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Who Has the Right of Way? Pedestrians, Drivers, or Bicyclists?

Whether you choose to get around New York or any other city by car, bicycle, or your own two feet, you’ve probably had to make a quick decision about who has the right of way. Let’s delve into the specifics of who has the legal right of way according to New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law.


A don't walk street sign

Pedestrians must obey traffic signals to help avoid pedestrian accidents. They have the right of way when a traffic signal shows a “Walk” symbol and lose the right of way with a steady “Don’t Walk” symbol. When “Don’t Walk” is flashing, pedestrians already crossing the street have the right of way and can keep crossing, but pedestrians who haven’t started crossing shouldn’t enter the crosswalk.

If there are no pedestrian signals at an intersection with a traffic light, pedestrians must wait to cross when traffic going in the same direction has a green light. If a marked crosswalk has no traffic signals at all, drivers must yield to pedestrians. Pedestrians also have the right of way on sidewalks when a vehicle is pulling out of a driveway, alley, or private road.


Drivers approaching intersections must yield the right of way to whoever is already legally using the intersection. If two drivers approach an intersection simultaneously, drivers going straight or turning right have the right of way over a driver turning left.

When turning left into a driveway, parking lot, or alley, drivers must always yield to oncoming traffic. All drivers turning left must yield to any approaching traffic if it’s close enough to be potentially dangerous and cause a car accident. When there is no sign or signal at an intersection, and two vehicles approach the intersection perpendicular to each other, the driver on the right has the right of way.


The same right of way laws that apply to drivers also applies to bicyclists. Bicyclists are required to obey all signs and traffic lights, drive in the same direction as traffic, and signal when turning. A vehicle must give the right of way to a bicycle as it would to another vehicle and vice versa.

Build Your Case With Leav & Steinberg

If you’ve been in a transportation accident, you may be unsure of your rights and the steps to take to receive possible compensation. Work with the experienced transportation accident attorneys at Leav & Steinberg LLP. We’ll walk you through the claims process and help you build your case. Contact us online or call 212-766-5222 to schedule your free consultation with our dedicated team serving clients throughout New York.