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Bicycle Right-of-Way Laws in Pennsylvania

Bike lane on road

Bicycles are a fun and efficient way to get around the city. Whether you’re riding to work, the park, or just for exercise, you should know the laws for bicyclists before pedaling. A bicycle accident can be extremely dangerous, and not following bicycle laws increases the risk of accidents.

Overall, there’s been a decline in bike accidents, but just under 800 bicyclists were killed last year in traffic, as reported by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA). Bike accidents happen more frequently in urban areas, and according to the People Powered Movement, Philadelphia is in the top 10 most dangerous cities for cyclists.

Keep reading to learn how to avoid crashes on your bike by knowing the rules of the road.

Most Essential Bicycle Laws

Bicycles are called pedalcycles in the Pennsylvania’s Motor Vehicle Code, and are granted all the same rights as motor vehicles. Since you follow the same laws as motorists, bicyclists are considered part of the traffic pattern and must ride in the same direction as traffic on the roadways. Here are some of the most important bicycle right-of-way laws in Pennsylvania:

  • Ride on the right. Bicyclists can ride on the shoulder, otherwise you should ride on the right-most travel lane no matter the number of lanes. Cyclists can only ride on the left-most travel lane if it is a one-way street, or if you are anticipating making a left-hand turn.
  • Use arm signals. Since bicycles don’t have signals like vehicles do, cyclists are required to use arm signals when making turns or stopping. This helps motorists around you predict what you are about to do.
  • Motorists can pass you. Drivers can pass bicyclists in a no-passing zone but must reduce speed, use caution, and give the cyclist 4 feet of clearance. It is illegal for a motorist to open their door in traffic, but always use caution when riding near other vehicles.
  • Use caution at intersections. A driver turning right while a cyclist is going straight through an intersection must not cross the path of a cyclist. When turning left, it is safest to wait in the middle of the intersection so that all drivers can see you. If a signal does not detect you, you can use your best judgement and cautiously turn on red. After completing the turn, return to the right side of your lane.
  • Avoid sidewalks. On sidewalks and bicycle paths, pedestrians have the right-of-way. If you’re riding on either one of these, you must give an audible signal as you approach and pass them.
  • No freeways. Bikes are not permitted to ride on freeways that are marked for motor vehicles only.

Other Pennsylvania Bicycle Laws

If you are planning on riding your bike in Pennsylvania, there are still some laws and tips left that you need to know. Some other regulations are:

  • You cannot wear headphones or earbuds while operating a bicycle.
  • Children under 12 must wear a helmet.
  • At night, a bicycle must have a headlight and a rear reflector or light.

This isn’t a law, but when crossing the street at a crosswalk, it is best to dismount and walk your bike across. This way, vehicles must treat you as a pedestrian. If you were to ride across, they would treat you like another vehicle and would not have to yield to you. But as a pedestrian, they have to yield to you.

If you have any questions about bicycle law, a helpful resource is the Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver’s Manual.

Riding a bike among vehicles can get dangerous quickly. If you’ve been in a bicycle accident in Philadelphia that was caused by negligence, you could have serious injuries, large medical bills, time off work, and emotional trauma to work through. The attorneys at Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco can take care of the legal side of things while you focus on healing. Contact us today and we can help you get compensation for you damages.

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