What Are Injured Cyclists’ Legal Rights in Pennsylvania?

September 15, 2023

As a cyclist, you have clear legal rights under Pennsylvania law. Many of these rights—and the corresponding responsibilities for drivers—are intended to help protect you on the road.

Unfortunately, drivers don’t always respect cyclists’ rights. Whether they don’t know cyclists’ rights or they choose to ignore them, drivers regularly cause bicycle accidents that could (and should) have been avoided. If you’ve been injured while cycling in Pennsylvania, here’s an overview of what you need to know:

Cyclists’ Legal Rights in Pennsylvania

Not only do cyclists in Pennsylvania have clear legal rights on the road, but they also have clear legal rights when they suffer injuries in accidents involving cars, trucks, and SUVs. As a cyclist, knowing your legal rights is important, and when you get injured in an accident, it is important to hire a lawyer to help protect your legal rights promptly.

1. The Right to Share the Road

In Pennsylvania, cyclists have the right to share the road with motorized vehicles. While cyclists have the option to ride on the shoulder, they are not required to do so. As the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) explains, cyclists can share the road as follows:

  • On a two-lane road, cyclists can ride in the right lane;
  • On a multi-lane road, cyclists may right in the right-most lane; and,
  • On a road with no center line, cyclists may ride “anywhere on the right side of the roadway.”

As PennDOT also explains, cyclists can depart from the right lane in several circumstances. These include making a left-hand turn, overtaking a vehicle driving in the same direction of travel, and avoiding an obstruction in the roadway.

2. The Right to Ride Two Abreast

On group rides, it will often be safest to ride two abreast. This allows the riders in the group to remain closer together, and it also makes the group more visible to drivers approaching from behind. Cyclists are expressly permitted to ride up to two abreast under Pennsylvania law. When a driver approaches cyclists riding two abreast, the driver must wait until he or she can pass safely without forcing either cyclist to alter course.

3. The Right to a Reasonable Buffer

Under Pennsylvania law, cyclists riding on the road also have the right to a reasonable buffer. Specifically, PennDOT explains that “[m]otor vehicles must allow 4 feet of distance when overtaking a bicycle and travel at a careful and prudent speed.” PennDOT goes on to clearly state that “[i]t is the motorist’s responsibility to provide this distance, not that of the cyclist.” In other words, as a cyclist, you have the right to occupy your space on the road, and drivers must respect your space when passing.

4. The Right to Just Compensation

When you get injured in a cycling accident caused by a driver who has failed to respect your legal rights, you are entitled to just compensation under Pennsylvania law. The law holds drivers accountable for all forms of negligence, including common forms such as:

  • Driving while distracted (i.e., talking on the phone or texting behind the wheel)
  • Failing to give cyclists adequate buffer
  • Rear-ending cyclists due to approaching at excessive speed
  • Sideswiping cyclists due to changing lanes without looking
  • Turning or merging in front of cyclists

These are just some of the most common examples. If you have been injured in an accident involving a vehicle while riding your bicycle under any circumstances, you should speak with a lawyer about filing a claim.

5. The Right to File an Insurance Claim

In most cases, recovering just compensation after a cycling accident in Pennsylvania involves filing an insurance claim. Auto insurance covers bicycle accidents, and when you get injured as a cyclist, you have the same right to file a claim as anyone else who has been injured by a negligent driver. Not only can you file a claim under the negligent driver’s auto insurance policy, but if you have auto insurance coverage, you may be able to file an uninsured or underinsured motorist (UM or UIM) claim under your policy (if necessary) as well.

Cyclists’ Legal Responsibilities in Pennsylvania

While cyclists in Pennsylvania have clear legal rights, cyclists also have certain responsibilities when sharing the road with cars, trucks and SUVs. As a cyclist, it is important to know your responsibilities—and to know how they impact your legal rights in the event of an accident. For example:

  • Cyclists Must Ride on the Right – Not only can cyclists ride on the right side of the road, but they must do so except in the limited circumstances listed above.
  • Cyclists Must Have Adequate Equipment – All bicycles must be equipped with good brakes, and when riding between sunset and sunrise, cyclists must have a headlight and rear and side reflectors that are visible from at least 500 feet.
  • Cyclists Must Obey Traffic Signals – Cyclists must obey all traffic signals “in accordance with standard vehicle laws” when riding on Pennsylvania’s roadways.

What if You Are Deemed Partially At Fault in Your Accident?

Let’s say you were injured in a cycling accident, and let’s also say that you weren’t fully complying with your responsibilities under Pennsylvania law. In this scenario, can you still file a claim to recover financial compensation for your injuries?

The answer to this question depends on whether—and to what extent—any mistakes you may have made played a role in your accident. In many cases, it is possible to file a claim even if you were partially at fault in a bicycle accident.

Contact Us About Your Bicycle Accident in Pennsylvania

Do you need to know more about your legal rights after a bicycle accident in Pennsylvania? If so, we strongly encourage you to get in touch. With offices in Allentown, Bethlehem, Doylestown, Easton and Stroudsburg, we represent injured cyclists statewide. Give us a call at 888-777-7098 or tell us how we can reach you online to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at Drake, Hileman & Davis, P.C. today.