Cycling Law NJ: When It’s OK to Occupy a Lane of Traffic

Did you know: In NJ, if a road has no or very little shoulder a bicyclist may occupy the lane of traffic and automobiles must treat the cyclist like another vehicle. #CyclingLawNJ

Bicycling in New Jersey is regulated under Title 39 of the Motor Vehicles and Traffic Regulation laws.

N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.1 Rights and Duties of Persons on Bicycles:

Every person riding a bicycle on a roadway is granted all the rights and subject to all of the duties of the motor vehicle driver.

N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.2, 39:4-10.11 Operating Regulations:

Every person riding a bicycle on a roadway shall ride as near to the right roadside as practicable exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction. A bicyclist may move left under any of the following conditions: 1) To make a left turn from a left turn lane or pocket; 2) To avoid debris, drains, or other hazardous conditions on the right; 3) To pass a slower moving vehicle; 4) To occupy any available lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic; 5) To travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded, but otherwise ride in single file. Every person riding a bicycle shall ride in the same direction as vehicular traffic.

 

6 thoughts on “Cycling Law NJ: When It’s OK to Occupy a Lane of Traffic”

    1. As a further reply, N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.2, 39:4-10.11 provide: Every person riding a bicycle on a roadway shall ride as near to the right roadside as practicable exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction. A bicyclist may move left under any of the following conditions: 1) To make a left turn from a left turn lane or pocket; 2) To avoid debris, drains, or other hazardous conditions on the right; 3) To pass a slower moving vehicle; 4) To occupy any available lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic; 5) To travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded, but otherwise ride in single file. Every person riding a bicycle shall ride in the same direction as vehicular traffic.

      The key language is “shall ride as near to the right roadside as practicable”. That would be the shoulder of the road.

  1. It is ALWAYS legal for bikes to occupy a lane of traffic. It is ILLEGAL for bikes to ride on the shoulder.

    39:4-14.1 Rights, duties of bicycle riders on roadways, exemptions.

    16. a. Every person riding a bicycle 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 chapter four of Title 39 of the Revised Statutes and all supplements thereto except as to those provisions thereof which by their nature can have no application.

    Since vehicles are allowed to occupy a lane, bikes are allowed 100% of the time. Since vehicles are not allowed to occupy shoulders, bikers are not allowed 100% of the time.

    1. Absolutely false interpretation of the law. This is called a logical fallacy, much like the witch scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Your logic fails like this: For purposes of right of way, bicycles are treated like vehicles; because bikes are treated like vehicles, bikes are vehicles; since vehicles are not ever allowed in the shoulder (which in and of itself is incorrect), bikes are never allowed in the shoulder.

      The error is that bikes are not vehicles. Bikers ARE allowed in the shoulder at all times (in the same direction of traffic). This is the part of the statute that reads “except as to those provisions thereof which by their nature can have no application.” Further, vehicles ARE allowed in the shoulder in certain circumstances – to avoid an accident; when it is safe to pass on the right; when an emergency vehicle needs to pass; and other situations.

      By your analysis, a biker can’t even be in the shoulder to avoid an accident with a vehicle. That is an absurd interpretation.

      Be careful to make such assertions without more careful analysis and don’t provide legal analysis unless you have a license to practice law and have actually handled a case involving the referenced statute.

      1. Rob:

        Are you POSITIVE about this? It would seem that the statutes are pretty specific about riding on the shoulder:

        In 2012, the NJ Supreme Court (POLZO v. COUNTY OF ESSEX) said the following:

        The “roadway” is “that portion of a highway . . . ordinarily used for vehicular travel,” whereas the “shoulder” is “that portion of the highway, exclusive of and bordering the roadway, designed for emergency use but not ordinarily to be used for vehicular travel.” N.J.S.A. 39:1-1 (emphasis added); see also Hochberger v. G.R. Wood, Inc., 124 N.J.L. 518, 520, 12 A.2d 689 (E. & A.1940) (“The shoulder is not designed nor constructed for general traffic uses but is rather for emergency uses such as parking of vehicles disabled or otherwise.”); Sharp v. Cresson, 63 N.J.Super. 215, 221, 164 A.2d 503 (App. Div.1960) (“It is clear that the Legislature did not intend that the shoulder of a road be used for ordinary travel.”). A “vehicle” is defined as “every device in, upon or by which a person or property is or may be transported upon a highway, excepting devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks or motorized bicycles.” N.J.S.A. 39:1-1 (emphasis added). By the Motor Vehicle Code’s plain terms, roadways generally are built and maintained for cars, trucks, and motorcycles—not bicycles. Even the Pothole Primer—relied on by plaintiff—defines a pothole as a “pavement defect” that will “cause significant noticeable impact on vehicle tires and vehicle handling.” Pothole Primer, supra, at 6 (emphasis added).

        A bicycle rider on a roadway is vested with all the “rights” and “duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle” under Title 39, chapter four of our Motor Vehicle Code. N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.1. Under the Motor Vehicle Code, “[e]very person operating a bicycle upon a roadway [is required to] ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable.” N.J.S.A. 39:4-14.2. Bicyclists do not have special privileges on a roadway’s shoulder. Indeed, a bicycle rider is directed to ride on the furthest right hand side of the roadway, not on the roadway’s shoulder. The Motor Vehicle Code does not designate the roadway’s shoulder as a bicycle lane.

        So, if a motor vehicle and a bicycle have substantially the same rights and duties and a motor vehicle isn’t allowed to travel on the shoulder (except in limited circumstances), doesn’t the same hold true for bicycles?

        1. I don’t think we are in disagreement here. If you re-read the post, I began with “if a road has no or very little shoulder” to argue there are times that a bicyclist has the right of way on the roadway. Your comment doesn’t contradict that. Of course bicyclists are required to ride as far right in the roadway as possible, but, as a vehicle, they are not allowed to impede other vehicles. “No vehicle or street car shall be permitted by the owner or driver thereof to so occupy a street as to interfere with or interrupt the passage of other street cars or vehicles, nor shall the driver of a vehicle or street car drive such vehicle or street car into an intersection if preceding traffic prevents immediate clearance of the intersection.” N.J.S.A. 39:4-67.

          From a pure safety standpoint, where else would you have the bicyclist ride? The shoulder is the safest portion of a road to enable the cyclist to obey all of the referenced code sections. If there is no shoulder, the cyclist must use the roadway, albeit to the likely anger of the motor vehicle drivers behind him/her. Otherwise, the cyclist would have no roads on which to ride and comply with the seemingly contradictory laws.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *