Whether you are out for a stroll or riding a bike, every individual in New Jersey has various rights and responsibilities when interacting with roadways. This post will aim to provide a general overview of what is expected of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists as they intermingle with each other.
What is a Bicycle?
Under New Jersey law, a "bicycle" is defined as "any two wheeled vehicle having a rear drive which is solely human powered and having a seat height of 25 inches or greater when the seat is in the lowest adjustable position." N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.5. New Jersey law also requires that all "bicycles" be equipped with:
1) An audible device, such as a bell, which can be heard from at least 100 feet away, but the device may not be a whistle or siren. N.J.S.A. 39:4-11;
2) Brakes that can make wheels skid while stopping on dry, level, clean pavement. N.J.S.A. 39:4-11.1; and
3) When in use at night time every bicycle shall be equipped with:
a. A front headlamp emitting a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front;
b. A rear tail lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet; and
c. A red reflector may be mounted on the rear, of a type approved by the division, which shall be visible from all distances from fifty fee to three hundred fee to the rear when in front of the head lamps of a motor vehicle.
Further, all riders, including passengers, under the age of 17 years old must wear a safety helmet. N.J.S.A. 39:4-10.1. Said safety helmet "must meet the federal standards developed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) effective March 10, 1999 that ensure the best head protection and strong chin straps to keep the helmet in place during a fall or collision." Ibid. Also acceptable are helmets meeting the Snell Memorial Foundation's 1990 Standard for Protection Headgear. Ibid.
However, two exceptions to the helmet law exist. First, operators or passengers of a bicycle are not required to wear a helmet if the bicycle is being operated on a roadway closed to motor traffic. Ibid. The second is in the instance where the bicycle is being operated on a trail, route, course, boardwalk, path or area set aside only for the use of bicycles. Ibid. Note that these exceptions do not apply if the areas of operation are adjacent to a roadway and not separated from motor vehicle traffic by a barrier that prevents the bicycle from entering the roadway. Ibid.
Failure to wear a helmet can result in initial warnings, and for minors, the parent or legal guardian may be fined a maximum of $25 for the 1st offense and a maximum of $100 for subsequent offense(s), if lack of parental supervision contributed to the offense. N.J.S.A. 39:4-10.1. Ibid.
Position of Hands and Feet; Carrying Another Person
Bicyclists should not ride with their feet removed from the pedals, or with both hands removed from the handlebars, nor practice any trick or fancy riding in a street. Further, no bicycle should be used to carry more persons at a time than the number for which it is designed and equipped. N.J.S.A. 39:4-12.
Hitching on Vehicles Prohibited
No person riding a bicycle shall attach themselves to any street car or vehicle. N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.
Rights and Duties of Persons on Bicycles
Every person riding a bicycle on a roadway is granted all the rights and responsibilities of a motor vehicle operator. Regulations applicable to bicycles shall apply whenever a bicycle is operated upon any highway or upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles subject to those exceptions stated herein. N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.1.
Keeping to Right; Exceptions; Single File
Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction; provided, however, that any person may move to the left under any of the following situations:
1) To make a left turn from a left-turn lane or pocket;
2) To avoid debris, drains or other hazardous conditions that make it impracticable to ride at the right side of the roadway;
3) To pass a slower moving vehicle;
4) To occupy any available lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic; and
5) To travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded. Otherwise shall ride single file except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.
Riding on Sidewalks
While New Jersey law does not prohibit riding a bicycle on a sidewalk, some municipalities have passed ordinances prohibiting bicycle traffic on certain sidewalks. As such, you should consult your local ordinances before operating a bicycle on the sidewalk.
Compared with the national average, New Jersey has significantly higher pedestrian injuries and fatalities according to state police data. Consequently, it is important that each individual possesses a basic understanding of New Jersey laws of pedestrian safety.
Under New Jersey law, pedestrians must obey pedestrian signals and use crosswalks where they exist. N.J.S.A. 39:4-32 and N.J.S.A. 39:4-33. Where no crosswalks are available and where not otherwise prohibited, pedestrians may cross roadways at right angles to the roadway. N.J.S.A. 39:4-34.
However, just because there is a crosswalk, the pedestrian does not necessarily have the right of way. Instead, as provided for in N.J.S.A. 39:4-32 a pedestrian shall not cross a road against the "stop" or red signal at a crosswalk. On the other hand, where a pedestrian begins crossing the road on a "go" or walk signal and the signal changes to "stop" while the pedestrian is still crossing, the pedestrian has the right of way until reaching the opposite curb or place of safety. Ibid.
For drivers, the failure to yield to a pedestrian with the right of way is a violation of N.J.S.A. 39:4-36, and is a $230.00 violation. However, where the violation involves serious bodily injury to a pedestrian, additional damages may be incurred.
Finally, if a sidewalk is available, it is not permissible for a pedestrian to walk in the roadway or in the bicycle lane. N.J.S.A. 39:4-34. Where no sidewalk is available, however, a pedestrian is to walk along the left side of the roadway or on the road's shoulder facing approaching traffic. Ibid.
If you or a loved one were a pedestrian or bicyclist injured in a motor vehicle accident and wish to discuss your legal options, Farrell & Thurman, P.C., offers a variety of convenient ways to schedule a free, no-pressure consultation. You may do so directly on our website (Schedule a Consult), via phone (609-924-1115), or by email (Contact Us).