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Pennsylvania law protects cyclists on the road

These blogs are posted on behalf of Seidel, Cohen, Hof & Reid, LLC, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the firm or its attorneys. The information presented in this blog is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice.

The 2011 death of a Bethlehem man provided a tragic example of the importance of bicycle safety. The 79-year-old man was struck from behind by an automobile and died four days after the accident.

A new law in Pennsylvania took effect recently that promises to offer more protection to bicyclists sharing the road with motor vehicle drivers. In order to help prevent a car accident involving a bicyclist, drivers must now provide a "4-foot berth" between their car and a cyclist.

Although the Keystone State became the 20th state to pass a legal distance between drivers and bicycle riders, this is reportedly the longest distance among the 20 states by a length of one foot.

However, one of the problems discussed in the media is how the police may have a difficult time enforcing this law.

A director for Coalition for Appropriate Transportation, who offers classes to law enforcement officials on the new law, believes it will be difficult to enforce the changes unless there is specific evidence to prove the infraction. He further emphasized the difficulty in gauging an accurate measurement between "two vehicles passing each other" and that while the law is "a nice idea" it is more of a reminder for motorists to provide ample space to bicyclists.

The director also provided some tips for bicyclists to follow, such as:

  • Always use lights on a bicycle when travelling at night
  • Bicycles should not be ridden on sidewalks
  • Do not ride through red lights at an intersection
  • Bicycles should travel in the same direction as traffic

The widow of the bicyclist killed in 2011 supports the new law and believes that if the law existed previously, her husband may still be alive today. Hopefully the new law will prompt awareness for both bicyclists and motorists so they are able to safely co-exist on the roads.

Source: LehighValleyLive.com, "New Pennsylvania bicycle law requires drivers to give riders a 4-foot buffer," Sarah M. Wojcik, April 1, 2012

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