Pennsylvania Bicycle Safety Laws
Pennsylvania Bicycle Laws: Everything You Should Know
Over the years, one of the biggest threats to public safety is road accidents. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) secretary, one life lost is one too many, and the organization is working towards zero deaths.
Sadly, however, the number of traffic accident fatalities remains startling. Though there was a record low of 1,059 deaths in 2019, the number rose to 1,129. Among the most vulnerable to such crashes are cyclists.
Though there was a decrease in bicyclist injuries from 1,003 in 2019 to 799 in 2020, the number of fatalities rose from 16 to 22. For the lucky ones, they walk away from such incidents with minor injuries. But for some, it’s not the case.
Due to the evident disadvantage cyclists have, a bicycle crash with a vehicle can result in severe injuries. This is why it is essential to take every precaution possible when going out for a ride on your favorite route. An essential element for this is having a firm grasp on bicycle laws in Pennsylvania.
The purpose of such laws is to ensure that there is a safe coexistence between cyclists and motorists. Beyond this, they ensure you have the necessary protection from motorists who disregard road use laws and cause accidents.
If you love cycling in Pennsylvania, read on to learn some of the bicycle laws you should know and observe as well as the actions you can take if a car hits you.
General Bicycle Riding Laws
Under the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, pedal cycles qualify as vehicles, and cyclists on roadways have similar rights and responsibilities with motorists, but with a few exceptions.
Any violations of such laws either by cyclists and motorists increase the risk of accidents, for which the culpable party will be liable.
Due to the multiple scenarios in which collisions between cars and vehicles may arise, and the possible ramifications, there are many bicycle laws.
Some of the areas bicycle laws in Pennsylvania cover include:
Right to Road Laws for Bicyclists
As a cyclist, your right to use the road is equal to other motorists’. As such, you also bear the same duties and responsibilities, meaning you will be liable for any violations you commit.
Number of Riders and Bicycle Helmet Use
One of the most important safety regulations you should know about bicycle use in Pennsylvania is about correct usage. The law stipulates that a bicycle should not carry more people than it’s designed for.
Violating this rule increases the risk factor and compromises your chances of receiving compensation should you be involved in an accident. However, there is an exception to this rule. As an adult, you can carry a child in a sling or a backpack.
Although not all states have laws regarding helmet use, Pennsylvania has strict restrictions for some parts. For children under the age of 12, wearing a helmet is mandatory when riding a bicycle. Anyone beyond this age is not required to wear a helmet.
However, it’s important to appreciate the important role bicycle helmets play as they significantly reduce your chance of sustaining serious head and brain injuries.
Another key element of this law states that failure to wear a helmet does not qualify as contributory negligence should you sustain injuries after an accident.
Where You are Allowed to Ride a Bike in Pennsylvania
There are specific provisions for where cyclists should ride in Pennsylvania. To begin with, you should never ride your bicycle on the freeway. While on roadways, ensure that you ride in the direction of traffic as riding against it makes it difficult for you and motorists to navigate.
In most cases, you should ride on the shoulder of the road, although you can also ride in the right half of the roadway in the following scenarios.
- If you are on a roadway that does not have a centerline, you can ride anywhere on the right side
- You can occupy the right lane when riding in two-lane roadways
- When using a multilane roadway, you may use the lane on the far right
As you ride, it is important to remain in the right lane. However, you can move from the right lane if:
- You want to make a left turn
- You want to overtake another vehicle going in the same direction as you
- There is an obstruction on the roadway that makes it necessary for you to cross the centerline
When riding as a group, ensure that not more than two riders will be side-by-side, not unless you are on a path or part of the road that’s exclusively for bicycle riders.
There are also bicycle laws that are specifically designed for motorists. They include:
- Motorists overtaking cyclists have the responsibility to do so at a safe distance of at least 4 feet. While doing so, they should also maintain a reasonable speed.
- To avoid unnecessary delays in a no-passing zone, motorists are allowed to overtake cyclists but ensure they do so carefully and maintain a clearance of 4 feet.
Another important consideration for motorists and passengers who want to exit vehicles involves opening doors. They can only open the door when it’s reasonably safe to do so without interfering with traffic flow. The primary reason for this is dooring, which occurs when cyclists collide with doors opened in their line of travel.
In the same vein, vehicles should also be parked at a minimum distance of 4 feet from the line of travel.
Riding a Bike on Sidewalks
Cycling on sidewalks in Pennsylvania is permissible. However, it’s important to check with your municipality’s regulations as some restrict cycling on sidewalks only to persons under the age of 12 or 13.
You are not allowed to ride your bicycle on the sidewalk in a business district. The only exceptions for this are when there’s a lane reserved for bicycle use or when official traffic control devices permit it.
Bicycle Laws on Signaling
As a cyclist, there’s one thing you should respect when using the sidewalk; pedestrians have the right of way. Therefore, if you want to pass a pedestrian, you must use an audible signal for them to know you are approaching.
If you go for a ride between sunrise and sunset, there are additional requirements you must meet. These include:
- The bike should have a front lamp that emits white light visible from at least 500 feet
- The bike must have amber reflectors on both sides
- Having a red reflector light at the back of the bike that’s visible from at least 500 feet
Pennsylvania Bicycle Laws: Crosswalks
As a cyclist, one of the places that you should be most vigilant is crosswalks. Any time you are at a crosswalk, you should remember that motorists are not required to give you way as your bicycle also qualifies as a vehicle in PA. For safety purposes, it’s better to get off your bike and walk across.
What Options Do You Have When a Car Hits You?
Unfortunately for bikers, not many car and truck drivers respect your right to be on the road. This often results in collisions between cars and cyclists. When this happens, the common excuse for their distraction or disregard for the law is that they did not see the cyclists. Even so, this does not exempt them from their liability when such incidents occur.
Bicycle Collision Injuries
As a rider, you are at a significant disadvantage when you collide with a vehicle. Depending on the force of impact, you may be thrown off the bike and collide with vehicles, other bikers, streetlights, and other things around the road.
This may result in a wide range of injuries such as:
- Back injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
Depending on the severity of the injuries, you may require extended medical attention, and there may be life-long effects too.
Do You Need a Pennsylvania Bicycle Injury Lawyer?
After a collision with a vehicle, the injuries you sustain may come with significant ramifications. Beyond the medical expenses you may incur, you may also lose time from work, causing financial strain for you and your dependents.
As such, you may need to file a bicycle collision lawsuit to receive the compensation you deserve. Whereas you are not required by law to hire a bicycle accident lawyer, it’s in your best interest. Your attorney will help you:
- Determine the party liable for the accident
- Gather the necessary evidence for your lawsuit
- Calculate the value of your claim
- Negotiate with representatives from the insurance company
What Damages Can You Recover After a Collision With a Car?
One of the areas that often confuse people after cyclists are hit by cars is the damages available. This is because, under Pennsylvania law, motorists can either choose a limited or full tort insurance cover.
With limited tort, motorists can only receive compensation for the actual value of their medical bills, lost wages, and other direct costs you may incur. As such, there is no compensation for pain and suffering.
However, as a bicyclist, you enjoy the benefits of full tort coverage, regardless of your tort option on your auto insurance policy. This allows you to sue for pain and suffering in the event that you are injured in a collision with a vehicle. Since insurance companies do not expect you to know this, they may take advantage. This is why it is essential to hire a bicycle injury law firm to handle your legal matters.
Pennsylvania Bicycle Accident Lawyers Offering the Best Legal Support
After sustaining injuries due to a collision with a vehicle, legal counsel may be the difference between receiving the compensation you deserve and being left on your own. However, it’s not just about hiring a bicycle injury lawyer but choosing the right one. Your attorney should not only have experience and success with similar cases but also be empathetic.
Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys is a law firm that offers legal services for personal injury cases. Have you been involved in a collision with a vehicle while cycling? Contact us today to connect with one of our client-oriented bicycle injury attorneys and determine the legal steps you can take.
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