A year after enactment, Pennsylvania bike law goes relatively unenforced

Many residents of Delaware County commute to work by riding their bike, go on bike rides as a fun family activity or use bicycling as a way to get exercise in the great outdoors. What many bicyclists don’t expect when they jump on their bike is that they are at risk for getting hit by a motor vehicle. In 2011, 677 bicyclists were killed in an accident with a vehicle, states the National Traffic Safety Administration.

Lack of enforcement

In April of 2012, a new law in Pennsylvania went into effect to protect bicyclists from being hit by a motor vehicle. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the law requires that drivers leave at least four feet of space between their vehicle and a bicyclist that they are passing on the left. To make this law feasible, drivers are allowed to cross over the center line in the road in order to give the bicyclist enough space.

Approximately a year after this new law was put in place only 15 citations had been given to drivers that violated this new space requirement. Two of these citations were given out in Allegheny County and no citations were given out in Pittsburgh, says the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts.

According to the Pittsburg Post-Gazette, a police officer stated that there are a variety of reasons why the citations for this law have been so few. These reasons include:

  • The newness of the law.
  • Law enforcement being busy with more important calls.
  • Officers not being at the right place at the right time to catch drivers violating the law.
  • Difficulty determining whether the car was four feet away or not.

Some bicyclists say that this law has caused drivers to be more cautious around them while out on the road while others reported that it made no difference in their cycling experience.

Precautions for bicyclists

While Pennsylvania drivers are required to give bicyclists four feet of space between their car and the cyclist, bicyclists can also take several safety precautions to minimize their risk of being hit. Bicyclists should adhere to the traffic laws that vehicles are required to follow such as stopping at stop signs, signaling before turning and watching for pedestrians. Following these rules will reduce the risk of crashing and will prevent the bicyclist from being blamed for an accident they are involved in.

For many bicyclists, following the rules of the road is not enough to protect them from injury and fatality. If you were hit by a motor vehicle that failed to give you enough space between their car and your bicycle, contact a personal injury attorney to assert your legal rights.