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Published on Apr 04, 2012 by Edgar Snyder

Pittsburghers Voice Their Concerns Over PA's New Bicycle Safety Law

bicycle safety laws

As both an avid biker and a city driver, I was happy that Pennsylvania enacted new bicycle laws on April 2. Anyone who has ridden a bike through a city has probably experienced a car coming a little too close for comfort. And I'm sure that many of you have fearfully navigated around bike riders in your car, trying to avoid them as well as oncoming traffic.

The new bicycle safety laws are supposed to give bike riders and motorists a greater sense of safety and clear-cut rules to follow so that everyone can share the road responsibly. I'd like to share a few key elements of the new laws with you:

  • One of the most important features of the law is that it requires motorists to leave a four-foot cushion of safety between their vehicle and any bicyclist they may be attempting to pass. If necessary, the law also allows drivers to cross into the opposite lane to pass a cyclist, assuming it's safe to do so.
  • Bicycle riders who are riding at a speed less than what is posted must do their very best to avoid impeding traffic by keeping to the right side of the road. But, if they're traveling on a one-lane road, bicyclists are allowed to use any portion of the lane to avoid roadway hazards.
  • If a bicyclist is traveling straight on a roadway, it is illegal for a driver to turn and interfere with the bike rider. Also, drivers must yield the right of way to bicyclists traveling in the opposite direction when they are trying to make a left turn.
  • Finally, motorists aren't allowed to force a bicyclist off the road, and drivers who do may face criminal charges.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, many Pittsburgh drivers and bike riders have been up in arms since the laws went into effect. Primarily, drivers are arguing that the city's narrow streets and bridges could prohibit them from complying with the four-foot space cushion requirement.

The Post-Gazette says that motorists are also upset with bicyclists' lack of adherence to basic traffic laws, which they are supposed to follow under Pennsylvania state law. For instance, one motorist was quoted in the PG saying, "I can't even tell you how many times a bike has cut me off, gone through a red light or not stopped at a stop sign."

Another commenter said, "I do not like when they ride in the middle of the lane going 10 miles an hour and get mad at you for saying anything."

Bicyclists, on the other hand, contend that they are a "minority" and "more vulnerable" to injury or accident because of distracted motorists on their cell phones. They also complained to the Post-Gazette about how easy it is to be cut off by drivers who are unaware of their surroundings.

I can see both sides to this debate. As a bike rider I've experienced close calls with distracted drivers, and as a motorist I've dealt with bicyclists disobeying traffic laws. That's why it's so important that both bicyclists and motorists obey all traffic signs and signals, ride and drive predictably, and signal their intentions when changing a lane or making a turn. And, of course, bicycle riders should always wear a helmet.

Our firm's website has more information on bicycle safety.

Need more information on state laws? Learn more about the laws where you live.

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