Many motorists get annoyed or angry when they are slowed behind bicyclists riding in the driving lane. Many drivers think cyclists riding “in the middle of the road” are doing it to make a statement or violating the law but did you know that under NY law, it is perfectly legal (and often safer) for a bicyclist to use the entire driving lane when necessary to ride safely?

In“Why That Bicyclist Is In Your Lane,” Beth Skwarecki, the health editor for Lifehacker, correctly writes that sometimes it’s safer for cyclists AND motorists for cyclists to be in the driving lane.

She lists several reasons in her column:

  • The bike lane or shoulder is full of gravel, broken glass, or other hazards.
  • The bike lane or shoulder disappears suddenly, or has parked cars or other obstacles in it.
  • The bike lane or shoulder runs alongside a bunch of parked cars, which may open their doors suddenly.
  • There is no bike lane or shoulder.
  • The cyclist is about to turn left.
  • There is not enough room for you to safely pass.

“It’s this last one that often annoys drivers, because it means you have to slow down and stay behind the cyclist,” writes Skwarecki. “But if there’s not enough room to pass the cyclist safely, the cyclist is looking out for themselves and you by forcing you to sit tight for a moment.”

New York State law recognizes that there are times a bicyclist may need to move away from the righthand curb or bike lane. Vehicle and Traffic Law 1234 says a bicycle shall be driven near the righthand curb except when the cyclist is preparing for a left turn or when “reasonably necessary” to avoid unsafe conditions.

In other words, it is perfectly legal for a bicyclist in NY to use the full lane when necessary to ride safely.  

Thanks for reading,


Jim Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 & 2019 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
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