Bicycle Safety and Pennsylvania Bicycle Laws

Biking is a great way to get around – it’s great exercise, is less expensive than driving a car, and can make your commute or errands more enjoyable. However, bikers are still obligated to follow certain rules in Pennsylvania to help keep you safe. In this article, we cover the basic laws governing biking in Pennsylvania.

Can you Ride on a Sidewalk if there is no Bike Lane?

Generally speaking, bikers are permitted to ride on a sidewalk if there is no bike lane available except in a business district (unless it is explicitly permitted by official traffic control devices). However, it’s important that pedestrians on sidewalks have the right of way, and bikes must yield and give an audible signal before passing a pedestrian. Additionally, it is important to note that automobiles do not have to yield to bicycles crossing at a crosswalk, so PennDot advises cyclists to walk their bikes across crosswalks.

Do Bikes Follow the same Rules as Cars?

Under Pennsylvania law, bicycles are considered vehicles, just like cars, trucks, and motorcycles. Consequently, bikes must follow all of the same rules as cars, including obeying traffic control devices, following the same right of way laws, using appropriate turn signals, and even be equipped with proper lighting or visibility gear.

Do you Need to Wear a Helmet in PA when Biking?

Children under the age of 12 are required to wear a helmet when riding a bike. Adults are not required to wear a helmet under Pennsylvania law. However, it is strongly recommended that all bicyclists wear a helmet when out riding.

What happens if Bikers do not use Hand Signals and Cause an Accident?

Pennsylvania bicyclists are required to use hand/arm signals before making or turn or stopping. The appropriate hand signals are as follows:
To turn left, extend your left arm and hand out horizontally
To turn right, you can either extend your right hand and arm our horizontally, or you can extend your left arm out, with your hand upwards.
To stop or slow down, extend your left arm out with your hand downwards.
If you fail to perform one of these signals, and that failure results in an accident, you may be found at fault for the accident.

Where can you Ride a Bike (on the Road) in PA?

There are some limitations to where you can ride your bike in Pennsylvania. You cannot ride your bicycle on a freeway or highway in the state. Otherwise, you must ride your bike in the roadway, either on the shoulder of the road or in a bike lane. If there if no bike lane, you may ride on a sidewalk. Bicyclists in Pennsylvania must ride with the flow of traffic, in the right-most lane.

When can Bikes Move Out of the Right Lane?

There are some situations when a biker in Pennsylvania can leave the right lane while biking. Those situations include:
When there is an item or obstruction blocking the roadway.
When preparing to make a left turn
When passing a vehicle that is traveling in the same direction as the biker.
It’s important to remember that even when a bicyclist leaves the right lane lawfully, they should still do so with caution to avoid a collision with another vehicle, and should return to the right-hand lane as soon as it is safe to do so.

What are the Rules around Passing a Bike if you are in a Car?

Pennsylvania law requires that motor vehicles leave at least four feet of space between their car and a bicyclist when passing a biker. If the vehicles are in a no-passing zone, a motor vehicle may still pass the bicyclist in order to avoid significant traffic delays. However, a motor vehicle driver must still pass with four feet of space. In every case, it is the driver’s responsibility to ensure that the requisite amount of space is maintained between the car and the bike – not the biker’s responsibility.

Who is at Fault if a Driver Opens a Car Door and a Bike Hits it?

In Pennsylvania, an individual who opens a door in the path of a bicyclist can be found liable for the accident if the biker can demonstrate that the car door was opened negligently. For example, this could mean that the vehicle driver did not look to see if bike traffic was coming. In some cases, however, a bicyclist can also be found at fault. For example, if the biker is weaving in and out of traffic in a manner that would make it difficult for a driver to see a biker

Do Pedestrians Have the Right of way over Bikes?

Yes, pedestrians have right of way over bikes. More specifically, pedestrians have right of way on both sidewalks and bike paths. Bicycles must also yield to pedestrians at crossways and intersections.

What Safety Equipment is Mandatory for a Bike in PA?

All bikes must have a front-facing white light and a red rear reflector or rear red light that is visible from at least 500 feet. Bikes must also have an amber reflector on both sides. Additionally, bikes are required to have operational brakes. While not required, it is a good idea to also equip your bike with mirrors and always wear a helmet.

How can Carpey Law help in the case of a Bike Accident?

If you are in a bike accident, and sustained injuries, you may be entitled to compensation from the other vehicle. Carpey Law can help determine if you or the other vehicle obeyed all PA laws relating to bicycles and who is at fault. If needed, Carpey Law can file a lawsuit on your behalf and manage your case through resolution. If you’ve been in a bike accident, contact us today to learn about your options.