Ride Single-File in These Upstate Towns Or Risk Arrest

Cyclists could face fines be arrested if they ride in packs in Orangetown and Bedford.

Photo:Southeast Discovery
Photo:Southeast Discovery

Cyclists love riding the scenic roads in the Hudson River valley, but a Draconian municipal law could have cops ticketing riders and even throwing them in jail if they ride side by side.

The Town Board of Orangetown unanimously passed a law cracking down on hordes of road warriors by mandating cyclists ride in single file at all times on any street in the bucolic Rockland County community.

Those who dare disobey the transit edict, which went into effect on June 10, could fork over a fine between $100 and $250 or face up to five days in jail. Repeat scofflaws could pay between $250 and $300 or serve up to 10 to 20 days in the pokey.

Apparently, upstate motorists were upset that cycling tourists wouldn’t move out of the way of cars on picturesque Route 9W, Route 340, and Route 304, Orangetown Supervisor Chris Day told the Journal News.

Other solutions to the problem could have been lower speed limits for cars or some weekend road closures, but instead the punishment was placed on cyclists. The town did not reach out to cycling groups for their position — though if it had, the cyclists would have likely pointed out that the Orangetown law is invalid since the state has a statute allowing cyclists to ride in pairs on the same side of the road.

“They do not have the authority to vary the state law,” cycling rights attorney Steve Vaccaro told Streetsblog. “People are trying to follow the rule, but if you try to arrest cyclists two abreast you’re going to have a legal challenge.”

Vaccaro argued the law is wrong because it is too vague and cyclists sometimes have to ride two abreast when they’re passing someone on the road. And bikers can’t be jailed for a traffic violation because then cops would have to read cyclists their Miranda rights — which promise that an attorney will be appointed for them.

“This will get very expensive for the town,” Vaccaro added. “They can’t apply jail as an ultimate penalty on the back end if they don’t do all that stuff on the front end.”

Day disagreed, saying he submitted the law to the state Department of Transportation and did not receive any feedback.

“The only thing this adds to (state) law is that instead of being allowed to ride two abreast when not overtaking or being overtaken, they need to ride single file,” he told the Journal News.

An Orangetown Justice Court official told Streetsblog she “hasn’t seen any tickets come across in the last week in the violation” and no one had been arrested for riding in groups.

Other “single file” laws are beginning to spread across the region.

The policy originated in Orangetown villages of Piermont, Grand View-on-Hudson, Nyack and South Nyack. Now the Westchester town of Bedford followed suit.

Cyclists are pondering how to fight back — and riding more carefully in the downstate towns just outside New York City.

“Some of the streets are extremely narrow and allow on-street parking, and you have to go over the double yellow to drive,” Vaccaro said. “But to say the cyclists are at fault is crazy.”

Weekend rides through the Hudson Valley are very popular among recreational cyclists who bring some concern for a small number of drivers, but also tends of thousands of dollars in revenue to local businesses.

12 thoughts on Ride Single-File in These Upstate Towns Or Risk Arrest

  1. It’s pretty simple: In narrow lanes, ride in the center or left-center of the lane, as the law permits. It’s obvious that a long line of single-file bicyclists is more difficult to pass than a shorter clump of two-abreast riders, but if that’s what the cities want, give it to them…

  2. A Rider beat me to the punch; that was exactly what I was going to post. The vehicle code allows bicyclists to take the lane in almost any circumstance, other than when there is an exceptionally wide lane present, which is rare. A long group, single-file, taking the lane will help drive home that point.

    This is one more reason I avoid NY. One of the most oppressive, big-government states in the Union.

  3. Uhh… Rockland County is NOT upstate, it is part of the NYC Suburban region. When people from NYC call the suburbs “upstate”, it is disrespectful and only serves to fuel the “don’t want NYC bikers in our town” attitudes — one that those of us bike advocates here are fighting against. So please, Streetsblog, a more constructive headline would have been “Ride Single-File in These Suburban Towns Or Risk Arrest”.

  4. > Upstate NY is where all the CHUDs go who’ve been priced out of NYC.

    That’s derogatory comment that, really, should be removed:

    1. Apparently, “Chud is an insult frequently used, by leftists, to deride members of the Alt-right or other right wing groups.” Does Streetsblog tolerate derogatory name-calling?

    2. It’s true that some pople move to Rockland County because they are priced out of NYC. But is this a reason to look down upon them? Are Rockland residents morally inferior to Bronx residents, who are also priced out of most of NYC?

    3. It’s also just not true. Rockland County voted 51.2% for Clinton in 2016; and also Democrats won all races in Rockland County in 2018.

  5. On to the content of this post… here in Rockland County, there is a widespread perception of cyclists as “out of towners” who arrive in droves on the weekend, disrupting the life of locals. Those of us in Rockland who use bicycles for transportation are actively working to change the conversation to cyclists as being locals and neighbors. Unfortunately, commuter cyclists have up to this point been invisible, as is evidence by single-file laws — which are unlikely to affect the typical commuter cyclist anyway. Cycling issues important to us in Rockland include 24/7 access to the new Tappan Zee Bridge, bikes-on-bus on the new HudsonLink bus system, . Even though single-file laws mostly affect out-of-towners, we are doing everything we can to engage in constructive conversation with local lawmakers about these single-file laws. Some help from advocates in NYC, rather than articles implying superiority over us, would be greatly appreciated. The Orangetown law was passed using a maneuver that caught everyone off guard; hence, there wasn’t even a single bicycle advocate at that meeting.

    > Apparently, upstate motorists were upset that cycling tourists wouldn’t move out of the way of cars on picturesque Route 9W, Route 340, and Route 304

    Again from a local perspective… Route 304 is a high-speec 4-lane highway, I don’t know any local cyclist who would be willing to use that road. Rockland County has too many roads like this; but we are making progress, with recent complete streets legislation and master plans. Still, this will take a LONG time to fix. In the meantime, I can only advocate using alternate routes to 304, of which there are many in Orangetown.

    Route 9W is also just not suitable for cyclists. Someone mentioned lowering speed limits: that was already done, from 45mph to 40mph. That doesn’t make the road suitable for bikes. Luckily, the Clarke Trail and River Road offer good parallel alternatives. Again, the ONLY cyclists I see on 9W are from out of town.

    Finally, Route 340: I’m not as familiar with it, and it looks less unsuitable for cycling than the other routes. But a decent rail trail runs parallel to it, so I would have little reason to use 340 instead.

    As others have pointed out… large groups taking the lane (as is required on 9W and 304 and probably parts of 340) will be no easier to pass than the same group riding double file. But again, nobody asked us.

    The main difference between NYC and suburban communities seemes to be that here in the burbs, the equivalent to NYC community boards actually have real power. So this is what we get.

  6. I totally agree with everyone else that this is a very stupid law. That said, I don’t recall ever riding with anyone except in a single line. Besides being more aerodynamically efficient, most bike infrastructure isn’t wide enough to safely accommodate two people riding side by side. Neither are the shoulders on most roads which lack any bicycle infrastructure, like these. While I realize you can take the lane and ride side by side in it, it’s not something I would feel comfortable doing on roads like those shown with 40 to 50 mph speed limits. Those limits are likely exceeded by large margins when traffic is light. I’m not keen on being buzzed by a bus or semi doing 70 mph.

  7. I don’t know whether it should be illegal, but riding two abreast is certainly inconsiderate, as it makes it more difficult for vehicles to pass, and therefore increases congestion.

    That in turn encourages drivers to take more risk when passing.

    There is precedent for inconvenient behavior becoming illegal. In California, for instance, you have to pull over if there are five or more vehicles waiting behind you.

  8. Tom writes:

    <>

    Not necessarily. Often times riding double file makes it more clear that motorists need to change lanes to pass, and when they do it takes less time to pass the group because it is shorter in length. Most roads have lanes that whose widths are too narrow to share anyways so overtaking motorists already need to make at least a partial lane change into the next lane to safely and legally pass even bicyclists riding towards the edge of the lane.

    <>

    This is incorrect, as explained somewhat above.

    <>

    A precedent where?
    CA’s law applies only on two lane roads and it’s for all drivers of vehicles, not just bicyclists. The law you mentioned wasn’t written specifically for cyclists nor was written as a response to issues cause by cyclists.

  9. Elizabeth Fischer: “Uhh… Rockland County is NOT upstate, it is part of the NYC Suburban region.”

    First of all, Upstate consists of everything in the State that sits north of New York City, just as Long Island consists of everything in the State that sits east of the City.

    Moreover, New York City’s metropolitan area extends into both Upstate and Long Island; therefore to argue “Rockland is not Upstate, it’s part of New York City’s suburban region” makes no sense, because it is both.

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