The Law on Bicycles on the Sidewalk in New York City

The next time you are thinking about riding your bicycle on the sidewalk – think twice (or at least make sure there aren’t any police officers around)!  Indeed, you might be surprised to learn that it is illegal in New York City to ride your bicycle on the sidewalk, but it is.  Specifically, it is a violation of the New York City Administrative Code (Section 19-176).  The charge is normally a non-criminal violation punishable by up to a $100 civil penalty, and the violator would typically receive a summons.  However, it can also be a misdemeanor punishable by up to 20 days in jail where the police officer alleges that the conduct was so reckless as to endanger the property or lives of other people on the sidewalk.  In these latter more serious cases, it is not unheard of for a violator to get a Desk Appearance Ticket (DAT) or be outright arrested.  Notably, a misdemeanor conviction can give someone a criminal record, whereas a violation cannot.

There are other potential penalties as well: repeat offenders are subject to double-fines and violators of the misdemeanor version of this offense can have their bicycles impounded.   Fortunately, there are a variety of defenses to these charges as well.  Certainly, in the misdemeanor cases, it can be very helpful to retain the services of a defense attorney to present those defenses.

If you or a loved one have been issued a summons or arrested for a violation of this provision, you should consider contacting the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Galluzzo & Johnson LLP.  Our attorneys include former several Manhattan Assistant District Attorneys and avid cyclists.

The relevant text of the statute:

§ 19-176 Bicycle operation on sidewalks prohibited.

a. For purposes of this section:

(1) The term “bicycle” shall mean a two or three wheeled device upon which a person or persons may ride, propelled by human power through a belt, a chain or gears, with such wheels in a tandem or tricycle, except that it shall not include such a device having solid tires and intended for use only on a sidewalk by a child.

(2) The term “sidewalk” shall mean that portion of the street, whether paved or unpaved, between the curb lines or the lateral lines of a roadway and the adjacent property lines, intended for the use of pedestrians. Where it is not clear which section is intended for the use of pedestrians the sidewalk will be deemed to be that portion of the street between the building line and the curb.

(3) The term “child” shall mean a person less than fourteen years of age.

b. No person shall ride a bicycle upon any sidewalk unless permitted by an official sign.  A person who violates this subdivision may be issued a notice of violation and shall be liable for a civil penalty of not more than one hundred dollars which may be recovered in a proceeding   before the environmental control board.

c.  A person who violates subdivision b of this section in a manner that endangers any other person or property shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars or imprisonment for not more than twenty days or both such fine and imprisonment. Such person shall also be liable for a civil penalty of not less than one hundred dollars nor more than three hundred dollars, except where a hearing officer has determined that where there was physical contact between the rider and another person, an additional civil penalty of not less than one hundred dollars nor more than two hundred dollars may be imposed. Such civil penalties may be recovered in a proceeding before the environmental control board. Enforcement agents shall indicate on the summons or notice of violation issued pursuant to this subdivision whether physical contact was made between the rider and another person.  Any person who violates any provision of this subdivision more than once within any six month period shall be subject to the imposition of civil penalties in an amount that is double what   would otherwise have been imposed for the commission of a first violation.  It shall be an affirmative defense that physical contact between a rider and another person was in no way the fault of the rider.

d. Where a summons or notice of violation is issued for a violation of subdivision c of this section, the bicycle may be seized and impounded.

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