Cycling crosswalk.

What Is Shoaling?

Midtown at midday. The Cross Bronx Expressway during rush hour. The toll plazas of mostly all bridges, most of the time. Seems like wherever you go in New York City, you’ll encounter a fair amount of traffic trying to get there. Some commuters might seek alternatives to driving, but these days, even the city’s bicycle lanes aren’t spared of this transportation headache.

When a bicyclist arrives at a red light, it’s common practice to stop neatly before the crosswalk. When a second cyclist arrives at the same red light, they’ve got a decision to make. Enter: shoaling. Instead of coming to a stop behind the original cyclist, a cyclist who “shoals” will overtake the first rider, stopping somewhat ahead of them, landing themselves squarely within the crosswalk. Unfortunately, shoaling has become something of an epidemic in this city. Nowadays, you’re more likely to encounter a rider who shoals than one who does not. This is a problem that, on busy days, can multiply perilously as more and more shoaling riders pile up, depositing themselves in ever-advancing pods, stretched out into the crosswalk and beyond.

Cycling purists can’t stand the practice, and city traffic coordinators consider it to be hugely dangerous. Instead of forming a tidy, single-file line, shoaling creates horizontal bunches of eager cyclists, branching dangerously and unpredictably into the potential lines of fire of vehicular traffic. City planners recognize the danger inherent to this sprawling mess. The cyclists being “cut in line” consider it downright rude. As cycling becomes a more and more popular alternative to driving, the shoaling problem is getting correspondingly worse. Throw Citi Bikes into the mix, and the oftentimes inexperienced cyclists atop them, and you’ve got a problem on your hands with no easy solution.

At the heart of the problem is the increased likelihood of crashes. When a cyclist takes for granted that they will sail past the stopped riders ahead of them, they may be less alert to the possibility of pedestrians and cars. Speeding recklessly into harm’s way is dangerous not only for the shoaling cyclists themselves but the unwitting pedestrians utilizing the crosswalk and for all motorists in the area, who may or may not realize the planned paths of these pedaling travelers.

In the next section, we’ll take a look at some heads-up cycling safety tips, which you can use to protect yourself on your next bike trip.


Cycling Safety Tips

Here are some “Bike Smart” safety tips, courtesy of

  • Take It to the Street: It may seem safer on the sidewalk, but all ordinary-sized bicyclists are required by rule to ride in the street. When possible, stick to the specially-designated bicycle lanes.
  • Stay in Line: Try to hold a straight line as you ride. Don’t slalom, swerve or turn unexpectedly.
  • Don’t Go Against the Grain: Ride with the flow of traffic, not against it.
  • Listen Up: Do not wear earbuds or other headphones while you ride. Your sense of hearing is an important component of safety awareness. If you’re unable to hear cars or other cyclists, you may not be able to avoid them in the event of an otherwise preventable accident.
  • Watch Out: Always be on the lookout for car doors opening. Riding your bicycle at moderate speeds will help you anticipate obstacles and stop in time to avoid them.
  • Brighten Up: Always wear brightly colored clothes, and affix the proper safety lights to the front and back of your bicycle. This will help keep you visible, and standing out helps to alert other riders to your presence.
  • Communication is Key: Use hand signals to let other riders know where you’re going, and when. Use the bell on your bike to alarm other riders when the situation calls for it.
  • Remember: Don’t shoal!
  • Wear a Helmet: Last but certainly not least, wear a helmet. It’s amazing how reluctant some people still are to wear such an integral piece of safety equipment. Helmets save lives. End of story. Riding without one is dangerous, foolish and ill-advised.


Kaplan Lawyers PC

Have you or a loved one suffered a cycling injury? Has the dangerous or negligent driving behavior of a NYC taxi cab or other vehicle led to an accident which you were involved in? At Kaplan Lawyers PC, we specialize in accidents of this type. As you recover from your injuries, we will fight determinedly to win you compensation in a court of law. This compensation will help cover your medical bills, and allow you to focus on recuperation, knowing that your legal matters are in New York’s safest hands. For a free and pain-free consultation, contact Kaplan Lawyers PC today.