Bicyclists, Motor Vehicles and Sharing the Road
GENERAL BICYCLE LAW
Pennsylvania's Motor Vehicle Code considers "pedalcycles" as vehicles and provides that every person riding a pedalcycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and responsibilities applicable to a driver of a vehicle, with certain exceptions discussed below.
If you ride in violation of the traffic laws, you greatly increase your risk of a crash and will likely be found at fault in the event of an accident.
- Anyone under the age of 12 must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. This applies to anyone operating the bicycle, riding as a passenger, or riding in an attached restraining seat or trailer. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation strongly recommends that all bicyclists wear helmets whenever they ride. Find more in biking gear.
RIDING ON THE ROADWAY
- Bikes may be ridden on the shoulder of the road (in the same direction as the flow of traffic) but are not required to do so.
- Bikes may also ride on the right half of the roadway as follows:
- On a multilane roadway, bikes may be ridden in the right-most travel lane.
- On a two-lane roadway, a bike may be ridden in the right lane.
- On a roadway with no center line, a bike may be ridden anywhere on the right side of the roadway.
- Bikes may move from the right lane:
- When overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
- When preparing to make a left turn.
- When an obstruction exists that makes it necessary to change lanes or cross the center line with due care.
- Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast (side-by-side), unless on paths or parts of a roadway set aside for exclusive use of bicycles.
- A bicycle or motor vehicle may, with good caution, treat an intersection with an inoperable or malfunctioning traffic signal as a stop condition when red or as a caution condition when green or yellow.
- Often signals with embedded detectors will not respond to the bike awaiting a green light, and this is treated as “inoperable” under law.
- Motor vehicles must allow 4 feet of distance when overtaking a bicycle and travel at a careful and prudent speed. It is the motorist’s responsibility to provide this distance, not that of the cyclist.
- Motor vehicles may also overtake a bicycle in a no-passing zone to avoid excessive delays, but this must be done with due care and while providing the required 4 feet of clearance.
- No person shall open any door on a motor vehicle unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with traffic flow.
- Cyclists may be injured or killed when a door is opened in their line of travel (dooring). Therefore, a distance of 4 feet should be kept between parked motor vehicles and the line of travel when riding along parked vehicles.
BICYCLING SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS
- Always wear a helmet. Pennsylvania law requires all cyclists under age 12 to wear an approved bicycle helmet.
- Obey traffic laws.
- Obey stop signs and red lights.
- Never ride against the flow of traffic.
- Be predictable:
- Ride in a straight line with at least one hand on the handlebars.
- Check to be sure your path is clear, and change directions without swerving.
- Use hand signals to indicate when you are turning.
- Make yourself visible:
- Consider wearing bright cycling clothes.
- Put reflectors on your wheels and on the front and rear of your bike.
- At night, a front light and rear reflector are required.
- Maintain your bike:
- Carry a pump, a patch kit and a spare tube.
- Take care of yourself:
- Carry plenty of drinking water and snacks for energy.
- Bring your cellphone in case of an emergency.
For more information on biking safety, visit the League of American Bicyclists Bike Education page.