Protect Yourself By Knowing Bike Riding Laws In Pennsylvania

young professional woman riding bike to work

Knowing the rules of the road and your responsibilities as a bicyclist is critical to helping you stay safe and protect your rights in the event of an accident. The personal injury attorneys at Thomas, Conrad, and Conrad help clients understand Pennsylvania bike riding laws and how they may affect the outcome of bicycle accident cases. They share some of the most important laws bicyclists should know.

Bike Helmet Laws

Although they save lives, Pennsylvania doesn’t require adults to wear bike helmets. According to PennDOT, wearing a helmet can reduce your chances of being seriously injured in a biking accident by up to 85 percent. Children under the age of 12 are required by law to wear helmets when riding a bike. It’s also important to note that helmet use cannot be considered when it comes to determining a bicyclist’s contributory negligence in a bike accident.

Hitting The Road

According to Pennsylvania’s Vehicle Code, “pedalcycles” are vehicles, and riders operating them are required to follow traffic laws. Cyclists must ride with the flow of traffic at all times—you are not permitted to ride in the opposite direction of traffic in any lane. Cyclists may ride on the shoulder of a roadway or in the right lane of multi-lane roadways. You may move from the right lane when passing another vehicle going the same direction, if there is an obstruction in your lane, or when getting ready to make a left turn.

Bikes are not permitted on freeways or divided highways without the permission of PennDOT. Cyclists may only ride two side-by-side on roadways unless they are in a specific area for exclusive use of bicycles. You may not ride on the sidewalk in business districts.

Rules For Motorists

Other motor vehicles are required to keep a distance of four feet when overtaking a bicycle. They must also pass carefully and at a sensible speed. Drivers may overtake bikes in no-passing zones if it is done with due care at a distance of at least four feet. “Dooring” is a problem that can cause serious accidents and injuries to bicyclists. Drivers and passengers should not open any door on a motor vehicle unless it is reasonably safe to do so and does not interfere with the flow of traffic.


Cyclists are supposed to follow the same right-of-way laws as motorists. This includes yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks, on sidewalks, and bike paths. Before passing a pedestrian, you must provide an audible signal when approaching.

If a traffic signal is inoperable or malfunctioning, you may treat a red signal as a stop sign and proceed through the intersection after yielding to all intersecting traffic and pedestrians. This includes signals with embedded sensors that do not detect a cyclist’s presence.


Your bike must be equipped with a front lamp and rear and side reflectors that are visible from at least 500 feet if you ride between sunset and sunrise. Lights illuminate your path and make you more visible to other motorists. In some municipalities, you may be required to use a bell, horn, or other signaling device. Your brakes should be able to stop your bike 15 feet from an initial speed of 15 mph on dry, level pavement. Although a helmet is not required by law, you should always wear one when riding your bike.

Hand And Arm Signals

Using proper hand and arm signals in a timely manner can prevent accidents and save lives. All cyclists should know signals such as:

  • Left turn: Extend the left arm and hand horizontally
  • Right turn: Extend the right arm and hand horizontally or extend the left forearm arm and hand upward in an “L” shape.
  • Stopping or decreasing speed: Extend the left forearm and hand downward in an “L” shape.

Other Bike Riding Laws

In Pennsylvania, cyclists must always ride on regular seats and cannot have passengers on the handlebars. You may only have the number of people a bike is equipped for on it unless you’re riding with a child in a carrier or trailer towed by the bike.

At least one hand must be on your handlebars when riding. Riding your bike while intoxicated is against the law. Unfortunately, many people see drinking and biking as no big deal, but it’s a crime that should be taken very seriously.

Contact A Bike Accident Attorney To Learn More

If you have questions about how Pennsylvania bike riding laws may affect your personal injury claim, our experienced attorneys at Thomas, Conrad, and Conrad can help. Contact us online or call our Bethlehem office at 610-867-2900 to schedule a free consultation today. We serve clients throughout eastern Pennsylvania.


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