I recently spoke with members of the New York Magistrates Association at a meeting in Corning. The members are town and village judges and justices who often don’t have the legal training of lawyers, so they welcome presentations by top lawyers.
I talked to about 35 judges and justices about New York state bicycle laws, and many told me afterward how much I opened their eyes to the unsafe conditions faced by bicyclists on the roads.
The video at the top of this page was taken by one of my clients who was seriously injured in a collision with a vehicle that turned left in front of him in Pennsylvania. Even the seasoned judges were surprised by the violence of the crash captured on the bicyclist’s helmet cam.
To engage my audience, I did most of the presentation in quiz format, and it was quite effective.
Here are my questions, with the answers I provided to members.
- May bicyclists in New York state legally ride side by side?
Answer …. Yes but not when passing parked cars, other bicycles or pedestrians.
- Is it legal for a bicyclist to ride in the driving lane?
Answer …. Yes, bicycles are permitted to use the entire driving lane when it would be unsafe for them to stay to the right or when they are preparing to make a left turn.
- Are all bicyclists in New York required to wear helmets?
Answer …. No for anyone older than 14. Yes for 14 and below.
- Must all bikes in New York be equipped with lights?
Answer …. Yes if riding after dark. No during the day.
- Is it legal to ride with headphones?
Answer …. Two headphones, no. One headphone, yes.
It was surprising to me that many of the judges didn’t know that legally a bicycle rider has all of the same rights and obligations as if they were a motor vehicle.
Bicycle law is an area where many magistrates are not well informed because they don’t deal with it on a regular basis, like they do with the state’s Vehicle and Traffic Laws, said Annette Viselli Thorne, Painted Post Village Justice and vice president of the county’s magistrate association.
“With the increase in the number of bicyclists on the roads, and Jim’s advanced experience as a cyclist and bicycle law expert, he was a perfect fit for an educational presentation to the association,” she said. “His presentation was extremely informative and the resource documents he provided will be an asset to every judge and justice who sits on the bench.”
Click above for a copy of the NY Bicycle Law Primer 2017 that I shared with the judges and justices.
Thank you for reading!