Bicyclists, Motor Vehicles and Sharing the Road

Pennsylvania's Motor Vehicle Code considers "pedalcycles" as vehicles and provides that every person riding a pedalcycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and responsibilities applicable to a driver of a vehicle, with certain exceptions discussed below.
If you ride in violation of the traffic laws, you greatly increase your risk of a crash and will likely be found at fault in the event of an accident.


  • Anyone under the age of 12 must wear a helmet when riding a bicycle. This applies to anyone operating the bicycle, riding as a passenger, or riding in an attached restraining seat or trailer. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation strongly recommends that all bicyclists wear helmets whenever they ride. Find more in biking gear.


  • Bikes may be ridden on the shoulder of the road (in the same direction as the flow of traffic) but are not required to do so.
  • Bikes may also ride on the right half of the roadway as follows:
    • On a multilane roadway, bikes may be ridden in the right-most travel lane.
    • On a two-lane roadway, a bike may be ridden in the right lane.
    • On a roadway with no center line, a bike may be ridden anywhere on the right side of the roadway.
  • Bikes may move from the right lane:
    • When overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
    • When preparing to make a left turn.
    • When an obstruction exists that makes it necessary to change lanes or cross the center line with due care.
  • Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast (side-by-side), unless on paths or parts of a roadway set aside for exclusive use of bicycles.
  • A bicycle or motor vehicle may, with good caution, treat an intersection with an inoperable or malfunctioning traffic signal as a stop condition when red or as a caution condition when green or yellow.
    • Often signals with embedded detectors will not respond to the bike awaiting a green light, and this is treated as “inoperable” under law.
  • Motor vehicles must allow 4 feet of distance when overtaking a bicycle and travel at a careful and prudent speed. It is the motorist’s responsibility to provide this distance, not that of the cyclist.
  • Motor vehicles may also overtake a bicycle in a no-passing zone to avoid excessive delays, but this must be done with due care and while providing the required 4 feet of clearance.
  • No person shall open any door on a motor vehicle unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with traffic flow.
    • Cyclists may be injured or killed when a door is opened in their line of travel (dooring). Therefore, a distance of 4 feet should be kept between parked motor vehicles and the line of travel when riding along parked vehicles.


  • Always wear a helmet. Pennsylvania law requires all cyclists under age 12 to wear an approved bicycle helmet.
  • Obey traffic laws.
  • Obey stop signs and red lights.
  • Never ride against the flow of traffic.
  • Be predictable:
    • Ride in a straight line with at least one hand on the handlebars.
    • Check to be sure your path is clear, and change directions without swerving.
    • Use hand signals to indicate when you are turning.
  • Make yourself visible:
    • Consider wearing bright cycling clothes.
    • Put reflectors on your wheels and on the front and rear of your bike.
    • At night, a front light and rear reflector are required.
  • Maintain your bike:
    • Carry a pump, a patch kit and a spare tube.
  • Take care of yourself:
    • Carry plenty of drinking water and snacks for energy.
    • Bring your cellphone in case of an emergency.

For more information on biking safety, visit the League of American Bicyclists Bike Education page.