TRAFFIC LAWS

As a cyclist, you're likely to share the road with cars. If you know the laws, safety rules, and have the right attitude, you can be a confident, streetwise cyclist.

RIDING ON THE ROADWAY

Pennsylvania's 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.

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.

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EQUIPMENT

Riding a bicycle on a roadway with larger, faster-moving vehicles requires prudence and confidence. As a vehicle, you have a right to ride on the shoulder or the appropriate travel lane, and you will need to assert that right by using lane control.

Current motor vehicle code allows driver to overtake people riding in bike lanes even in no-passing zones if done with due care. Therefore, there is never a reason for bicyclists to encourage a motor vehicle to "squeeze by" in the same travel lane as even a 16-foot lane does not allow for the 4 feet of required clearance.

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.

SIDEWALKS

Pedestrians have the right-of-way on sidewalks and bicycle paths. You must give an audible signal as you approach and pass a pedestrian.

Automobiles are not required to yield to bicycles being ridden across a crosswalk (at a trail crossing for example) as the bicycle is treated as a vehicle. A better choice is to dismount and walk your bike across.

You are not permitted to ride a bicycle on a sidewalk in a business district (except where permitted by official traffic control devices) or where there is a bicycle-only lane available.

Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver's Manual

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