Rules of the Road
What laws apply to bicyclists?
Bicycles are classified as vehicles in Philadelphia and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Therefore, bicyclists have rights and responsibilities similar to motorists. Bicyclists also must follow specific laws written in recognition of the bicycle's vulnerability and limited speed. Some of the vehicle laws that apply to bicycling are listed below. Learn and observe the law to ensure your own safety and to instill respect for the bicycling community.
Applicable vehicle laws Follow Traffic lights and signs, including
- Stop and yield right-of-way at stop signs.
- Slow and yield right-of-way at yield signs.
- Stop at red lights. Yield right-of-way to pedestrians in crosswalks.
- Yield right-of-way to traffic traveling straight when turning left.
- Signal before turning, stopping or slowing.
The following are required by law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania:
Brakes that will bring a bicycle traveling at 15 miles per hour to a complete stop within 15 feet.
Rear red reflector visible in light shining from 150 feet to 300 feet to the rear, and amber reflectors on each side. A rear red light visible to 500 feet to the rear can be used in addition to the reflector.
Front white light visible from at least 500 feet to the front from between sunset and sunrise.
Bicycling Law In Pennsylvania
The following are excerpts from Purdon's Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes Annotated, Title 75, Vehicles. Other sections of this title are also relevant since bicycles (pedal cycles) are subject to most of the same traffic laws as other vehicles. Of particular applicability are 3301 regarding slow vehicles, 3364 regarding minimum speeds, and 3367 regarding racing and racing permits.
From Part I. Preliminary Provisions, Chapter 1. General Provisions, 102. Definitions.
- Department - The Department of Transportation of the Commonwealth.
- Freeway - A limited access highway to which the only means ingress and egress is by interchange ramps.
- Highway - The entire width between the boundary lines of every way publicly maintained when any part thereof is open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel. The term includes a roadway open to the use of the public for vehicular travel on grounds of a college or university or public or private school or public or historical park.
- Pedal cycle - A vehicle propelled solely by human-powered pedals.
From Part III. Operation of Vehicles
Historical Notes, Library References, and Notes of Decisions have been omitted.
Chapter 35 - Special Vehicles and Pedestrian
Subchapter A: Operation of Pedalcycles
3501. Applicability of traffic laws to pedalcycles.
3502. Penalty for violation of subchapter.
3503. Responsibility of parent or guardian.
3504. Riding on pedalcycles.
3505. Riding on roadways and pedalcycle paths.
3506. Articles carried by operator.
3507. Lamps and other equipment on pedalcycles.
3508. Pedalcycles on sidewalks and pedalcycle paths.
3510. Pedalcycle helmets for certain persons.
3511. Pedalcycles prohibited on freeways.
Limitation of actions for summary offenses, see 6302 of this title. Police powers, see 6109 of this title.
3501. Applicability of traffic laws to pedalcycles
- General rule.- Every person riding a pedalcycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this title, except as to special provisions in this subchapter and except as to those provisions of this title which by their nature can have no application.
- Application of subchapter.- The provisions of this subchapter apply whenever a pedalcycle is operated upon any highway or upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of pedalcycles subject to the exceptions stated in subsection (a).
3502. Penalty for violation of subchapter
Any person violating any provision of this subchapter is guilty of a summary offense and shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine of $10.
Summary offense, defined, see 18 Pa.C.S.A. 106.
3503. Responsibility of parent or guardian
The parent of any child and the guardian of any ward shall not authorize or knowingly permit the child or ward to violate any of the provisions of this title relating to the operation of pedalcycles.
3504. Riding on pedalcycles
- Use of seat by operator.- A person propelling a pedalcycle shall not ride other than upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached to the pedalcycle.
- Number of riders.- No pedalcycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which the pedalcycle is designed and equipped except than an adult rider may carry a child securely attached to the rider in a back pack or sling.
Motorcycles, similar provision, see 3522 of this title.
3505. Riding on roadways and pedalcycle paths
Motorcycles, limitation on riding abreast, see 3523 of this title.
- General rule.- Except as provided in subsection (b), every person operating a pedalcycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.
- One-way highways.- Any person operating a pedalcycle upon a roadway of a highwaythat carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.
- Limitation on riding abreast.- Persons riding pedalcycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of pedalcycles.
- Use of available pedalcycle paths.- Whenever a lane or path for pedalcycles has been provided as part of a highway, pedalcycle riders shall use the lane or path and shall not use any other part of the highway. This subsection does not apply when use of the pedalcycle lane or path is not possible, safe or reasonable.
3506. Articles carried by operator
No person operating a pedalcycle shall carry any package, bundle or article which prevents the driver from keeping at least one hand upon the handlebars.
3507. Lamps and other equipment on pedalcycles
- Lamps and reflectors.- Every pedalcycle when in use between sunset and sunrise shall be equipped on the front with a lamp which emits a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the department which shall be visible from all distances from 100 feet to 600 feet to the rear and with an amber reflector on each side. A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector. A lamp worn by the operator of a pedalcycle shall comply with the requirements of this subsection if the lamp can be seen at the distances specified. All lamps and reflectors shall be of a type approved by the department.
- Audible signal devices.- A pedalcycle may be equipped with a device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least 100 feet. The exception is that a pedalcycle shall not be equipped with--nor shall any person upon a pedalcycle use--any siren.
- Brakes.- Every pedalcycle shall be equipped with a braking system, which will stop the pedalcycle in 15 feet from an initial speed of 15 miles per hour on a dry, level and clean pavement.
Brakes, generally, see 4502 of this title. Driving without light, see 1532 of this title. Fee for approval of equipment, see 1954 of this title. Lighting equipment, generally, see 4301 et seq. of this title.
3508. Pedalcycles on sidewalks and pedalcycle paths
- Right-of-way to pedestrians.- A person riding a pedalcycle upon a sidewalk or pedalcycle path used by pedestrians shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian, and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian.
- Business districts.- A person shall not ride a pedalcycle upon a sidewalk in a business district unless permitted by office traffic-control devices, nor when a usable pedalcycle-only lane has been provided adjacent to the sidewalk.
Driving on sidewalk, see 3703 of this title.
Parking, generally, see 3351 et seq. of this title.
- A person may park a pedalcycle on a sidewalk unless prohibited or restricted by an office traffic-control device.
- A pedalcycle parked on a sidewalk shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of pedestrians or other traffic.
- A pedalcycle may be parked on the roadway at any angle to the curb or edge of the roadway at any location where parking is allowed.
- A pedalcycle may be parked on the roadway abreast of another pedalcycle or pedalcycles near the side of the roadway at any location where parking is allowed.
- A person shall not park a pedalcycle on a roadway in such a manner as to obstruct the movement of a legally parked motor vehicle.
- In all other respects, pedalcycles parked anywhere on a highway shall conform to the provisions of Subchapter E of Chapter 33 (relating to stopping, standing and parking).
3510. Pedalcycle helmets for certain persons
3511. Pedalcycles prohibited on freeways
- General rule.- No person operating an pedalcycle shall allow any person who is five years of age or younger to ride as a passenger on a pedalcycle unless that passenger is wearing a helmet meeting the standards of the American National Standards Institute or of the Snell Memorial Foundation's Standards for Protective Headgear for Use in Bicycling.
- Proof of purchase.- The first violation of subsection (a) by any person may be dismissed by the court if the person charged produces proof that a helmet meeting the standards prescribed in subsection (a) has been purchased for use by the passenger five years of age or younger.
- Civil actions.- In no event shall a violation or alleged violation of subsection (a) be used as evidence in a trial of any civil action; nor shall any jury in a civil action be instructed that any conduct did constitute or could be interpreted by them to constitute a violation of subsection (a); nor shall failure to use a pedalcycle helmet be considered as contributory negligence nor shall failure to use a pedalcycle helmet be admissible as evidence in the trial of any civil action.
- Penalty.- Notwithstanding any other provisions of law, any violation of subsection (a) is punishable by a fine, including all penalties, assessments and court costs imposed on the convicted person not to exceed $25. Persons age 17 and under shall not be subject to the penalty provisions of this subsection on the first offense.
- Definitions.- As used in this section, the term "wearing a helmet" means having a helmet of good fit fastened securely upon the head with the helmet straps.
- General rule.- No person shall ride a pedalcycle on a freeway.
- The department and local authorities, on highways under their respective jurisdictions, may issue permits for a procession or event prohibited under subsection (a) upon a determination that:
- The pedalcycle procession or event is of national, State or regional interest, and
- the results of an engineering and traffic study indicate that the procession or event can be conducted with safety.
- On State-designated freeways, pedalcycles may be authorized under the following limitations:
- The pedalcycler is 16 years of age or older or is accompanied by a pedalcycler 18 years of age or older.
- A written request for review of the freeway route based on the potential unavailability of a reasonable alternate route is made to the department.
- The department determines that no reasonable alternate route exists.
- The department publishes a notice in the Pennsylvania Bulletin authorizing pedalcycle access to the freeway. The notice shall constitute approval for the persons authorized under subparagraph (i) to ride a pedalcycle on the State-designated freeway.
- Action by local authorities.- Action taken by local authorities regarding permission to use pedalcycles on freeways under their jurisdiction shall be:
- by ordinance of the local governing body; or
- by a commission or public official authorized to act on specified matters.
From Part V. Administration and Enforcement, Chapter 61. Powers of Departments and Local Authorities, Subchapter A. General Provisions, 6109. effective powers of department and local authorities
- The provisions of this title shall not be deemed to prevent the department on State-designated highways and local authorities on streets or highways within their physical boundaries from the reasonable exercise of their police powers. The following are presumed to be reasonable exercises of police power:
- Regulating the operation of pedalcycles and requiring their registration and inspection, and the payment of a reasonable registration fee.