All laws mentioned below were current as of August 2012 and may be subject to change.
Safe Passing Laws
Pennsylvania requires that the driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left of the bicycle within not less than four (4) feet at a careful and prudent reduced speed. Source: 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §3303
Pennsylvania requires that any person under the age of 12 riding a bicycle, as an operator or passenger, must wear a protective bicycle helmet. However, in no event shall the failure to wear a required helmet be used as evidence in a trial of any civil action; nor shall any jury in a civil action be instructed regarding violations of the law requiring helmets; nor shall failure to use a helmet be considered as contributory negligence. Source: 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §3510
Share the Road License Plates
Pennsylvania offers Share the Road license plates. For more information on such plates please click here. Source: 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §1358.1
Vulnerable Road User Laws
Pennsylvania does not have any vulnerable road user laws at this time. There are currently no national standards for laws protecting vulnerable road users, but the League of American Bicyclists has drafted a Model Vulnerable Road User statute, which you can find here. Source: N/A
Distracted Driving Laws
Pennsylvania currently has the following law aimed at distracted driving, subject to limited exceptions:
- No driver shall operate a motor vehicle on a roadway while using an interactive wireless communications device to send, read or write a text-based communication while the vehicle is in motion. Source: 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §3316
Where to Ride
Pennsylvania requires that a bicyclist, traveling at a speed less than the speed of traffic, must ride in the right-hand lane available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except:
- When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or
- When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into an alley, private road or driveway.
This requirement does not apply to:
- A bicycle using any portion of an available roadway due to unsafe surface conditions. A bicycle using a roadway that has a width of not more than one lane of traffic in each direction. Source: 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §3301
Pennsylvania allows bicycles to operate on sidewalks subject to the following rules:
- A person riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk used by pedestrians shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian. A person shall not ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk in a business district unless permitted by official traffic-control devices, or when a usable bicycle-only lane is available adjacent to the sidewalk. Source: 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §3508
Mandatory Use of Separated Facilities
Pennsylvania does not require that bicyclists use any lane or path other than a normal vehicular traffic lane. Source: N/A
Bicycling Under the Influence
In Pennsylvania, bicycles are defined as vehicles. Pennsylvania's law prohibiting driving while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances is written so that it applies to all vehicles and therefore applies to bicyclists. Bicycles should not be operated while intoxicated and operating a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances may result in severe punishments. Source: 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§3802; 102
"Idaho Stop" and Vehicle Detection Errors (PA Ride on Red Law)
The Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver’s Manual advises that a bicyclist that is not detected by a traffic light may legally proceed through a red light. The manual further states that “[i]f you ever have a crash or get a traffic ticket because a traffic light won't turn green, it's the fault of whoever installed the detector.” This guidance is based on the light being defective due to its inability to detect and accommodate bicyclists.
This guidance is likely based on Pennsylvania’s law regarding inoperable or malfunctioning signals, which instructs vehicular traffic facing a red or completely unlighted signal to stop in the same manner as at a stop sign and proceed in the same manner as one would proceed after making a stop at a stop sign. Unlike some other states, the law does not specifically say that a light that fails to detect a cyclist is defective, but the Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver’s Manual is produced by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation and so should be regarded as an official interpretation of Pennsylvania law. Source: Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver’s Manual, available by clicking here. 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §3112(c)(2). More information is available on the PA "Ride on Red" law by clicking here.
Authorization for Local Regulation of bicycles
Pennsylvania provides that its state traffic laws shall not be deemed to prevent local authorities on streets or highways within their physical boundaries from the reasonable exercise of their police powers. Regulating the operation of bicycles and requiring their registration and inspection, and the payment of a reasonable registration fee is presumed to be reasonable exercises of police power. Source: 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §6109
Pennsylvania requires that no person 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. In addition, no person shall leave a door open on a side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers. Source: 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §3705
Treatment as a Vehicle
In Pennsylvania bicycles are vehicles according to the statute that defines vehicles and a person riding a bicycle has all of the rights and duties of a driver of a vehicle under Title 75 of the Pennsylvania Statutes, except for special regulations specific to bicycles and those provisions that by their nature can have no application.
Source: 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§102; 3501
Source of Laws
The laws regulating the operation of bicycles in the state of Pennsylvania are generally found in Title 75 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes (Pa. Cons. Stat.), available here.
The following resources may be useful:
- Click Here for Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicle's Bicycle Driver's Manual
- Click Here for Bicycle Safety and Pennsylvania Laws