The Fourth Department, reversing Supreme Court, determined the recreational use statute (General Obligations Law 9-103(1)(a)) did not apply to the sidewalk on which plaintiff was riding his motorized bicycle when he fell. Therefore defendant was not entitled escape liability based upon the statute. The sidewalk was along a busy road on the Syracuse University campus and therefore was not designed or suitable for recreational use:
General Obligations Law § 9-103 (1) (a) provides that “an owner, lessee or occupant of premises . . . owes no duty to keep the premises safe for entry or use by others for . . . bicycle riding . . . or to give warning of any hazardous condition . . . on such premises to persons entering for such purposes.” The statute was enacted to “induce property owners, who might otherwise be reluctant to do so for fear of liability, to permit persons to come on their property to pursue specified activities” … . The rationale for the statute is that “outdoor recreation is good; New Yorkers need suitable places to engage in outdoor recreation; [and] more places will be made available if property owners do not have to worry about liability when recreationists come onto their land” … . The statute applies when two conditions are met: (1) the plaintiff is engaged in one of the activities identified in section 9-103 and (2) the plaintiff is recreating on land suitable for that activity … .
… In evaluating the suitability of a property for a particular activity, courts look to whether the premises is the “type of property which is not only physically conducive to the particular activity or sport but is also a type which would be appropriate for public use in pursuing the activity as recreation” … . … [W]e conclude that plaintiff sufficiently alleged that the sidewalk at issue was not appropriate for public use in pursuing the recreational activity of bike riding. Plaintiff alleged that the sidewalk area where [plaintiff] fell was not designated by defendant for bike riding and was situated along a busy campus roadway near the front entrance of an academic building containing classrooms and offices. Such a property is not appropriate for public use in pursuing bicycle riding as a recreational activity … . Inasmuch as the recreational use statute does not apply here, the court erred in granting the motion [to dismiss]. Delaney v Syracuse Univ., 2024 NY Slip Op 00731, Fourth Dept 2-9-24
Practice Point: General Obligations Law 9-103 allows property owners to open up their property for recreational use, including bicycling, without fear of liability for injury to those using the property for recreational purposes, Here the sidewalk on which plaintiff was riding when he fell was nether designed nor appropriate for recreational use. Therefore the property owner could not take advantage of the recreational-use statute to escape liability.