Bicycle Safety: So Important That It’s a Law Now, Too

PRZY 0177 headshotBy Edgar Snyder, Esq.

If you’re divorced, separated, or widowed, you may have taken up bicycling as a new hobby. Maybe you ride a bike to work, for fun, or for exercise. Regardless of when or why you ride, you should know that thousands of bicyclists are injured in accidents every year.

While you can’t completely eliminate your risk of being in a bicycle accident, there are several things you can do to help avoid injuries. First, know the details of the new bicycle safety law in Pennsylvania. Second, wear a properly fitted helmet. Third, always ride safely. It will help you prevent accidents and may protect your financial stability.

Pennsylvania’s New Bicycle Safety Law

A new bicycle safety law took effect in Pennsylvania in April 2012. Whether you drive or bike, you need to know the details:

  • Drivers must keep at least four feet between their vehicle and bicyclists when passing them, crossing the center double yellow line if necessary to provide the required four feet as long as it’s safe to do so.
  • When traveling below the posted speed limit, cyclists must keep to the right side of the road. Exceptions to this rule include when a cyclist is making a left turn or riding on a one-way street.
  • If a road has only one travel lane, bicyclists may use any portion of the lane to avoid road hazards.
  • Drivers attempting to turn left must yield the right of way to bicyclists traveling in the opposite direction, just as they would for another motorist. Drivers can’t interfere with a bicyclist proceeding straight on a roadway when making a turn.
  • Motorists can’t force a bicyclist off of the road. Drivers caught doing so may face criminal charges.

Bicycle Accident Prevention: Wearing a Helmet

We teach kids to wear helmets, but wearing a helmet is just as important for adults – especially those who want to avoid injuries and piles of medical bills.

Research has shown that wearing a properly fitted helmet can help reduce the risk of a head injury by up to 85 percent! Head injuries account for 62 percent of bicycle-related deaths (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), and in 2009 about 661 people died in bicycle accidents. That means over 400 lives could have been saved by just wearing a helmet.

Bicycle Accident Prevention: Safety First

The following are several bicycle safety tips to follow. Be sure to encourage other friends and family members to heed them as well.

  • Check the tire pressure on your bike, as well as the chain, brakes, and lights on it. Your bike should always be in good working order before you ride it.
  • Try to ride on roads that are less congested when at all possible, and avoid roads that are crumbling, muddy, or otherwise unsafe.
  • Always ride on the right side of the road. Don’t swerve unexpectedly or veer into traffic.
  • Ride near the curb, but be cautious when riding alongside parked cars. A driver may not see you and open the car door into your path.
  • Always follow traffic laws. Ride in the same direction as traffic flow, remembering to stop at stop signs and red lights.
  • Allow at least two seconds between you and other cars, motorcycles, or bicycles.
  • Ride defensively. Never assume drivers see you, and be ready to use your brakes at any time.
  • When riding at night, wear brightly colored or fluorescent clothing. Your bike should have a white headlight, red taillight, and front and rear reflectors.
  • Wear close-toed shoes – no sandals or flip-flops. Don’t wear loose clothing or anything that could get caught in your bike.

Bicycle Safety = Accident Prevention

If you’re separated, divorced, or widowed, riding a bicycle can be a great way to stay active. You may even join a bicycle club to meet new people. However, avoiding injuries may be especially critical – especially if you have kids or have to rely on your income alone. That’s why you must pay special attention to bicycle safety. Follow the Pennsylvania bicycle safety laws, always wear a helmet, and follow these safety tips.


Attorney Edgar Snyder, an avid cyclist, has served the residents of western Pennsylvania and its surrounding regions for over 45 years. His law firm, Edgar Snyder & Associates, has represented over 40,000 people, including clients who were injured in all types of accidents. For more information,