All cyclists in Pennsylvania should be aware of the traffic laws that apply to them. Bicycles are technically vehicles, so you must follow all the standard laws that apply to other vehicles. The state also has additional laws that apply specifically to bicycles that you will need to observe.
If you violate the laws, you put yourself at a greater risk of crashing, and you could be cited for the violation and liable for any damage you cause in an accident. The best way to avoid accidents and injury is to familiarize yourself with these Pennsylvania bicycle laws and safety rules, and stay mindful and alert when riding anywhere on your bike.
What are some of the general traffic laws that pertain to bicyclists?
Pennsylvania’s bike laws are in place to keep you and others on the road safe. Below are some of the key rules you need to know:
Limits on Where You Can Ride
You can ride your bike either on the shoulder of the road or the roadway itself, but you may not ride on freeways. On a two-lane road, you must ride in the right lane; on a multi-lane road, you must ride in the rightmost lane. You also cannot ride any more than two abreast. If you are riding your bicycle in a business district or any area where there is a bicycle-only lane available, you cannot ride on the sidewalk.
Since your bicycle is a vehicle, all common right-of-way laws apply when you are on the road. If you are on a bicycle path, you must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.
Rules about Using Signals When Riding
You must obey all traffic signals in accordance with standard Pennsylvania vehicle laws, i.e., stop signs, stop lights, railroad crossings, etc.
You also must use standard hand and arm signals when riding. This includes extending your left hand outward to signal a left turn, extending your left hand and arm upward to signal a right turn, and extending your left arm downward to signal a stop or change in speed. If you need a refresher in hand signals, you can download the NHTSA’s info sheet with illustrations.
Limits on What You Can Carry
You cannot carry more people on your bike than it is designed to have, i.e., no people may ride on the handlebars. You also cannot carry anything that prevents you from keeping at least one hand on the handlebars.
Rules about Parking Your Bike
Parking your bike in designated bike racks is recommended, but you are allowed to park your bicycle on a sidewalk as long as it does not impede pedestrian traffic. You can also park your bike on the curb or the edge of a roadway as long as it does not obstruct other vehicles.
What types of equipment do I need to have as a cyclist in Pennsylvania?
A minimal amount of bicycle safety gear is mandatory by Pennsylvania law. The general requirements for gear include the following:
- Brakes – You must have well-functioning brakes. They must be able to stop your bike within 15 feet when you apply them going 15 mph on dry ground.
- Helmets – Pennsylvania law requires all riders age 12 and younger to wear a helmet when riding. The helmet should meet the standards of the American Standards Institute, the American Society for Testing and Materials, and the Snell Memorial Foundation’s Standards for Protective Headgear for Use in Bicycling. Novelty helmets don’t count.
While helmets are not legally required for older riders, it is still highly recommended to wear one at all times when biking. Wearing a helmet reduce your risk of head injury by 50 percent, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
See our guide to choosing the right bike helmet.
- Lights and reflectors – Your bike must be fitted with a front headlight and rear and side reflectors that are visible from at least 500 feet. While not required, you may want to consider wearing reflective clothing if riding at night. The more visible you can make yourself to cars, the safer you will be.
Useful Resources for Bicyclists in Pennsylvania
There are a lot of useful resources available that can help you stay safe on the road and help you to avoid accidents and citations. Taking a bicycle safety course or workshop can teach you safe riding skills and may also include a safety inspection for your bike.
For example, in Philadelphia, the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia (BCGA) offers classes. In Lansdale, the Department of Parks and Recreation and the Police Department sponsor bicycle safety workshops. Check online for local classes in your area.
Below are a few other resources you may find helpful:
- The DOT’s Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver’s Manual
- Bicycle Safety Videos
- Statewide Bike Routes
- Map of bike routes in Pennsylvania
- Bicycle Safety at PA Safe Kids
- The NHTSA’s Bicycle Safety Activity Kit
- Cycling Safety Clinic Guide
What should I do if I am in a bicycle accident?
If you or a loved one is in a bicycle accident in Pennsylvania, you may be entitled to financial compensation. After dealing with any medical problems, you should begin collecting evidence regarding the accident and your injuries. To determine liability and how to recover damages, call the lawyers at Cordisco & Saile LLC for a free consultation.
Enlisting the help of a lawyer in your bicycle accident case is important for several reasons. First, motorists’ insurance companies may attempt to place blame for the accident on the cyclist. A lawyer can help deflect liability and hold negligent motorists responsible. Also, bicycle accident claims may be substantial in value because the injuries can be quite severe. Having a lawyer who knows how to negotiate claims will serve you well to ensure insurance companies don’t try to shortchange you.