Pennsylvania: the bicycle friendly state?

Year after year the League of American Cyclist ranks Washington State first place as the most bike friendly state in the County. Now that I no longer live there, I can tell you that I whole-heartedly agree with their assessment.

However, I think Pennsylvania might be giving them a run for their money. Why? I'll tell you why. On April 1st a new law went into place that makes up for the lack of no shoulders to ride on here. In Pennsylvania giving cyclist three feet wasn’t good enough. Nope, we had to have four! The widest margin for cars passing cyclist in the country.

Not only will this law make it safer for cyclist, it also puts more of the law on their side if there is an accident. Here is an overview of what is now in place;

  • Bicyclist shall keep to the right. While this has always been the case, the new law allows for cyclist to take any position in the lane to be safe. It allows for the cyclist to “control the lane” and move at a speed that is appropriate for the cyclist. An example would be on a narrow street with parked cars. The cyclist is allowed to ride well to the left to avoid being doored. Any vehicle that comes up behind the cyclist must conform to the speed of the cyclist.
  • Cyclist’ do not have to move of the roadway if going slower than prevailing motorist if they are traveling at a reasonable speed for cyclist. This reiterates cyclist have a right to the road.
  • Any vehicle overtaking a cyclist properly on the left shall allow at least 4 feet distance from the cyclist. To achieve this motorist are allowed to legally cross a centerline, even in a no passing zone. However, it is the motorist responsibility to pass only when it is safe to do so.
  • Motorist’ are prohibited from making right turns into or across the path of a cyclist proceeding straight. Motorist should stay well behind cyclist and wait until they have passed the point where the motorist will turn. This formalizes what should be common sense.

When I moved to Pennsylvania I checked the PENDOT website to see what rules were in place for cyclist. Much to my surprise, the state used pretty strong language to encourage cyclist to stand up for their rights to the road. Check out the website here (note: the navigation bar for this website is at the bottom of the page).

Of course, it is up to local law enforcement as to whether or not the laws will be enforced. This is usually a weak link with many bicycle/car issues. There is hope that things are moving in a good direction here. Only hours after the law went into effect, it was used to charge a driver who struck a cyclist and tried to flee the scene. Checkout a news link about the incident here. Bob Mionske also had a good column recently about progress in this direction.  

So far, I have not had any cars buzz me since the law went into effect. Let’s hope it stays that way!


Ride lots, stop often!