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Explainer Series #8: Biking in Princeton

Welcome to our explainer series, taking important topics and going deeper!

It’s like riding a bike!

Biking is a great way to get around; it’s lower impact than running, faster than walking, and more exciting than sitting in a car! More and more people are catching onto this, using bikes to commute to work, run errands, and exercise. But before you hit the road or trails in New Jersey, it’s important to understand the laws and regulations governing biking in the state. Cyclist and pedestrian deaths reached a 30-year high in 20211, despite more laws and Complete Streets approaches. Though it might seem like cars rule the world, pedestrians, cyclists, wheelchair users, and other road users have the right to exist together and feel safe when on the streets. We should take care to protect each other’s safety!

Bicycles parked
Shared lanes vs Bicycle lanes

What rules do bicyclists have to follow?

You know how to ride a bike, but make sure you know how to drive it! Cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists. They must ride in the same direction as cars, yield to pedestrians, and follow road signs and traffic lights. Shared lane markings, or “sharrows,” are distinct from bike lanes. Sharrows indicate a shared space on the road for both cars and bikes. Ideally, this brings legitimacy to the cyclist and urges motorists to be more aware of any cyclists sharing the lane. Bicycle lanes mark an exclusive space, adjacent to the flow of car traffic.2

Cyclists have the legal right to take the whole lane as well as ride two across, so long as they ride as far to the right as possible. Like motorists, bikers must pay attention to the road and watch for people and other obstacles, giving themselves enough space to avoid collisions. In the absence of sidewalks, pedestrians are permitted to walk on the road, facing traffic.3

What safety equipment do you need?


To be equipped for safe biking, all riders under 17 are required by law to wear a helmet4, though everyone is safer with one. Cycling is responsible for more head injuries than any other sport or recreational activity!5


When riding at night, bicyclists must have a front white-light headlamp and a rear red-light lamp, both visible from at least 500 feet in both directions. Additionally, a red reflector, visible from all distances 50 to 300 feet to the rear, may be mounted on the back of the bike.6

Bells and Brakes

Bikes must have a bell or other device (but not a siren or whistle) that can be heard from at least 100 feet away.7 Also required is a brake that can make the wheels skid on pavement.8

Copy of Bike to Work Starter Kit

NJ Safe Passing Law

The NJ Safe Passing Law went into effect in March of 2022 to protect “vulnerable road users.” 

  • Drivers must follow all current no-passing, no speeding laws AND move over a lane if there’s one to move into.
  • On a single-lane road, drivers must allow at least a 4-foot safety zone when they pass.
  • If 4 feet is not possible on a section of road, drivers must slow to 25mph and be prepared to stop until they can pass safely without endangering those sharing the road.9
Safe Passing Flyer 2023 1 600x464 1

What can you do?

Princeton has a bikeability score of 8810, meaning most trips can conveniently be done by bike! Following the rules of the road allows you to safely share the road with cars. You can watch Elana bike to work to pump yourself up. Remember to walk your wheels on the sidewalk. There are also plenty of trails to enjoy!

You can find some more resources from Princeton’s Pedestrian & Bicycle Advisory Committee here, and Princeton area maps here. For more trails, try the Lawrence Hopewell Trail or the D&R Canal! The New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition has information on trails all over the state.

By following these laws and guidelines, cyclists can enjoy riding safely in New Jersey, whether it’s for recreation, commuting, or just getting around town. So, grab your helmet, obey the rules of the road, and enjoy the ride!

Want to learn more?

We will be sharing our explainers every month. If there are topics you’d like to know more about, please email

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