Rules of the Road
Springtime means a number of things, including warmer weather and more time spent out of doors. Many of us enjoy riding our bicycles, and it’s worth noting a new law which is now in effect, and impacts those of us “behind the wheel” as well as those of us “on the wheels.”

Act 3 of 2012 took effect April 2. The legislation, which was House Bill 170, amends the Vehicle Code by requiring motor vehicles to observe a minimum four-foot safe passing distance, at a reduced speed, whenever overtaking bicycles on the highway. Pennsylvania is the 19th state to enact a law which requires this buffer zone. A violation is a summary offense which carries a $25 fine.

The new law also prohibits motorists from making sudden right turns in front of a cyclist who is proceeding in the same direction. This makes illegal what are often referred to as “hook” turns.

While most of the focus on this bill has been on what the motorist must do, Act 3 also requires
bicyclists to operate as far to the right side of the road as is possible when proceeding at less than the prevailing speed. In other words, bike riders must make every effort to stay out of the way of vehicle traffic.

Enactment of the new law is also a reminder to bike riders of the need to have your bicycle tuned up before hitting the road. Make sure your brakes are in working order, and that your bike includes significant reflectors and lights, in case you ride earlier or later in the day. You should also have reflective clothing to help motorists spot you easier.

Bicycling is great exercise, in addition to a cost-effective way to get around. Its success is dependent on a healthy relationship between the rider and those who also use the roads. This new law, as well as some common-sense practices, will make highways safer for all involved.

State Representative Joe Emrick
137th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Scott Little
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