Pennsylvania’s “Keystone State” enjoys a diverse range of biking environments from city riding to the some of the best mountain biking available, and every cycling culture you can imagine. Magnificent recreational rides include Pittsburgh’s 21-mile Three Rivers Heritage Trail and Lancaster’s pastoral roads of Amish country. The spirit of both competitive cycling and youth development may be best illustrated along the tracks of Lehigh Valley’s Velodrome located in the famous and beloved Trexlertown. Commuter cycling is strong and growing with Philadelphia taking its place among the top ten highest-ranking cycling-commuter cities.
With this increase in bicycling, however, we continue to see clashes and crashes involving auto and bicycles. Tragically, our country lost 818 residents in 2015 to bike and auto crashes, 93 from that total were Philadelphians. Fortunately, a global movement known as Vision Zero has taken hold to create a new norm of zero traffic deaths. Philadelphia government and its lead advocacy group, The Bicycle Coalition of Philadelphia are working to change infrastructure, laws and public awareness to drive the death rate to zero within the next 12 years with Vision Zero PHL. Bike Law PA supports this life-saving initiative and will continue to contribute on behalf of cyclists across the state of Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania attorney, Joe Piscitello has emerged into the region’s premier Bike Law firm handling matters from fatal crashes to frequent “dooring” incidents.
Joe founded Piscitello Law thirty years ago and has represented innumerable bicyclists throughout Pennsylvania involving vehicle negligence, unsafe road conditions, and distracted driving. He is an ardent advocate for a bicyclist’s right to be on the road. The testimonial from a Lehigh Valley cyclist “buzzed” by a distracted driver in 2012 still stands out in his mind to this day: “…this judgment makes me feel not only validated but vindicated…”
Perhaps the most compelling aspect about Joe is that he not only has a personal passion for bicycling, but he has experienced riding in all types of road and weather conditions across the United States and in Europe. He has trained in the densely populated urban roads of Philadelphia as well as Barcelona, Spain. Joe has navigated hair- pin turns in the Dolomite mountains of Turino, Italy and the steep climbs of Mount Hood, Oregon. He has experience riding the dangerous coastal paths in Sicily and has been on the road during torrential down pours and black ice conditions. Joe’s personal experience brings a depth of understanding to the world of cycling, and the many components involved in a cycling crash.
For over a decade, Joe has immersed himself into competitive cycling in the field of road, criterium, and cross. He founded a Masters Elite Cycling Team in 2010 which is nationally- recognized. For the past three years, Joe has been a Cycling Coach and Ride Leader in domestic and international corporate cycling rides.
The advocacy component of Joe’s work expands every year. He is an active collaborator and supporter of the Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition in their efforts to expand bike lanes in the region and advocate for improved infrastructure. Joe serves on the Advisory Board for the Coalition’s Cadence Youth Cycling Program and is their pro-bono legal advisor. He has been a keynote speaker numerous times with cycling organizations on the topic of legal rights and responsibilities of cyclists.
Pennsylvania Bicycle Laws
PA Safe Passing Laws – 4-feet zone
Pennsylvania requires that the driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle traveling in the same direction “…shall pass to the left of the pedacycle within not less than four feet at a careful and prudent reduced speed.”
Source: 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §3303 (2016)
Pennsylvania is the ONLY state which has a four-feet passing law on the books under all circumstances.
- North Carolina requires drivers to allow at least two feet and if in a no-passing zone, then a minimum of four feet or completely entering left lane of the highway;
- South Dakota requires drivers to allow a minimum of three feet if the speed limit is35 mph or less, and require drivers to allow a minimum of six feet when posted speed limit is greater than 35 mph;
- 28 States designate three feet passing laws; and
- 19 states designate words, such as “Due Care,” “Reasonably Clear,” “Safe Distance.” These ambiguous words create confusion on the part of both car and cyclist.
- To see where your state stacks up against others in safe passing laws, look here.
PA Distracted Driving Laws
Pennsylvania currently has the following law aimed at distracted driving, subject to limited exceptions:
No driver shall operate a motor vehicle on a roadway while using an interactive wireless communications device to send, read or write a text-based communication while the vehicle is in motion.
Source: 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §3316 (2016)
Create a Viable “Textalizer"
The real question behind a Distracted Driving law is that of enforcement; specifically, what tools are available in the field for law enforcement to assess and document whether a driver was using a cell phone prior to or during a crash. In 2016, New York Senator Lieberman proposed a law known as “Evan’s Law” to create a “textalizer” tool that law enforcement may use at the scene. Bike Law PA reported on this innovative proposed law, read more here.
PA Bicycle Dooring Law
Pennsylvania requires that “No person open any door on a motor vehicle unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic…” In addition, no person shall leave a door open on a side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period- of- time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.
Source: 75 Pa. Cons. Stat. §3705 (2016)
Promote the “Dutch Reach”
In addition to a state’s Dooring Law, we should consider adopting a driving practice which can become a mandatory part of our driving education system. That’s what the Dutch did in creating the “Dutch Reach." The practice forces the driver (or passenger) to pivot their body towards the street—which automatically points their vision to where an oncoming bicycle may be coming. This practice would address and reduce the root cause of most door injuries: the motorist's failure to check behind them before exiting their vehicle towards the street. Bike Law PA discussed the merits of the Dutch practice in the article here.
Report a Pennsylvania Bicycle Crash
If you have been in a bike-car crash anywhere in Pennsylvania, we are here to help. We've handled dozens of bike claims. To get started, please complete our Bike Crash Report Form or call Joe's office at (215) 372-8768 we'll contact you as soon as possible.
Pennsylvania Bike Law Speakers
If you would like Bike Law to come speak to your club or at your shop, please contact us.
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