By Daniel Flanzig, Esq.


Ok, let’s have this conversation again. One of the most talked about it, complained about, and blogged about issues is where and how to ride your bike on a road in New York. Over and over again bike clubs remind their members of how and where to ride. This reminder is given not just for the safety of the cyclist but because this is the number one complaint heard from motorists about us.

The car vs. bike fight on our streets seems to be a never ending battle. While we all acknowledge that we, the cyclist, remain the most vulnerable on the road, we still have an obligation to follow the law and make our best effort to “share the road”. Nothing pisses off drivers more than 2-3 cyclists riding abreast down a single lane country road. Trust me, I know as well as anyone the desire to have conversation with your fellow cyclist, especially after two hours into a ride. However, when the road conditions don’t permit, it is better to save the conversation for the end of the ride. By riding in proper road position we can create a safer and more user friendly road for both cyclists and motorists.


Vehicle and Traffic Law 1234(a) - Riding on Roadways

The Vehicle and Traffic Law in the State of NY requires the following for cyclists:

Upon all roadways, any bicycle shall be driven either on a usable bicycle lane or if a usable bicycle lane has not been provided, near the right corner or edge of the roadway or upon the usable right hand shoulder in such a manner as to prevent undo interference with the flow of traffic except when preparing for a left turn or when it is reasonably necessary to avoid condition that would make it unsafe to continue along near the right hand curb or edge. Conditions to be taken into consideration include but are not limited to fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, inline skates, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or traffic too narrow for a bicycle or person on inline skates and a vehicle to traffic safely side by side within a lane.

VEHICLE AND TRAFFIC LAW 1234(b) – Driving 2 abreast

Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast. Persons riding bicycles upon a shoulder or bike lane or bike path intended for the use of bicycles may ride 2 or more abreast if sufficient space is available, except that when passing a vehicle, bicycle, person on inline skates, pedestrians standing or proceeding along the shoulder, lane or path, persons riding bicycles shall ride single file. Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall ride single file when being overtaken by a vehicle.


In New York City the NYC Administrative Code has created certain home rules which preempt the NYS Vehicle Traffic Law. By virtue of this, VTL 1234 is not applicable in NYC. Instead, New York City has enacted RCNY 4-12(p) which mandates the use of bike lanes when available. Specifically it states: (1) Whenever a usable path or lane for bicycles has been provided, bicycle riders shall use such path or lane only except under any of the following situations: (i) When preparing for a turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway. (ii) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, motor vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, pushcarts, animals, surface hazards) that make it unsafe to continue within such bicycle path or lane.

When a bike lane or path is not available, in accordance with 4-12(p)(3) riders are free to ride on both sides of 40-foot wide one-way roadways. Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway that carries traffic in one direction only and is at least 40 feet wide may ride as near as is practicable to either the left or the right-hand curb or edge of such roadway, provided that bicycles are not prohibited from using said roadway.

Proper road position is an easy way to help ease the conflict between motorist and bicycles. I understand that not all road and riding conditions allow complete compliance with the law. Sometimes you need to “take the lane” to feel safe and make yourself more visible. However, once you have passed that obstacle, fall back into road position. Doing so will help keep you and your fellow cyclists safe. Please do your best to make us all of us, including your club and yourself look like a pro and ride where you a motorist expects you to be.

Daniel Flanzig is the Author of “Wheels of Justice” as part of his roles as a Legal Advisers/Board Members to the New York Bicycling Coalition and is a partner at the bicycle collision law firm of Flanzig and Flanzig, LLP NewYorkBikeLawyers.com

DISCLAIMER: Please appreciate that this is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Also appreciate that laws change on virtually a daily basis and accordingly whenever researching any legal issue, it is critically important to perform up-to-date research to determine the current state of the law.

If you have any legal question pertaining to cycling laws in the state of New York, please feel free to contact Daniel Flanzig at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..