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2 VS 4: Exploring the Disconnect Between New York Drivers & Bicyclists

New york drivers and bicyclists have a notorious history of battling for the roads. Where did this disconnect begin and why? Many drivers are angered by the fact that they have to share the road with cyclists because cars are generally a faster means of transportation.

History of New York Bicycle Laws

Recreational bicycling in New York became popular in the late nineteenth century. Park officials in Brooklyn developed rules and regulations for riding in 1885. By 1896, bike paths going through parks were developed for the growing number of people riding bicycles. There were regulations that dictated when and where people could ride, as well as how fast they could go. The same year, bicycle racks and shelters at parks were developed for the convenience of bicyclists. In such an urban community as New York, bicycling wasn’t going away any time soon, nor has it since.


By the mid 1900’s, using bicycles as a means of commuting and public transportation became increasingly popular. The first bike lanes were created in 1978, running down Broadway between Central Park and and 23rd Street, for 3 miles from Fifth Avenue to Washington Square, and over 2 miles up Sixth Avenue between 8th Street and Central Park South.

Biking Forward

Bicycling in New York was an ideal means of connecting people between the boroughs of New York and beyond and waterfront riding became popular. In the 2000’s, City officials sought to evolve these bike paths by moving forward with projects to connect more boroughs with bridges and bike paths. The idea of “going green” also became popular around this time.


New York City’s Department of Transportation implemented a three-year plan to mark 200 miles of on-street bicycle routes in 2006. Although biking began mainly as a leisure activity, it has since grown into a major movement of altering our living patterns with low-cost and sustainable means of transportation. The Department of Health estimates that more than half a million New Yorkers use a bike at least once a month. There are also over 200,000 New Yorkers taking to the streets with their bicycles daily.

The Disconnect of Road Sharing

Since the implementation of bike lanes in New York roadways, tensions between bicycle riders and drivers have continued to rise to extremes, ultimately giving way to numerous accidents and lawsuits in recent and modern times. New York has implemented rules and regulations for cyclists in order to help ease the tension between riders and drivers and keep the roads safe. Bicyclists must always:

  • Use a helmet

  • Ride in bicycle lanes if available

  • Use hand signals to exhibit lane changes or turns

  • Stop completely before entering a roadway from a curb, alley, or driveway

  • Keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times


That doesn’t go to show that all bicyclists always follow these rules. They are, however, the most vulnerable and susceptible to injuries involving accidents with motor vehicles, as they don’t have the physical protection that vehicles provide. In 2017 alone, there were 4,397 bicycle injuries involving motor vehicles citywide, as well as 24 fatalities. Cycling groups have formed that promote and advocate for cycling safety and rights to the road, such as the New York Bicycling Coalition and New York Bicycle Club.


Although drivers may become frustrated at having to share the road with bicycle riders, they must remember that they are operating a heavy piece of machinery weighing close to 2 tons, which is why they have far more rules to follow on the road. It remains essential for drivers to always drive at a extreme precaution around bicyclists and pedestrians and exercise patience, accept the fact that bicyclists aren’t going away, and most importantly: share the road.

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