Many bike accidents in Pennsylvania are caused by drivers or bikers not fully understanding the law. Typically, this is the fault of the driver, as many laws require them to look out specifically for bikers in certain circumstances, yet many drivers fail to do so.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse, but it can also be downright dangerous for bikers who are left extremely vulnerable when they get hit by a car. The injuries that they can suffer in a bike accident are often severe and require the skills of a personal injury attorney to get the compensation they need to make a full recovery.
Knowing the bike laws in Pennsylvania, therefore, is one of the best ways to avoid car accidents with bicyclists.
Pennsylvania's Vehicle Code
Pennsylvania's Vehicle Code is where you can find all of the laws and rules of the road. This includes everything from what to do at a stop light, when you can pass on the left, and the types of lights that tractor-trailers need to have in working order to drive at night.
The Vehicle Code is also where you can find the numerous rules and regulations that deal with cyclists in the state of Pennsylvania.
Here are some of the most prominent and important laws regulating cyclists in the state. Note, though, that there are numerous others that have not been included.
The General Rule: Road Rules Apply to Bicycles
The most important rule to remember is that, unless otherwise specified, the rules of the road that apply to cars and trucks also apply to bikers in Pennsylvania. This is 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §3501, which grants “all of the rights and… all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle” to people riding bikes.
This section is important to keep in mind, as you read the rest of the bike laws in Pennsylvania: bikes fall within the category of “vehicles” throughout the Vehicle Code.
Bikes are to Ride as Far to the Right as Possible
Another crucially important bike law in Pennsylvania is found at 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §3301(c). This law requires bikers to ride “as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.” There are, however, four exceptions:
- When the biker is passing another vehicle going the same direction
- Preparing for a left turn at an intersection
- When the roadway has unsafe surface conditions for a bike
- When the roadway has “a width of not more than one lane of traffic in each direction”
Safe Passing Law
Out of all the states in the country, Pennsylvania has one of the best Safe Passing Laws for bikers. 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §3303(a)(3) requires vehicles and car drivers who want to pass a biker on the road to give the biker four feet of space while passing. The law also requires passing vehicles to pass “at a careful and prudent reduced speed.”
This law is one of the most generous in the country for bikers. Most other states only require four feet of passing space in certain circumstances. Only a few others require passing vehicles to slow down while passing a biker.
Pennsylvania's bike laws are also fairly generous in that they protect bikers against vehicles that blindly turn right. 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §3331(e) requires drivers who are turning right not to “interfere with a pedalcycle proceeding straight.”
This regulation is aimed at drivers who make a right-hand turn without looking in their right mirror for approaching bikers. Accidents like these are especially problematic for bikers because there is no place for them to go to avoid the crash.
Bike Helmets Required for Children
Pennsylvania's bike law is one of only about half of the states that speaks on the issue of bike helmets. 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §3510 requires all bikers under the age of 12 to wear a bike helmet at all times, regardless of whether they are riding the bike or just a passenger on one.
Pennsylvania's “Dooring” Law
Pennsylvania is also one of the few states that has a “dooring” law. 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §3705 prohibits vehicle drivers from opening or leaving open “any door on a motor vehicle unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic.”
Opening car doors into the stream of traffic is especially dangerous for bikers, who are required to remain as close as practicable to the right-hand side of the road. Having a law on the books prohibiting this practice helps to protect bikers, and gives hurt bikers a means of obtaining the compensation they deserve after a crash they did not cause and could not avoid.
Biking Under the Influence
Some states have laws against driving under the influence (DUI) that only pertain to “motor vehicles.” Because bikes do not have a motor, bikers cannot technically drive drunk in these states.
Pennsylvania, however, is not one of them. 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §3802 prohibits driving “a vehicle” while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This includes bikes.
Turning Left at an Intersection on a Bike
Finally, one of the most dangerous and harrowing experiences that bikers face on the roads of Pennsylvania is turning left at an intersection. Doing this correctly requires applying several different bike laws, and depends on whether there is a designated lane for left turns at the intersection:
- If there is a designated lane for turning left at the intersection, bikers are required to take the turn from the right side of this lane
- If there is not a designated lane for turning left at the intersection, bikers are required to take the turn from the left side of the left-most lane
Bicycle Accident Attorneys at Gilman & Bedigian
If you or someone you love has been hurt in a bike accident in Pennsylvania, contact the personal injury lawyers at the law office of Gilman & Bedigian for the legal representation you need.