Wheels on the bikes go round and round

Do you see a light or helmet? At least this guy doesn't have to juggle bags full of food from the handlebars on busy Amsterdam Avenue.

Add me to the legion of Manhattanites who complain about cyclists who race the wrong way on streets, barrel along sidewalks and ignore traffic lights.

My complaint is about the men — only men, I think — making deliveries on bicycles and their employers.  I should say that I sympathize with those folks, whose jobs, such as they are, must rank among the worst in the city.

Living on a corner of Amsterdam Avenue on the Upper West Side, where a plethora of restaurants means a plenitude of bicycle deliveries, I am unusually cautious when crossing that thoroughfare.  I pause, look both ways, step into the street and look again and again as I venture to the opposite side.

That was my practice the other night on my way home from the gym.  Despite my vigilance, however, I was startled as a biker swerved to avoid me — successfully, thank goodness.

In retrospect, I was in no danger, but it sure felt that way momentarily. Probably, you’ve had a similar experience.

Had he a light on the front of his bicycle, I am certain that I would have noticed him.  Why didn’t he? I wondered, then decided to find out whether there was a law against its absence.

Sure enough, there is such a law, and it covers many more abuses.  The New York City Department of Transportation has issued a summary of the laws, rules and regulations for bicyclists.  The illuminating four-page document begins with this sentence:

Bicyclists have all the rights and are subject to all the duties applicable to drivers of motor vehicles. This includes obeying all traffic signals, regulating signs and pavement markings.

It gets better: According to the city’s Administrative Code, bicycles used for commercial purposes must comply with the following provisions:

  • Business must be identified on the bike by name and identification number;
  • Operator must wear upper body apparel with business’ name and operator’s number on the back;
  • Operator shall wear a helmet provided by business;
  • Operator must carry and produce on demand a numbered ID card with operator’s photo, name, home address and business’ name, address and phone number.
  • Business must maintain log book that includes information on daily trips, identifying the bicycle operator’s identification number and name; and name and place of origin and destination;
  • Owner of business must file an annual report with the Police Department identifying the number of bicycles it owns and the identification number and identity of any employees.

Oh yeah, businesses and their delivery personnel religiously adhere to the foregoing requirements.

At least this one has a helmet.

Among other things, bicycles ridden on sidewalks may be confiscated and riders may be subject to legal sanctions, according to the Code.  And riders may not wear more than one earphone attached to a radio, tape player or other audio device while cycling.


In addition, bicyclists are required to use hand signals to turn left and right and to stop or decrease speed.  When was the last time you saw that happen?

Now for the equipment bicycles must have: Bell or other audible signal (not whistle); working brakes; and reflective tires and other reflective devices, or both.

Finally, “a white headlight and red tail light must be used from dusk to dawn.”

I don’t have a clue what the penalties are for violating the laws, rules and regulations, but I’m betting they’re not severe.  Perhaps that’s why they seem to be so infrequently enforced.  But still. . .

The police have proved how easy it is to fix parking tickets.  Can’t they fix illegal bicycle riding as well?

The argument they’ll make about enforcing the bicycle laws is that they have better things to do.  Such as protecting the public and saving lives?

Tomorrow: Don’t ask

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Malcolm Carter
Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker
Senior Vice President
Charles Rutenberg Realty
127 E. 56th Street
New York, NY 10022

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