PA bicycle laws

← Back to Forums


paulheckbert
Moderator
#

Now that I’m over 55 and eligible for an insurance discount, I took an AARP Smart Driver Course. It was appalled by some of the teaching materials, hence my letter to PennDOT today at http://www.dot.state.pa.us/internet/web.nsf/ECSEmailForm?OpenForm:

I’m a driver and a cyclist in Pennsylvania. I was recently reviewing the Pennsylvania Driver’s Manual, PUB 95 (1-15), and noticed a diagram on page 42 that promotes unlawful driving. You should fix this diagram ASAP!

The diagram shows what appears to be a four-foot-wide box CENTERED on the cyclist, and a car passing the cyclist with about 1 FOOT OF CLEARANCE between the cyclist and the car!

This is against the law, as nicely diagrammed on page 90 of the book, which correctly explains that Pennsylvania law says that a car passing a cyclist must give AT LEAST 4 FEET OF CLEARANCE, not 1 foot!

Your driver manual, in its current form, encourages unlawful driving, with that bad diagram on page 42. Hundreds of people a day (both 16 year-olds getting learner’s permits and seniors taking refresher courses) are being taught using this unlawful, dangerous diagram.

Please fix the diagram on page 42 to agree with the law and show 4 or more feet of clearance. The 4 feet is not measured from the curb, but from the left shoulder or hand of the cyclist! Draw the four foot wide box to the left of the cyclist, not centered on the cyclist. If you draw the car crossing the centerline of the road to pass, that would make a more realistic (and still legal) picture. See http://www.dot.state.pa.us/Public/DVSPubsForms/BDL/BDL%20Manuals/Manuals/PA%20Drivers%20Manual%20By%20Chapter/English/PUB%2095.pdf

diagram from page 42:

diagram from page 90:


The Iguana
Participant
#

Also, I think they meant to show that the car is allowed to pass by going into the oncoming lane–that’s one reason one waits for the oncoming vehicle to pass…


StuInMcCandless
Participant
#

I really wish they would use, as analogy, the example of a tree branch in the road. Just as you would wait for oncoming traffic to clear before crossing the center line to get around a downed tree limb, you wait until traffic is clear to get around a much slower cyclist. I would especially love it if they would explicitly state 3301a6, that it is legal to cross a yellow line to pass a cyclist if you can see it is otherwise safe to do so.


paulheckbert
Moderator
#

Stu: they explain on page 90 that you can cross the line (text excerpted below) but in that horrible diagram on page 42, they botched the 4 foot concept royally. The caption on 42 is reasonable “leaving at least 4 feet of space for safety” but that diagram is awful.

Text from page 90:
SAFE PASSING IS THE LAW
1. Before passing, you must first decide whether you can maneuver around the bicyclist. Be sure to check for oncoming traffic. When passing, you must allow at least four (4) feet between your vehicle and a bicycle in order to pass safely. If necessary and if you can do it safely, you are permitted to cross the center double yellow line so you can maintain the four (4) feet of clearance between your vehicle and the bicycle.
2. Unless making a left turn, bicyclists traveling more slowly than passing vehicles must keep to the right side of the roadway and must travel in the same direction as the rest of traffic. However, this requirement is waived on roads with a single lane in each direction.
3. When there is only one travel lane, bicyclists may use any portion of the lane to avoid hazards on the roadway, including keeping a safe distance from stopped and parked cars.
4. Drivers cannot turn into the path of a bicyclist who is riding straight ahead on a roadway or shoulder.
5. You cannot force a bicyclist off the road. If you do this, you may face criminal charges.
6. Bicyclists are considered to be vehicle operators and are expected to obey all traffic laws; however, they may travel at less than the posted minimum speed and may not be cited for impeding traffic. Bicyclists may operate on a shoulder or berm, but are not required to do so.


paulheckbert
Moderator
#

My email a year ago (see above) to the general PennDOT comment form and cc to Roy Gothie, the PennDOT Bike/Ped Coordinator yielded no correction to the manual. It was only after I tweeted about it a few days ago

and again today

with a carefully-crafted picture that PennDOT finally sent a reply.

Does that mean they’ll fix their dangerous diagram for the 2018 edition of the Pennsylvania Driver’s Manual? We will see.


Eric
Member
#

That is actually diagramming 4 feet in the new post-fact America, so I don’t know why you’re complaining.


paulheckbert
Moderator
#

The 2017/6 edition of the Pennsylvania Driver’s Manual eliminated the bad diagram (that showed a car passing a cyclist with 1 foot of clearance)! Yay! Perhaps my tweet (above) helped. See page 54 of http://www.dot.state.pa.us/Public/DVSPubsForms/BDL/BDL%20Manuals/Manuals/PA%20Drivers%20Manual%20By%20Chapter/English/PUB%2095.pdf .

Their discussion of cyclists (mid-manual) in the Learning-to-Drive chapter is now quite short, just

BICYCLISTS

Safety Tips (see laws on page 90)

  • When approaching or passing a bicycle, slow down to a safe speed.
  • After you have passed a bicyclist, do not slow down or stop quickly. A quick stop could lead to the bicyclist crashing into your vehicle.
  • Do not sound your horn close to bicyclists, unless you must do so to avoid a crash.

For more information, the Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver’s Manual (PUB 380) can be found at: http://www.dot.state.pa.us/public/pubsforms/Publications/Pub%20380.pdf

No explanation of how to pass. No discussion of concerns that cause cyclists to move left (road debris, potholes, parked cars and their doors). No effort to encourage sympathy for cyclists. The tone is “oh yeah, bicycles…” .


The Iguana
Participant
#

“Safety Tips (see laws on page 90)” refers to a more extensive and considerably long explanation–including a reference to the Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver’s Manual (PUB 380)

SAFE PASSING IS THE LAW
1. Before passing, you must first decide whether you can maneuver around the bicyclist.
Be sure to check for oncoming traffic. When passing, you must allow at least four
(4) feet between your vehicle and a bicycle in order to pass safely. If necessary and
if you can do it safely, you are permitted to cross the center double yellow line so you
can maintain the four (4) feet of clearance between your vehicle and the bicycle.
2. Unless making a left turn, bicyclists traveling more slowly than passing vehicles must
keep to the right side of the roadway and must travel in the same direction as the rest
of traffic. However, this requirement is waived on roads with a single lane in each direction.
3. When there is only one travel lane, bicyclists may use any portion of the lane to avoid hazards on the roadway,
including keeping a safe distance from stopped and parked cars.
4. Drivers cannot turn into the path of a bicyclist who is riding straight ahead on a roadway or shoulder.
5. You cannot force a bicyclist off the road. If you do this, you may face criminal charges.
6. Bicyclists are considered to be vehicle operators and are expected to obey all traffic laws; however, they may
travel at less than the posted minimum speed and may not be cited for impeding traffic. Bicyclists may operate
on a shoulder or berm, but are not required to do so.
For more information, the Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver’s Manual (PUB 380) can be found at:
http://www.dot.state.pa.us/public/pubsforms/Publications/Pub%20380.pdf


StuInMcCandless
Participant
#

I have a problem with #3 and #6, above.

#3 encourages gutter riding on multi-lane roads. That’s less safe than taking the right lane.

#6 – There is no such thing as a minimum posted speed on any road you can legally bike on. If such a thing exists in PA, it is exceedingly rare. I think what they are trying to say there is that cyclists are not expected to travel at or close to the speed of motor traffic but can nevertheless be expected to be in the same space as motor traffic.

To me, this is a critical point, well worth the revising. Further still, I feel there should be a sense of rubbing readers’ noses in it, to make damn clear that motorists are expected to accept this without question or complaint.


jonawebb
Participant
#

The way I see it, they’re misinterpreting the law. You can take the right lane on a multi-lane road, but must ride to the right on a single-lane road which is wide enough to allow safe passing within the lane (most aren’t). The text of the law is confusing, but presumably they have legal experts that can help them.
FYI, here is the model law the PA law seems to be based on. It’s much more clear. The PA law can be interpreted this way, but your have to untangle the syntax.
http://bikeleague.org/content/model-where-ride-law


Steven
Participant
#

#2 seems garbled too. It talks about keeping to the “right side of the roadway”, similar to the language in Title 75 section 3301 “Driving on right side of roadway” which talks about how in this country we drive on the right side of the road, not the left. That’s emphasized by the “travel in the same direction as the rest of traffic” part. But then they say that doesn’t apply if you’re turning left. So apparently, it’s OK for cyclists to salmon down the wrong side of the road if they’re making a left (or going at least as fast as passing vehicles).

I think they got confused about whether they were talking about whether salmoning was OK, versus when cyclists are supposed to stay near the right edge of the road or lane, and just threw some language for both into that item.

As to #6, Title 75 3364(c) permits the state or localities to put up minimum speed limit signs where appropriate. There may be none around here on any roads cyclist can use, but perhaps some other part of the state has more. So I’m OK with them saying cyclists are exempt from those.

It’s interesting to see them assert that cyclists may not be cited for impeding traffic, period. Title 75 3364(b)2 suggests we can be, if we don’t use reasonable efforts to avoid impeding other traffic. So here they seem to be more cyclist-friendly than the law requires.


Eric
Member
#

That whole case of the probably not mentally all there Westmoreland county cyclist hinges on him impeding traffic repeatedly.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
#

I never hear, anywhere, about the practice of “control and release”. Maybe it’s only an ABEA / Cycling Savvy thing. But practicing that allows me to avoid a lot of snarling, I’m sure. A review of it in this document would be well receive, I’m sure.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
#

* received

I cannot justify the continued existence of 75-3364c. It sounds like a tool that can be used by any municipality that’s got a seed under its dentures about cyclists.

Does anyone know of a list of these? How many of these are legitimate? How many were enacted for the explicit or implicit purpose of keeping people powered travel out? How many are North Ridgevilles waiting for their Erica to come along?


A
Member
#

i don’t think people who never bike know they can cross solid line to pass bike. when i bike on south braddock ave or shady ave people put tires on line and pass with less than 4′. I’m not sure if they even know the law of 4′. I wish Pittsburgh would put up signs on roads with sharrows must give 4′ while passing.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
#

All the more reason that we need people to pass a written exam at each four-year license renewal. Even if we make it open book, the mere fact of being challenged to stay current with changes to traffic law would be impetus enough to educate drivers, the net effect being that we’d catch less guff if we are doing the right thing.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
#

A follow-on question to motorcycling home in the first rain in two weeks, a couple days ago. Adding here so I don’t lose it in the quicksand of Facebook posts.

One of the questions I would like to see on a 4-year-license-renewal test. “It has not rained in two weeks. It just began raining. You should:
A) Do nothing additional beyond turning on your wipers.
B) Turn on your wipers and headlights.
C) Be observant for slick pavement.
D) Speed up a bit to get home before the real storm hits.
The way I would grade answers is that C is the preferred answer (5 points), B is a plausible answer (1 point), A is a wrong answer (0 points), and D is an unacceptable answer (subtract 5 points). Need 85 points out of 100 to pass; 20 questions. Two or more unacceptables, automatic fail.


zzwergel
Member
#

Also, in the manual, use a double yellow line instead of a dashed line.


erok
Keymaster
#

Funny this was topped. there’s two bills going to vote in the House this week, both sponsored by republicans, that we should support.

First is the Vulnerable Road Users Law HB1646

Basically it defines what a vulnerable road user is: bicyclists, peds, rollerblades, farmers, horse and buggy users, and sets fines if you are deemed a careless driver of: $10K for death, $5K for major injury, $1K for minor injury. Here’s an article.

Second is HB1657 amending the vehicle code

This one will allow for PennDOT to install and or fund Parking Protected Bike Lanes. Currently, the vehicle code says that parking must be next to a curb. this changes the language to allow it to be next to a painted buffer as well.

 


zzwergel
Member
#

Aren’t those usually in the door zone?


erok
Keymaster
#

No. the whole point of them is to not be in the door zone, as there is a large buffer between the bike lane and the parking lane


erok
Keymaster
#

btw, HB1657 just passed the House 187-0 and is on its way to the senate


Eric
Member
#

This seems like a no-brainer bill, but with the PA government unable to, say, prepare a budget on time, I’m amazed they all agree on anything.


erok
Keymaster
#

so the parking protected bike lane bill is stuck in senate transportation committee.

If you live in the districts of Vulakovich or Brewster, please make a call.

Tell them this will help their districts by allowing flexibility in design and help improves safety on the streets

← Back to Forums

You must be logged in to reply to this topic. Click here to login.

Supported by