Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

Do cell talking and texting laws apply to bicyclists?

Q. I’m wondering about the new cell talking and texting laws. Do they apply to bicycles? I see a lot of young adults on bikes weaving in and out of the lanes of traffic, or in and out of the shoulder and when I drive by they appear to be texting. I think this is dangerous.

A. Well let’s start by looking at the responsibility of individuals who operate bicycles. In the Vehicle and Traffic law section 1231 addresses regulations of bicycles riding on a roadway:

§ 1231. Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles or skating or gliding on in-line skates. Every person riding a bicycle or skating or gliding on in-line skates upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this title, except as to special regulations in this article and except as to those provisions of this title which by their nature can have no application.
This section tells us that bicyclists must obey all of the rules of the road, when traveling on the roadway, unless the laws exclude a bicyclist.

Now the cell phone usage is found in section 1225.c of the Vehicle and Traffic laws. With respect to cell phone use the section reads:

“No person shall operate a motor vehicle upon a public highway while using a mobile telephone to engage in a call while such vehicle is in motion”

This section is specific to motor vehicles, not peddle power. If the bike was electrified (which I have seen) then that bike would be included under the section, if it is not, it is excluded, and a bicyclist may operate a cell phone while peddling on the highway.

The same language is found in section 1225.d, which deals with portable electric devices, which include texting. As long as the operator is using peddle power, and not motor power, they can text and ride.

However bicycles must obey all other rules of the road, including maintaining forward motion in one lane, not weaving between lanes, or if riding on the shoulder, not enter the roadway unless it is safe to do so. This means that if they are distracted due to using a cell phone or other mobile device, then they can’t use them. If an accident occurs and it is the fault of the bicyclist due to not following the rules of the road, then the bicyclist is at fault, not the driver of the car.

As always this is a general answer, to a general question. You should always consult your attorney about the specific issues that surround your specific needs.

If you have a question for Attorney Kukuvka, please forward it to: Cynthia M. Kukuvka, Attorney at Law, 330 E. Main St, Palmyra, NY 14522.