  • Amputation
  • Internal injury
  • Fractures or dislocations
  • Injuries occurred to the entire body

Additional factors that predict if a bicyclist sustained severe injury include:

  • Accident time of day (between midnight and 6 a.m.)
  • Advanced age (70 years or older)
  • Accident involving a motorcycle or truck

While New York has been instituting efforts to make cycling safer, the reality is that bike accidents can and do still occur. Fatalities rose in 2019, and injury accidents were on the rise in 2020, as more people took to bicycles during the Covid pandemic.

While some people have an inherent prejudice against bike delivery persons and some recreational cyclists in New York, the law affords the bicyclist protections and rights that are not known by the average citizen.

With regard to bicycles, Vehicle and Traffic Law § 1231 provides that:

[e]very person riding a bicycle ... upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this title, except as to special regulations in this article and except as to those provisions of this title which by their nature can have no application

Further, if there is no designated bike lane on a street in New York, the bicyclist has every right to ride their bicycle on the roadway.  Under NYC regulation  RCNY 4-12 (p) (3), bicyclists should ride in usable bike lanes unless they are blocked or unsafe for any reason.  Under NYC  regulation RCN4-12 (p)(1), bicyclists may ride on either side of one-way roadways that are at least 40 feet wide.

Under the law, a vehicle when overtaking a bicycle is bound by  Vehicle and Traffic law  Section 1126, which provides in part … a) when official markings are in place indicating those portions of the highway where overtaking and passing or driving to the left of such markings would be especially hazardous, no driver of a vehicle proceeding along such highway shall at any time drive on the left of such markings.

I am currently representing a bicyclist, who was struck in the rear by a motor vehicle that chose to ride on the left shoulder and try to overtake the bicyclist who was lawfully riding on the left side of the roadway, since there was no bike lane available.

Ed Lemmo, Esq. is one of New York's top personal injury trial attorneys. With a very high rating from AVVO, the prestigious attorney rating service, Lemmo is a member of the New York State Trial Lawyers Association. Handling a wide range of matters, from car accidents to medical malpractice, Lemmo represents clients in all five boroughs and upstate New York while also serving as trial counsel for many of New York's finest law firms. With a 100% success rate from 2014-2020, his verdicts are regularly published in New York Jury Verdict and New York Jury Verdict Reporter.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a bike accident, call LemmoLaw today for a free consultation.