Bicyclist's Rights and Rules of the Road

Bicycle Law in the Rochester Area and New York State

  • Obey All Traffic Signs and Signals: Bicycles must obey all local and state Traffic Rules. Bicyclists have the same rights, privileges, and duties as other vehicles. Remember: a bicycle is not a toy!
  • Use Caution if Bicycling on Sidewalks: Bicyclists are permitted to ride on sidewalks but they must yield to pedestrians and all vehicular traffic (including at driveways). Remember – motorists do not anticipate vehicles traveling quickly on the sidewalk from either direction. Note: it is illegal to ride on the sidewalk in Downtown Rochester and in some town and village business districts.
  • One Person Per Bicycle: Riding double is only permitted when carrying a child, age one or older, in an approved carrier or when riding on a tandem bicycle.
  • Use Hand Signals: Use hand signals to indicate upcoming turns, lane changes, slowing, and stopping. New York law also requires each bicycle to be equipped with a bell or horn.
  • Always Wear a Properly Fitted Helmet: All bicyclists and in-line skaters under the age of 14 are required by law to wear and approved bicycle helmet when they are operators or passengers on bicycles and while skating. Any parent or guardian of a child who violates this law is subject to a fine of up to $50. Every bicyclist or in-line skater, regardless of age or ability, should wear a properly fitted helmet certified by the Snell Memorial Foundation or the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) (look for the approval sticker on the inside of the helmet shell). Helmets significantly reduce the risk of sustaining a serious head injury in the event of a crash. A helmet should fit squarely on the top of the head in a level position and cover the top of the forehead extending down to about one inch above the eyebrows. The helmet should not be able to slide back and forth or rock from side to side.
  • Earphones are Dangerous: Using earphone while bicycling (or skating or walking) on a public right-of-way (street) is illegal. If you use earphones on a trail, keep the volume sufficiently low to hear other pathway users.

On-Street Bicycling – Share the Road

  • Never Ride Against Traffic (legal requirement): Motorists are not looking for bicyclists riding on the wrong side of the street. Ride with traffic to avoid accidents.
  • Ride in a Straight Line: Avoid dodging between parked cars. Ride in a straight line at least three feet away from parked cars. Watch for a car pulling out of a parking space.
  • Be Careful at Intersections: The majority of accidents happen at intersections. Proceed with care. Vehicles making turns are particularly dangerous.
  • Use Appropriate Lane: Avoid being in a right turn-only lane if you want to go straight through an intersection. Move into the through lane early. In narrow lanes or slow traffic it may be safer to take the whole lane.
  • Turning Left: 2 Options
    • As a Vehicle: signal your intentions in advance. Move to the left turning lane, and complete the turn when it is safe.
    • As a Pedestrian: Ride to the far crosswalk, dismount and walk across.
  • Beware of Car Doors: Be wary of parked cars. Motorists can unexpectedly open doors. Be particularly careful if you see a motorist in the car. Ride a car’s door width away.
  • Make Eye Contact: Confirm that you are seen. Establish eye contact with motorists to insure that they know you are on the roadway.
  • Scan the Road Behind: Look over your shoulder regularly or use a mirror to monitor traffic. Although bicycles have equal right to the road, be prepared to maneuver for safety.
  • Lock Your Bike: Buy the best lock system you can afford: none is as expensive as a new bike. Lock the frame and rear wheel to a fixed object. If you have a quick release, lock the front wheel also.
  • Use Lights at Night (legal requirement): Always use a strong light colored headlight and a red taillight at night or when visibility is poor. Use bike reflectors and reflective clothing. See and be seen!

Multi-Use Trails – Share the Trail

  • Keep to the Right: All trail users should keep to the right except when passing or turning left. Move off the trail to the right when stopping. Never block a trail.
  • Be Alert: Watch for hazardous conditions, such as poor pavement, fallen tree branches and other debris. Beware of slippery conditions caused by water, ice, loose grave or sand.
  • Be Careful at Crossings: Look both ways. Cyclists: yield to through traffic at intersections, pedestrians have the right of way. Pedestrians: exercise caution. Be aware of stopping limitations of bicyclists and skaters.
  • Dismount as Posted: Dismount and walk across roadways or other posted locations. When choosing a "pedestrian style" crossing across the flow of traffic, cross only when it is safe to do so.
  • Signal to Others: Cyclists: when approaching others, sound your bell or call out a warning, then pass safely on the left. Pedestrians: move to the right when someone is overtaking.
  • Skaters Use Caution: In-line skaters: know how to use your equipment safely. Follow travel, passing, and speed rules as per bicyclists. Do not perform trick skating maneuvers on trails.
  • Stay on the Trail: Keep on designated trails to protect parks, natural areas and yourself. Riding off the trail is dangerous.
  • Be Visible: Ensure your visibility at night by wearing light-colored clothing with reflective material. Outfit your bicycle with lights as you would for riding on the roads.

Source: Genesee Transportation Council, Greater Rochester Bike Map.