Pennsylvania Laws for 
Cyclists and Motorists

In February 2012, the Pennsylvania Vehicle Code was amended (HB 170) to enhance safety for cyclists and guide motorists' behavior with respect to cyclists.  These changes were effective in April 2012, and augment existing laws that apply to bicycle riders.

Important Changes and Highlights (The changes are summarized in Chapter 5 of the the Pennsylvania Driver's Manual.)

  1. "Four foot law" Before passing, you must first assess if you can maneuver around the bicyclist. Be sure to check for oncoming traffic. Important! When passing, you must allow at least four feet between your vehicle and a bicycle for the vehicle to safely pass the bicycle [75 Pa.C.S. 3303 (a) (3)] . When safe to do so, it is legal to cross the center double yellow line if necessary to provide the required four feet when passing a bicycle [75 Pa.C.S. 3307 (b.1)].

  2. "Right/Left Hook" No turn by the driver of a motor vehicle shall interfere with a bicyclist proceeding straight on a roadway or shoulder [75 Pa.C.S. 3331 (e)].

  3. "Lane of Travel" Bicycles have the right to be in the lane of travel and there is no general requirement that a bicycle be ridden at the right side of the right lane. It is only where a bike is moving at less than the prevailing speed of traffic that a rider must take reasonable steps to avoid impeding traffic [75 Pa.C.S. 3364 (b) (2)]. While this can and should include moving as far to the right as is practicable, the law specifically states that a bicycle need not move to the right where
    1) it is unsafe to do so due to road conditions [75 Pa.C.S. 3301 (c) (2) and 3505 (c)],
    2) the road is only one lane in each direction [75 Pa.C.S. 3301 (c) (2)],
    3) the right hand lane is for turns only and the rider is going straight [75 Pa.C.S. 3301 (b) (2)],or
    4) the bicycle needs to move left to make a left turn [75 Pa.C.S. 3301 (c) (1)].

  4. "Force off the Road" It is illegal to force a bicyclist off of the road. If you do this, you may face criminal charges.

  5. "Traffic signal does not detect bicycle" Standard traffic signals sometimes do not detect bicycles. You may be unable to pass through a signalized intersection because the green signal is never received. When faced with this problem, you may treat the signal as malfunctioning [75 Pa.C.S. 3112 (c) (2)].

Helpful links

  1. The full Pennsylvania Vehicle Code (Title 75) can be found here.
  2. PennDOT publishes a Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver's Manual.  The Forward lists sections of Title 75 pertaining to cyclists.
  3. PennDOT also publishes the Ride a Bike site that addresses bicycle laws and safety.
  4. The Philadelphia Streets Department offers a Bicycle Network page.
  5. The League of American Bicyclists compiles bike laws by state.
  6. HB170 archived copy
  7. Pennsylvania Driver's Manual archived copy
  8. Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver's Manual archived copy 
  9. PennDOT Ride a Bike bicycle laws and safety sheet archived copy

Disclaimer: The above references are for informational purposes only and are not intended to provide legal advice. If you have questions concerning your rights and responsibilities as a bicyclist on the road, please consult with an attorney. Please be aware that your compliance with the law does not assure that you will not be involved in an accident with a motor vehicle. Accordingly, notwithstanding the changes in the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code that have occurred with regard to bicycles, your safety on the road is your responsibility and all bicyclists are urged to ride in a safe manner based on the circumstances then prevailing.

To promote wider awareness of the new law, SCU has available for purchase durable plastic signs suitable for outdoor placement.  They measure 18 by 12 inches and come with metal stakes for convenient installation on your lawn or other location.  They can be purchased at the weeknight ride locations.