Bikers and Drivers: Sharing the Road is the Law

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By Edgar Snyder, Esq.

People of all ages enjoy riding bicycles. As a healthcare professional, you may know – or even witness firsthand – that thousands of riders are injured every year in bicycle accidents. In 2009 alone (the most recent year for which data is available), about 51,000 pedal cyclists were injured in accidents involving motor vehicles.

Whether you or members of your family use a bicycle to get around, exercise, or enjoy being outside, know that there is a new bicycle safety law in Pennsylvania. By knowing what the law entails and sharing this information with other patients, visitors, colleagues, and friends, healthcare workers can help prevent bicycle accidents and injuries.

Details About the New Pennsylvania Bicycle Safety Law

Officials recently passed new legislation that puts a greater emphasis on bicycle safety – in particular, how motorists interact with bicyclists on the road. The new law took effect in April 2012 and includes the following regulations:

  • Drivers must allow at least four feet between their vehicle and a bicyclist when passing them. Drivers are allowed to cross the center double yellow line if necessary to provide the required four feet, as long as it’s safe to do so.
  • When traveling below the posted speed limit, cyclists must keep to the right side of the road. Exceptions to this rule include when a cyclist is making a left turn or riding on a one-way street.
  • If a road has only one travel lane, bicyclists may use any portion of the lane to avoid road hazards.
  • Drivers attempting to turn left must yield the right of way to bicyclists traveling in the opposite direction, just as they would for another motorist. Drivers can’t interfere with a bicyclist proceeding straight on a roadway when making a turn.
  • Motorists can’t force a bicyclist off of the road. Violators may face criminal charges.

Bicyclists: The Importance of Wearing a Helmet

We’ve all heard it before – wear a helmet when riding a bike. Research has shown that wearing a properly fitted helmet can help reduce the risk of a head injury by up to 85 percent! Given that head injuries account for 62 percent of bicycle-related deaths (according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), it’s one of the most important things you can do to prevent traumatic brain injuries and other head injuries.

As a healthcare worker, it’s especially important to set a good example for friends and family. Always wear a helmet when riding a bike.

More Bicycle Safety Tips

There are many things you can do to prevent bicycle accidents and injuries. Here are just a few bicycle safety tips:

  • Check your bike every time before you ride it. Make sure the tire pressure is normal, and that the chain, brakes, and lights work properly.
  • When possible, try to ride on roads that get less traffic.
  • Always ride in a straight line on the right side of the road, and avoid roads with bad conditions, roads that are crumbling, etc.
  • Ride near the curb, but allow several feet between you and parked cars, in case someone suddenly exits the car in front of you.
  • Always follow traffic laws. Ride in the same direction as traffic flow.
  • Allow at least two seconds between you and other cars, motorcycles, or bicycles.
  • Watch for potholes, rocks, or other obstacles – always ride defensively, ready to brake at any moment.
  • Wear fluorescent or reflective gear when riding at night. Your bike should have a white headlight, red taillight, and front and rear reflectors.
  • Don’t wear loose clothing or pants, and never wear sandals or flip-flops. Avoid wearing anything that could get caught in the spokes, spindles, or chains.

Do Your Part to Prevent Trips to the ER

Healthcare workers treat millions of people every year for all types of accidents and injuries. Whether you have contact with patients or not, you probably drive or ride. Know the details of the new bicycle safety law. Wearing a helmet plays a critical role in preventing traumatic brain injuries and saving lives. Visit this link for more bicycle safety tips.

Attorney Edgar Snyder, an avid cyclist for 60+ years, has served the residents of western Pennsylvania and its surrounding regions for over 45 years. His law firm, Edgar Snyder & Associates, has represented over 40,000 people, including clients who were injured in all types of accidents. For more information, visit EdgarSnyder.com.