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Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Law

 | Published on 4/25/2017
Note: This is a reprint of an article I wrote a year after the PA Motor Vehicle Code was amended with regard to bicycles on the road.  Michael N Katz Esq. Safety and Legislation Coordinator

’s Bike Laws - One Year Later

It was just about a year ago that Pennsylvania’s revisions to the Motor Vehicle Code that address the relationship of cars and bikes on the road went into effect. In the past, Chapter 35 of the Motor Vehicle Code, which addresses “Special Vehicles”, simply regulated the rights and duties of bicyclists. Part of what made the changes in the law so notable was that the revisions to Chapter 33, which regulates the operation of motor vehicles, for the first time set out rules regulating the conduct of drivers as it relates to bicycles on the road. Also included in the sections of the law pertaining to the operation of motor vehicles were provisions pertaining to the operation of bicycles on the road in relation to cars. As we move into prime riding months, now’s an opportune time to review the changes in the law.

As a general rule, bikes have the same right to be on the road and the same responsibilities as cars (Sections 3501(a) and 3505(a)). Bikes have the right to be in the lane of travel and there is no general requirement that a bike 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 (section 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 (sections 3301(c)(2) and 3505(c)), (2) the road is only one lane in each direction (section 3301(c)(2)), (3) the right hand lane is for turns only and the rider is going straight (section 3301(b)(2)), or (4) the bicycle needs to move left to make a left turn (section 3301(c)(1)).

The new law also expressly prohibits drivers from engaging in a number of dangerous practices that we have all experienced. Drivers must pass to the left only with at least 4 feet of clearance and at a careful and prudently reduced speed (section 3303(a)(3)). Drivers are permitted to cross a solid lane line (i.e. a no passing zone) into the oncoming lane if necessary (section 3307(b)(1)). Drivers are also affirmatively prohibited from interfering with bicycles by making a left turn in front of an oncoming bike or a right turn in front of a bike traveling straight in the same direction (section 3331(e)).

The new law clearly establishes the legitimacy of bikes on the road but, as is often the case, it’s going to take awhile for the law’s requirements to become known and even longer to change the perceptions and attitudes of many drivers. We as bicyclists need to not only help spread the word but also be ambassadors of good will by using common sense in exercising our rights. Riding in the center of the lane on a road with one lane in each direction, even though lawful, is not the right message to send when there is plenty of room to safely move to the right and allow cars to easily pass. And remember, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what the law says, “tonnage” is still the ultimate rule of the road! Things are changing though. Follow this link to a video and article on what happened to an idiot driver who failed to follow the “4 foot” rule and struck a bicyclist: