New Jersey law gives a cyclist the same rights and responsibilities that the driver of a motor vehicle has. This means that cyclists can ride their bike on the roads the same as a motor vehicle and also means that they have the same right-of-way rules as a motorist (NJS 39:4-14.1).
Motor Vehicle v. Pedestrian
So, when a cyclist is riding in the streets with a motor vehicle, then all the same rules of the road apply, and generally speaking, a motor vehicle should yield to the right-of-way of any pedestrian. Typically, this comes when a pedestrian is in a crosswalk, crossing a road on in a parking lot, and each has the right-of-way depending on the circumstances. However, civil law requires a motorist to use due caution when driving where pedestrians are at, even when the motorist has the legal right-of-way.
Bike v. Pedestrian
However, there are times when cyclists ride their bikes other than on the roads, and when that happens, the pedestrian typically has the right-of-way.
If a cyclist is riding on a bike path (a path that is not on the streets or roadways), then the law gives the pedestrian the right-of-way. This is because a pedestrian is slower-moving and typically is the one being passed. Thus, a cyclist has to give the pedestrian due caution and the right-of-way when approaching on a bike path.
New Jersey law requires each bike to be equipped with a bell, which is to be used to alert pedestrians in certain settings (NJS 39:4-11). The law requires the cyclist to ring the bell to alert a pedestrian when traveling within 100 feet of the pedestrian.
New Jersey law allows cyclists of any age to ride on sidewalks but also allows local municipalities to pass rules prohibiting or restricting bike riding on sidewalks in their jurisdiction. This means that in many cities and counties across the state, bicycles and pedestrians will be on the sidewalk together. When this happens, the pedestrian is going to have the right-of-way.
The same requirement for ringing a bell is in place when a cyclist is riding on a sidewalk if not disallowed by the local city.
When a cyclist is riding on a sidewalk, they will then come upon a crosswalk the same as a pedestrian. In these cases, the cyclist is allowed to use the sidewalk the same as a pedestrian, except that it must give the pedestrian the right-of-way and use the bell as in other places where both are allowed.
The bottom line is that wherever bikes and pedestrians are, then the cyclist has to give the pedestrian the right-of-way. When a bike is operating in the street with motor vehicles, then the same right-of-way rules apply concerning pedestrians.
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