Monday, September 22, 2014

PA state bicycle laws, in a nutshell

I sent the following to the members of the bicycle-and-pedestrian committee in Millvale a few weeks ago as input to a newsletter and cycling course they are planning. While I am not a Millvale resident and thus not a member of the committee, I am very interested in what Millvale plans to do concerning cycling there, as I bike through it a half dozen times a week.

* * *

I hope I can attend tonight's meeting, but there's a chance I cannot. That said, I have a few thoughts on the residents' manual on safe use of the roads.

State vehicle law directs how things should work. Here is a link to Title 75, Chapter 33, which contains many of the relevant statutes:
Modify the 33 to 31, 35, 37, or 38, as necessary, to see the other relevant statutes.

* Cyclists do need to stop at red lights and stop signs. (3111a)
* Cyclists in business districts should be in the street, not on the sidewalk (3508b)
* Cyclists who are on the sidewalk must give right-of-way to pedestrians (3508a)
* Cyclists have to use the right-hand lane, if there is more than one, but may use the full lane, at any time. (3301b2ii, 3301c1). 

The "as close as practicable" *does not mean* to hug the right edge of the road or ride very close to cars. That is dangerous. On every street in Millvale that I can think of, it is too narrow for cyclists to be anywhere but squarely in the center of the lane. Motorists simply have to change lanes to pass a cyclist if they can see to safely pass, and if they cannot, to get in line behind the cyclist and go his or her speed. This is not negotiable. (Also not popular, but too bad.)

The safest place for a cyclist to be, on any street, at any time, is in the left tire track, or just a couple inches to the right. NOT on the right edge.

There is no need to "get out of the way". It is perfectly legal to ride a bicycle 12 mph on a 25 mph street.

Lighting: Cyclists do need to be properly lit, with a headlight on the front, and at least a reflector in the back, if not also a blinking light. (3507a)

Traffic lights: If a traffic signal is supposed to detect the presence of a waiting vehicle, and does not detect a bicycle, the cyclist may proceed through the red signal after coming to a complete stop and ensuring there is no conflicting traffic. (3112c2)

* Motorists need to give four feet of space to pass a cyclist (3303a3), but may legally cross a double yellow center line (3301a6) if it is otherwise safe to do so (3305, 3307b1).
* Motorists may not "right-hook" a cyclist, i.e., drive just past them and turn right, nor "left-cross" a cyclist, i.e., turn left across an oncoming rider. (3331e)
* Motorists may not "door" a cyclist, i.e., open a car door such that the cyclist would hit it, or be knocked into the path of a following vehicle. (3705)

I'm sure I missed a couple, but this should provide a good start.


  1. A summary of Pennsylvania's bicycle laws, and how both cyclists and motorists should behave.

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