For purposes of this article, the term, “bicycle,” shall be used in place of the term “pedalcycle” as referenced in the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code. Pertinent definitions contained in the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code are set forth below and may also be provided within each topic.
“Vehicle.” Every device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, except devices used exclusively upon rails or tracks. The term does not include a self-propelled wheelchair or an electrical mobility device operated by and designed for the exclusive use of a person with a mobility-related disability.
“Person.” A natural person, firm, co-partnership, association or corporation.
“Pedalcycle.” A vehicle propelled solely by human-powered pedals or a pedalcycle with an electric assist. The term does not mean a three-wheeled human-powered pedal-driven vehicle with a main driving wheel 20 inches in diameter or under and primarily designed for children six years of age or younger.
“Motorized pedalcycle.” A motor-driven cycle equipped with operable pedals, a motor rated no more than 1.5 brake horsepower, a cylinder capacity not exceeding 50 cubic centimeters, an automatic transmission, and a maximum design speed of no more than 25 miles per hour or an electric motor-driven cycle equipped with operable pedals and an automatic transmission powered by an electric battery or battery pack-powered electric motor with a maximum design speed of no more than 25 miles per hour.
“Pedalcycle with electric assist.” A vehicle weighing not more than 100 pounds with two or three wheels more than 11 inches in diameter, manufactured or assembled with an electric motor system, rated at not more than 750 watts, and equipped with operable pedals and capable of a speed not more than 20 miles per hour on a level surface when powered by the motor source only. The term does not include a device specifically designed for use by persons with disabilities.
“Official traffic-control devices.” Signs, signals, markings and devices not inconsistent with this title placed or erected by authority of a public body or official having jurisdiction, for the purpose of regulating, warning or guiding traffic.
“Right-of-way.” The right of one vehicle or pedestrian to proceed in a lawful manner in preference to another vehicle or pedestrian approaching under such circumstances of direction, speed and proximity as to give rise to danger or collision unless one grants precedence to the other.
“Roadway.” That portion of a highway improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the sidewalk, berm or shoulder even though such sidewalk, berm or shoulder is used by pedalcycles. In the event a highway includes two or more separate roadways the term “roadway” refers to each roadway separately but not to all such roadways collectively.
“Sidewalk.” That portion of a street between curb lines, or the lateral lines of a roadway, and the adjacent property lines, intended for use by pedestrians
- General Rights and Responsibilities of Bicyclists
As a general rule, bicyclists riding on the roadway have all of the rights of operators of other types of vehicles on the roadway. However, bicyclists are also subject to all of the duties and responsibilities of operators of other types of vehicles. This is a general rule, and is subject to special provisions in the law for bicyclists, and legal provisions which, by their nature, can have no application to bicyclists
Riding a Bicycle While Under the Influence. For example, a pedalcycle is defined as a vehicle propelled solely by human-powered pedals. A bicycle is a “vehicle” for purposes of prosecution for driving under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances. Bilka v. DOT, Bureau of Driver Licensing, 92 A.3d 1253 (2013).
- Duty of Bicyclist to Ride on The Right Side of The Roadway
General Rule: Bicycles, like other vehicles must be ridden on the right side of the roadway, subject to specific exceptions.
Proceeding at Less Than Normal Speed. Any bicycle riding on a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic must ride in the right 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 rule does not apply to a bicycle using any portion of an available roadway due to unsafe surface conditions; or,
A bicycle using a roadway that has a width of not more than one lane of traffic in each direction.
- Motorists Passing Bicycles – Bicycle Steer Clear Law
Bicycle Steer Clear Law: A motor vehicle that passes a bicycle traveling in the same direction must pass to the left of the bicycle, and must give the bicycle a minimum of four (4) feet of space.
The driver of a motor vehicle who passes a bicycle must pass at a careful and prudent reduced speed.
General limitation on passing on the left: Vehicles may not cross the center of the roadway when passing a vehicle proceeding in the same direction unless the left side is clearly visible and free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance to pass and return to their lane before coming within 200 feet of oncoming vehicles, and without interfering with the operation of oncoming vehicles or the vehicle being overtaken.
Passing a Bicycle in a No-Passing Zone. It is permissible to pass a bicycle in a no-passing zone, if done in accordance with Pennsylvania Vehicle Code Sections 3303 (a) (3), (bicycle steer clear law); and 3305 (relating to limitations on passing on the left).
- Motorist, When Turning, Shall Not Interfere With Bicyclist Proceeding Straight
The driver of a motor vehicle shall not, when turning, interfere with a bicyclist proceeding straight in accordance with the rules relating to the operation of bicycles.
- Rules for Riding on a Bicycle
Bicycle riders must ride astride a permanent and regular seat attached to the bicycle.
Bicycles may not be used to carry more persons than the bicycle is designed and equipped to carry.
An adult bicycle rider may transport a child in a bicycle child carrier that is securely attached to the bicycle or in a trailer that is towed by the bicycle.
- Required Lamps and Equipment on Bicycles
Front Lamp: Bicycles ridden between sunset and sunrise must be equipped with a lamp that emits a beam of white light intended to illuminate the bicyclist’s path and visible from a distance of 500 feet to the front.
Rear Reflector: Bicycles ridden between sunset and sunrise must be equipped with a red reflector facing to the rear that is visible at least 500 feet to the rear.
Side Reflector: Bicycles ridden between sunset and sunrise must be equipped with an amber reflector on each side.
Supplemental Lights and Reflectors: Bicyclists are permitted to supplement the required front lamp with a white flashing lamp, light-emitting diode or similar device to enhance their visibility. Bicyclists are permitted to supplement the required rear reflector with a lamp emitting a red flashing lamp, light-emitting diode or similar device visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear.
Lamps and Reflectors Worn by the Bicyclist: A lamp or lamps worn by the bicyclist shall comply with the requirements of the law if they can be seen at the specified distances.
Audible Signal Devices: A bicycle may be equipped with a device that can emit an audible signal a distance of 100 feet.
Sirens: Bicycles are not permitted to be equipped with any siren.
Brakes: Every bicycle shall be equipped with a braking system that will stop the bicycle in 15 feet from an initial speed of 15 miles per hour on a dry, level and clean pavement.
- Transporting Property on Bicycle
Bicyclists may not carry packages, bundles or articles, that prevent the driver from keeping at least one hand on the handlebars.
- Bicycle Helmet Law
Pennsylvania law generally requires bicycle riders and bicycle passengers under the age of 12 to wear a bicycle helmet that meets the required standards contained in the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code.
“Wearing a helmet” means having a helmet of good fit fastened securely upon the head with helmet straps.
Helmets are generally not required under Pennsylvania law for persons riding in a restraining seat attached to a bicycle or in a trailer towed by a bicycle.
- Bicycle Helmet Standards
It is illegal for anyone to sell or offer for sale a bicycle helmet that does not meet the standards of the American National Standards Institute, the American Society for Testing and Materials, the Snell Memorial Foundation’s Standards for Protective Headgear for Use in Bicycling or any other national recognized standard for bicycle helmet approval.
Bicycle Helmets that are sold or offered for sale must be labeled in accordance with the required standards. The label serves as the manufacturer’s certification that the bicycle helmet meets to the required standards.
- Violation of the Bicycle Helmet Law
Violation of the law is punishable by a fine of not more than $25.00, including all penalties, assessments and court costs.
A charge of violating the bicycle helmet law must be dismissed if, before the hearing on the charges, the person charged shows that they obtained a helmet that meets the required standards.
The bicycle helmet law does not apply to children under the age of 12 if they can produce a statement from the family’s church authorities attesting that it is against the tenets of the family’s religion to wear a helmet.
Evidence of the failure to use a bicycle helmet is inadmissible in civil trials, and the failure to use a bicycle helmet shall not be considered contributory negligence.
- Lenders of Bicycle Helmets are Immune
No person or organization who or which lends to another person or organization a bicycle helmet, as described in Section 3510 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, shall be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission, except any act or omission intentionally designed to harm or any grossly negligent act or omission resulting in harm to another.
- Bicycles and Pedestrians – Rights of Way
When riding on sidewalks or bike paths that are also used by pedestrians, the bicyclists must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.
Bicyclists must give an audible signal to pedestrians before passing them on a sidewalk or bike path.
- Riding Bicycles in Business District
Bicycles may not be ridden on the sidewalk in a business district unless permitted by official traffic control devices, nor when a usable bicycle only lane has been provided adjacent to the sidewalk.
- Parking a Bicycle
General Rule: Except as set forth below, bicycles parked anywhere on a highway must adhere to the provisions of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code relating to stopping, standing and parking.
On a Sidewalk: A person may park a bicycle on a sidewalk unless prohibited by an official traffic control device. However, a bicycle parked on a sidewalk may not interfere with the normal and reasonable movement of pedestrians or other traffic.
On the Roadway: A bicycle may be parked on a roadway at any angle to the curb or edge of the roadway, and may be parked abreast of another bicycle or bicycles, at any location where parking is allowed. However, a bicycle may not be parked on a roadway in a manner that would obstruct the movement of a legally parked motor vehicle.
- Bicycles Prohibited on Freeways
General Rule: Except under very limited circumstances set forth in the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, bicycles may not be ridden on a “freeway.” (The term “freeway” is defined in the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code, 75 Pa. C.S. Section 102 as “a limited access highway to which the only means of [getting on and off] is by interchange ramps.”).
- Operation of Bicycle with Electric Assist
A person must be at least 16 years of age to operate a bicycle with an electric assist.
A bicycle with electric assist is defined in the Section 102 of the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code as a vehicle weighing less than 100 pounds with 2 or 3 wheels more than 11 inches in diameter, manufactured or assembled with an electric motor system rated 750 watts or less and equipped with operable pedals and capable of a speed of not more than 20 miles per hour on a level suface when powered by the motor source only. The term does not include devices specifically designed for people with disabilities.
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