New Jersey is a bit of an interesting state when it comes to bike laws. It’s one of only four states which does not define bicycles a vehicle, although bikes as the same rights and duties as drivers. This means that it skates under the laws in some ways (sidewalk riding for example) and is still held to the same limits as cars in other ways (such as obeying all signs and traffic lights while riding). Most of the bike laws in New Jersey are ones that we would expect to see, but there are a few that are easy to overlook. What should you know about the bike laws in New Jersey?
Bikes Are Not Vehicles
This may not seem like an important distinction, and for the major things, it doesn’t really come up; however, New Jersey is one of only four states which does not consider bikes to be vehicles. It’s also a state that considers any public road and street that cars can run on-city streets and side streets alike-to be highways. The combination makes for an odd one because all the laws that govern bikes (and pedestrians) are found in the same Title (Title 39) as the laws around cars and roads, even though bikes are not cars since Title 39 deals with roads.
What does all this mean for cyclists? Well, there are laws around where bikes can be ridden and then there are gaps. A notable gap is sidewalks. Horses and cars are considered vehicles and so they aren’t allowed on sidewalks. Bikes are not vehicles, so they are allowed on sidewalks, unless local law prohibits it or states otherwise.
Where can you ride your bike?
- Cyclists are to ride as close to the right side of the road at all times and it’s on the cyclists to be careful when passing a stationary vehicle or another vehicle going in the same direction. Drivers are reminded to be mindful of cyclists, but there are no dooring laws in New Jersey
- Cyclists can only move to the left to make a left turn from a left turn lane or pocket, to avoid debris or other hazardous conditions, to pass slower vehicles, to occupy any lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic or to avoid traveling more than two abreast where traffic will not be blocked by doing so
- New Jersey does not require that cyclists use the bike lanes or paths where available, though it’s certainly not a bad idea to do so
- Shoulders on the road are not bike lanes and cyclists don’t have their full rights if they are riding in the shoulder. New Jersey is one of the only states to actually come out and say that.
The fact that cyclists have the same duties as drivers means that cyclists have to signal before making a turn, stop at all red lights and stop signs and give pedestrians in the crosswalks the right of way. New Jersey does not recognize the Idaho Stop; if the bike doesn’t trip the red light, cyclists either have to find a way to trip it over to green (by pressing the pedestrian crossing button for example) or wait until a car trip it.
Safety While Riding
New Jersey ranks about in the middle for bicycle accident fatalities-number 23 with most of the accidents happening in heavy urban centers. But New Jersey is also one of the few states which has more than the basics for safety equipment.
New Jersey requires that all riders under the age of 17 wear a helmet. This is relatively uncommon in the United States with many states not requiring helmets at all or requiring them for riders under the age of 16. Helmets are also required for people roller-skating, in-line skating, or skateboarding. It’s a good idea tot continue wearing a helmet after the age of 17 though because they are the best protection against traumatic head injuries in cases of an accident.
However, you don’t have to wear a helmet if you’re on a road that is closed to motor traffic such as trails, boardwalks or other paths that are set aside just for bikes, unless the these places are right by the road and are not separated by an y sort of barrier. We still recommend wearing one no matter what though. (Title 39:4-10.1)
Bikes that are going to be ridden in the night must have the following:
- A lamp at the front which emits a white light that can be seen from at least 500 feet
- A lamp at the rear that emits a red light that can also be seen from at least 500 feet
- You don’t need a reflector on the rear, but you’re certainly allowed (and encouraged) to have one
Bikes also have to be equipped with brakes that can make a bike skid on dry, clean pavement and, interestingly enough, a bell or another audible device that can be heard from at least 100 feet. These can’t be whistles or sirens, but bells are not only encouraged, but must be there by law.
Like most other states, it is illegal to attach a bike to a moving vehicle for the purposes of riding the bike while being towed and cyclists are to keep their feet on the pedals and hands on the handlebars. New Jersey even prohibits trick or fancy riding in the streets.
Electric Bikes in New Jersey
Electric bikes are legal to buy in New Jersey, as long as has a motor of less than 750 watts and a maximum speed of 20 miles per hour. It can have two or three wheels. As long as it follows these stipulations, it is considered a bike by federal law, which overrides at state law.
E-bikes in New Jersey though fall under the same banner as a motorized bicycle and there are laws regulating them. These include the fact that e-bikes must be titled and registered; however, e-bikes don’t have cubic inch displacement of at least 50 CCs which is required to register with MVC, so they fall into a weird grey area.
At the moment, it is not illegal to purchase, sell or own an electric bike; however, in many parts of New Jersey it is still illegal to ride one because they have to be registered, but due to the motor issues, cannot be registered. Advocates of electric bikes are working hard to push legislators to make e-bikes legal to ride, but at the moment it is quite grey and really depends on how much the police want to enforce the laws around e-bikes and motors. People often ride them anyway.
New Jersey is definitely one of the weirder states to navigate bike laws. Bikes are not considered vehicles, but they must follow the same obligations. Electric bikes are illegal to ride (sort of), but legal to buy and sell and own. And you must wear a helmet if you’re under the age of 17, but you don’t need to have reflectors. It’s definitely a good idea to stay on top of the bike laws in New Jersey because they are somewhat different from many other states! Enjoy riding.