October 29, 2016

There are a number of laws in place in Pennsylvania to protect cyclists from getting injured from a crash with a motorist.

In 2014, the most recent year for which data is available, 1,298 bicyclists in Pennsylvania suffered an injury due to a crash with a motor vehicle. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, 19 cyclists lost their lives that year.

Many of these accident may have been prevented, as the DOT states that the majority of the injurious incidents happened during daylight. Further, the majority of those who suffered injuries were at an intersection. Understanding how to share the road can keep cyclists and motorists safe.

What are cyclists required to do?

Under Pennsylvania law, a bicycle is considered a vehicle and therefore must obey traffic laws the same way a car would. As such, a bicycle is also granted the same rights as a car when it comes tosharing the road or riding on a path designated for a bike. In general, cyclists must do the following:

  • Ride along the shoulder in the same direction traffic is moving
  • Ride in a single-file line unless riding on a designated bicycle path
  • Have a front lamp for riding at night and a braking system

Though only children younger than 12 are required to wear a helmet, the DOT urges cyclists of all ages to do so.

What can motorists do?

Though there is no specific law regarding how motorists should behave around cyclists, the common-sense approach is to obey traffic laws and be aware of one’s surroundings. When there is a bike nearby, vehicles should be sure to give the cyclist plenty of space. Experts recommend that when passing a bicycle, motorists should leave at least 3 feet of space between the vehicle and bicycle.

Further, overtaking a bicycle should only be attempted when conditions are safe. When in doubt, it is best to wait until conditions improve, such as getting off a curve and onto a straight road or waiting until oncoming traffic passes.

What if an accident occurs?

Despite taking all the appropriate safety measures, it is possible that accidents will still happen. Drivers may be distracted and not realize a cyclist is nearby. When an incident occurs, cyclists do have the right to hold the negligent party responsible for damages. Filing a personal injury lawsuit can help someone recover compensation necessary to pay for items such as hospitalization, surgery and other medical costs.

The state law mandates that any such claim must be brought within two years of the incident. Failing to initiate a lawsuit in that timeframe could result in a case dismissal. People who have questions about this topic should speak with a personal injury attorney in Pennsylvania.