Bicycle Safety
and the
New York State
Helmet Law

Courtesy of
William Scarborough

114-52A Merrick Boulevard
St. Albans, New York 11434
(718) 657-5312

Room 602 LOB
Albany, New York 12248
(518) 455-4451

Right Turn
Left Turn
Learn and Use Proper Hand Signals

With bicycle season in full-swing, its important to know how to be safe cyclists.

One way to stay safe is to use hand signals when riding on the road. Hand signals help prevent accidents and injuries by letting motorists and other cyclists know when you are turning or stopping.

Make sure you practice the hand signals (illustrated to the right) before you ride your bike on the roads.

Basic Safety Equipment

New York State Law requires riders and passengers under the age of 14 to wear approved safety helmets.

State law requires bicycles to be equipped with:

  • warning bell or horn
  • coaster brake
  • reflective devices on front and rear wheels, sides and pedals

  • if operated at night
    front light (white)
  • rear light (red)

For additional safety, bicyclists should be equipped with chain guards, day-glo safety flags and handle grips. Riders must wear approved helmets and should use pants leg clips and wear bright colored clothes.

Sections reprinted with permission of AAA

Use Your Head Wear a Helmet
Pictures courtesy of Consumer Product Safety Commission

To prevent head injuries, your helmet should:

  • Fit comfortably touching the head all the way around; level and stable enough to resist even violent shakes or hard blows and stay in place
  • Adjust fit pads or rings to secure helmet. It should sit level on your head, with the front just above the eyebrows or frame of glasses. If you walk into a wall, the helmet should hit before your nose does!
  • Adjust straps so when you look up, the front rim should be barely visible to your eye; the Y of the side straps should meet just below your ear.
  • The chin strap should be snug against your chin so when you open your mouth very wide, you feel the helmet pull down a little bit. (Bike Helmet Safety Institute)

A Good Helmet

The body of the helmet, made of dense crushable material, absorbs the force of impact.

An outer shell with a ventilation hole helps prevent injury to the head.

The padded lining insures a comfortable fit.

The strong, flexible chinstrap helps to keep the helmet on your head.

Rules of the Road

Stop at red lights, stop signs and before entering a roadway

Do not wear earphones plugged into a radio or tape player while riding a bike

Children up to 14 years of age must wear bicycle helmets; child passengers up to age four must ride in secure safety seats

Report any bicycle accident in which a person is killed or seriously injured to the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles within 10 days

Ensure the bicycle has the equipment required by law

Bicyclists must obey these and all traffic laws. Failure to do so is a traffic infraction and could result in fines for adults and Family Court action for children.

Fit the Bicycle to the Child
Size of bike for average child

Under 5 years 12" or 16" wheel
5 to 7 years 20" wheel
8 to 10 years 24" wheel
11 and over 26" or 27" wheel


Children up to age 14 must wear a helmet approved by the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles

Ride your bike on the far right with traffic

Obey all traffic signs, signals and pavement markings

Use proper hand signals

Yield to emergency vehicles, pedestrians, and approaching vehicles

Walk your bike across intersections and busy streets

Use a headlight and taillight and wear reflective clothing if you must ride at night

Watch out for opening car doors and for cars pulling into traffic

Wear bright colored clothing

Avoid objects on the pavement that may cause you to lose control of your bike

Never carry a passenger on a bike unless it's a child in an approved safety seat

Keep both hands on handle bars

Parents and Children! Take the

Bicycle Safety Quiz
**Click here for a printable survey**

Answer TRUE or FALSE
Look below for the answers!

1. ______ Bicycles are toys.

2. ______ Hand signals tell other drivers that you can drive with one hand.

3. ______ Traffic signs and signals are only for car drivers.

4. ______ You only need to wear a helmet when riding on busy streets.

5. ______ Before you enter a street from an alley or driveway, you should always stop first.

6. ______ Before you make a left turn, look quickly over your shoulder to find out what is coming behind.

7. ______ The seat of a bike is the right height if you can touch the ground with the toes of both feet.

8. ______ Your brakes are good enough if your rear wheel skids on loose dirt, but not on pavement.

9. ______ A loose bicycle chain means that it is easier to pedal.

10. _____ Sidewalks are safer to ride on than roads.

11. _____ You dont have to stop at a stop sign if you are on a bike and there are no vehicles coming.

12. _____ Its generally a good idea to ride a bicycle at least four feet out from parked cars even if it means being closer to moving cars.

13. _____ Bicycles should be operated in the middle of traffic lanes.

ANSWERS: 1. False. Adults ride bicycles also and all must obey the rules of the road. 2. False. Hand signals alert motorists to your actions. 3. False. Everyone using the road must obey traffic signs and signals. 4. False. A helmet should be worn anytime you ride a bicycle and it must be worn by bicyclists under age 14. 5. True. 6. True. 7. True. 8. False. 9. False. 10. False. Sidewalks can be more dangerous due to the number of sight restrictions, driveways and obstacles. 11. False. Bicyclists must stop at stop signs. 12. True. 13. False. State law requires bicycles to be operated in bike lanes, or near the right-edge curb or shoulder to avoid undue interference with traffic.