For the most part, bikes are allowed on roadways. One of the large exceptions is the interstate. Cyclists are not allowed on the nation’s interstate. Safety There is always the question of whether you, the cyclist, wants to be on that particular stretch of road. […]
Space for bike lanes is always at a premium. At best, we are lucky to be allowed to ride on an unprotected shoulder. Occasionally, cities will gives us a lane we can share with the busses and turning cars. Terrifying, frankly. Today, Philadelphia upped the […]
New York has been a frustration to the electric bike industry for many years now. While electric bicycles are marketed to those living in large cities as a way to make larger distances and longer commutes a possibility, New York State’s ban on electric bikes in 2004 has made it hard to expand the cycling community past those who are already physically fit or who have short commutes.
The reasoning behind the ban was that the motorized e-bikes move much faster than the standard pedal power cycles that we’ve been familiar with for the last century, which means that when small infractions of bike lane and traffic laws are made the cost is much higher.
However, in places like NYC it’s nearly impossible to work a full-time bicycle delivery job because of the physical strain of it. Pedal assist and small electric motors are incredible ways to cut back on this strain, but maintain the “green” eco-friendly impact of cycling.
In 2002 there was federal legislation passed stating that any electric bike with a top speed of 20mph was to be legally classified in the same group as a non-motorized bicycle. In 2004 New York answered with a state ban on electric bikes being used on any roadways, parking lots, side walks, etc., and also placed a requirement for registration on owning them. This means that, while it’s still legal for the bikes to be purchased under federal law, it’s effectively illegal to ride them in the state.
However, the gray area is pedal assist bikes, and bikes with an option to turn off the motor source and use them as a standard bike. Some interpretations of the law say that you can use a pedal assist bike since it’s technically a bicycle according to federal law, and others feel that it’s acceptable to use the ebike you purchased for your uncle’s back field on the roads as long as the motor is switched off.
But the big news is that it’s beginning to look as though state legislation is going to change. With states like California, Uta, Colorado, Nebraska, Alabama, and Kentucky clarifying their laws to regulate the bikes sensibly, we all hope that New York will quickly follow suit.
In order to do so, they need to adopt a classification system that separates pedal assist motors (which only work when the pedals are in motion to add momentum to the human power) and fully motorized cycles. From there they would be able to educate their enforcers as to what type of e-bike is legal where. Lower traffic areas of the cities could allow commuters to use the fully motorized bicycles while the downtown and large city areas could either maintain a ban or choose how to regulate which bikes are legal options for delivery drivers and commuters.
Once these things are established, I believe that the ebike industry could single handily exponentially grow the cycling community.
But the core problem for places like NYC is their failure to accommodate cyclists. The mayor currently has plans to inflate the cycling community and cut back on the number of motor vehicles in the city. However, until there are bike lanes that can accommodate those numbers, as well as motor vehicle and pedestrian fines for obstructing them, it’s hard to imagine cyclists staying out of the roadways and enjoying an influx of new riders.
While the ebike “crack downs” are almost always because ebikes cause accidents, these accidents seem to mostly occur because of a lack of available, legal pathways for riding.
So, as always, we need to work together as a cycling community to safely and respectfully work inside the laws to show that we are a community worth growing. While riding in “gray” legal areas may not get you ticketed, it isn’t going to help the laws change.
So put on your helmet, use the bike lanes (as long as they aren’t obstructed!), and stay fit!
A shared-use path. Often referred to as a “bike-path“, most shared use paths are for the use of all travelers not using motor vehicles. Strollers, skate boards, roller skates, wheelchairs, pedestrians, and sometimes even horses are permitted on these quiet roads where cars are restricted. […]
Sidewalk laws vary from state to state, and then again from county to county. San Antonio restricts bicycles from side walks as a city wide mandate, while Madison, WI allows them in non-commercial areas, providing cyclists yield to pedestrians and give audible warnings when they are about to pass a pedestrian.
New York City allows for children 12 and under to ride bicycles with a wheel diameter of 26″ or less to ride on sidewalks but requires adults to use road and bike ways. In San Fransisco, the legal age for riding a bicycle on the sidewalk is capped at 13.
As you can see, it’s very difficult to give a represented look at sidewalk laws in the united states because they are different everywhere you go. What is always acceptable is to ride your bicycle on the far right hand side of the road in the same direction as car traffic.
Many cities offer maps of their designated bike paths and bike lanes, such as this one for Springfield, MO — which, incidentally, Springfield allows bicycles on sidewalks in neighborhoods, but not in business districts.
Safe Sidewalk Etiquette for Cyclists
In those areas that allow cyclists to ride on sidewalks designed for pedestrians, there are a few basic disciplines that you need to make habits for the safety of everyone involved:
- Pay attention. Put the phone down. Especially in a pedestrian pathway with children on slow bicycles and people walking/jogging and pushing strollers, it is crucial that you be hyper aware of your surroundings and those you are going to pass. 1 out of 10 times that a bicycle wreck with a pedestrian occurs is a fatal encounter.
- Be loud. Use a bell or a whistle in conjunction with shouting that you are approaching from behind before passing. A rude amount of noise is better than not informing a person you are about to pass them and having them step into your path.
- Slow down. Side walks were not made for bicycle tires and pot holes, cracks, spaces between bits of pavement, ridges, and steps are all part of the sidewalking experience. It’s better to slow down to 6-8mph and take it a bit leisurely. I’ve gone over my handlebars before and I promise you that it’s not an experience you are missing out on if you haven’t tried it yet.
- Yield Promptly. Slowing down will give you an advantage on this front, because if it’s legal for you to use it, pedestrians have 100% right of way on sidewalks and cross walks. This is not equal ground like a shared use pathway or a roadway, this is a space that belongs to the pedestrians. Parents expect their toddlers to be safe on a sidewalk and you shouldn’t give them any reason to doubt that that is the case.
- Hands Free. Don’t try to carry a lot of parcels and packages on your bicycle unless you have a basket or saddlebags. Trying to navigate around the pomeranian that spies a boxer in the back of a passing truck, or keep from crushing a 5 year old who just spotted a dandilion to pick for his mommy requires both hands on the handlebars. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are in a shared space.
- Be careful. This is always our final point — but the truth is that the entire cycling community is dependant on you being respectful and safe. Each of us must do our part to respect the laws and to treat others with care.
Some states have such hard and fast double yellow line rules that (literally) cyclist have been struck by cars because they driver had an inability to move over far enough even though they were trying. While many cyclists would say ‘they should have waited for […]
State laws vary as to the the priority and rights of cyclists on roadways, but many places have very specific laws in place for cyclists riding side by side and what constitutes impeding traffic. We are gonna dive into some of the basics of lane […]