How to Stay Safe as a Road Cyclist in Pittsburgh

Choosing to ride a bicycle rather than drive is a great way to stay in shape, cut down on gas costs, and help the environment. However, biking in Pittsburgh can be dangerous, especially if you are unfamiliar with Pennsylvania’s laws for cyclists. Before you or your family decide to bike across town, make sure you review these bicycle laws and a few general safety tips.

Important Pennsylvania Bicycle Laws

Make sure you and your family members know and obey the following rules when riding a bicycle in Pittsburgh:

Helmets: Pennsylvania law requires all cyclists under the age of 12 to wear a helmet. However, even if you are 12 or over, keep in mind that wearing a helmet significantly reduces the risk of serious head and brain injuries if you are in an accident while riding your bike.

Cyclists Must Follow Normal Traffic Rules: Pennsylvania law treats bicycles like motor vehicles. This means that while biking, you must: 

  • Ride on the right side of the road, never against traffic
  • Come to a complete stop at all stop signs and red lights
  • Not exceed posted speed limits
  • Maintain a safe following distance from vehicles

Essentially, you must obey the rules the same way you would behind the wheel.

Sidewalks vs. Roads: In Pittsburgh, bicyclists are mostly free to ride on either sidewalks or roads, depending on where they feel most comfortable. However, there are certain exceptions to this rule.

  • Cyclists cannot ride on sidewalks in business districts of Pittsburgh.
  • Cyclists cannot ride on sidewalks when there is a bike lane available.
  • If a cyclist rides on a sidewalk, pedestrians always have right of way.
  • Bicyclists can ride on the shoulder of the road if they choose.

Riding After Dark: If you plan to bike after sunset and before sunrise, you must have side reflectors, a front headlight, and a rear light installed on your bike. These lights and reflectors must be visible from at least 500 feet away.

Brakes: All cyclists must maintain their bicycle brakes so that they can come to a complete stop within 15 feet on dry, level pavement at a speed of 15 miles per hour.

General Safety Tips for Bicyclists

In addition to the mandatory laws you must follow when bicycling, please consider these additional safety tips:

Visibility: One of the main reasons accidents occur is that a motorist does not see a bicyclist until it is too late. Avoid accidents by wearing brightly colored or reflective clothes. Also remember to use reflectors on your bike, especially on the wheels, and use fully-charged headlights and rear lights when biking after dark.

Be Prepared: Before leaving your house on a lengthy ride, make sure that your bike is in proper working condition. Check your tire pressure and make sure you have adequate supplies in case of an emergency, including:

  • A tire patch kit, spare tube, bike tools, and a pump
  • Snacks and plenty of water
  • A first-aid kit
  • A fully-charged cell phone

Keep an Eye on Traffic: Drivers must allow at least four feet when passing a bicyclist. However, you cannot always count on drivers to follow the law. Be prepared to move out of the way of traffic and always keep a safe distance from cars, whether parked, driving, or stopped.  

Use Hand Signals: Using hand signals is a great way to communicate your intentions to others on the road.

  • Turning left: Extend your left arm and hand horizontally.
  • Turning right: Extend your left arm and bend up at the elbow or extend your right arm and hand horizontally.
  • Stopping or slowing down: Extend your left arm and hand downward.

For more ways to stay safe on our roads, be sure to follow our blog and, of course, anytime you need legal advice, please contact the attorneys of Berger and Green: 412-661-1400.