A post on the Finger Lake Cycling Club (FLCC) listserv raised an interesting question: Is it a violation of NY Vehicle and Traffic Law for one bicyclist to “draft” another cyclist?
The suggestion was that drafting violates NY Vehicle & Traffic Law §1129 regarding “Following Too Closely”.
Below I pasted the full background of the question and the full text of the law but let me take a stab at answering the question.
My answer is “Technically, yes, it is arguable that drafting DOES violate NY law if doing so results in a collision”.
Sounds like a lawyer answer, eh? Well, I follow the logic of Andrejs Ozolins from FLCC, a non-lawyer, but very smart and thoughtful guy who I think logically answered the question when he said that he felt that drafting constituted the ticketable offense of Following Too Closely:
“Seems fair enough — applying the same criteria as for motor vehicles. Cars can draft and ride in tight bunches in the special circumstances of racing, but not when being used as transportation vehicles on public roads. In general, I’m glad for any instance where people (especially the police) treat bicycles as equal, legitimate users of the roads.”
And that’s the rub (or not, depending on your perspective)—under NY law, with limited exceptions, bicycles are treated like any other vehicle which means that they enjoy the privilege of being able to use the road like any other vehicle BUT it also means bicycles must obey the NY Vehicle and Traffic laws. It is the old adage of “with the privilege comes the responsibility”.
So, from my perspective, a few points emerge:
- The language of the law is important: “The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway”.
- So, you can draft legally so long as you do so in a “reasonable and prudent” manner. That means good riding skills which means you are legally required to adjust your speed, spacing and position behind the bike you are following to take in to consideration the road conditions you are encountering.
- But you would be violating the law if you failed to ride in a “reasonable and prudent” manner by overlapping wheels, failing to allow enough distance between you and the rider you were following, or when failing to reduce your speed when conditions required.
Thanks for reading and be sure to let me know your thoughts on this issue in the Comments below,
James B. Reed
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: NYInjuryLawBlog.com and
ORIGINAL QUESTION WITH BACKGROUND INFORMATION
As I was pursuing my other hobby this morning (volunteer EMS) I was called to a cycling accident where a rider had touched wheels with another rider (as a consequence of drafting) and subsequently crashed.
As I was helping out in the back of the ambulance, the deputy came over to talk to the injured rider to inform him that since (my paraphrasing, here)
1) NYS law requires bicycles to conform to NYS V&T law unless otherwise stated in the regs, and
2) Following too closely is a V&T infraction, then it follows that
3) drafting a bicycle constitutes following too closely and is a ticketable offense.
He did not actually write the guy a ticket but it was more issued as a verbal warning, since the deptuty felt that by drafting, the rider was doing something dangerous.
Aside from being in rather poor taste, as I thought it over, I could not find a flaw in the deputy’s logic.
Kind of disappointing to think that drafting (and by extension, all pack riding maybe?) is technically illegal.
Are there other implications for this? Could it affect someone’s health insurance coverage if they revealed that they were injured while they were violating V&T law on a bicycle?
Seems a bit extreme, surely there is another take on this.
Can I get yours?
VEHICLE AND TRAFFIC LAW §1129—FOLLOWING TOO CLOSELY
§ 1129. Following too closely. (a) The driver of a motor vehicle shall
not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent,
having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon
and the condition of the highway.
(b) The driver of any motor truck or motor vehicle drawing another
vehicle when traveling upon a roadway outside of a business or residence
district and which is following another motor truck or motor vehicle
drawing another vehicle shall, whenever conditions permit, leave
sufficient space so that an overtaking vehicle may enter and occupy such
space without danger, except that this shall not prevent a motor truck
or motor vehicle drawing another vehicle from overtaking and passing any
like vehicle or other vehicle.
(c) Motor vehicles being driven upon any roadway outside of a business
or residence district in a caravan or motorcade whether or not towing
other vehicles shall be so operated as to allow sufficient space between
each such vehicle or combination of vehicles so as to enable any other
vehicle to enter and occupy such space without danger. This provision
shall not apply to funeral processions.