There seems to be a long-running feud between some who use four wheels to get to work and those who use two. Most of the time motorists and bicyclists are able to safely co-exist, but run-ins do happen, both of the verbal and physical variety. And in a car accident, a bicyclist runs a high risk of serious injury or even death.

But a new Pennsylvania bicycle law that went into effect this month aims to reduce accidents and feelings of animosity between the two groups. The “Safe Passing Law” requires motorists to leave a 4-foot “cushion of safety” while passing bicyclists. In turn, bike riders are expected to “use all reasonable efforts to avoid impeding the normal flow of traffic.” The law also prohibits cars making right turns from cutting off bicyclists going straight. And bicycle riders must use the right-hand lane, or stay as close as possible to the right edge of the roadway unless conditions are unsafe.

An increasing number of people are taking advantage of the benefits of commuting to school or work by bicycle. Now that spring has arrived, thousands more Pennsylvanians are joining the two-wheeled ranks, often just for recreation. This was part of the impetus for the law, which also provides some recourse for bikers who are injured in accidents with cars. These injuries are often very serious simply because of the relative lack of protection bikers have when they’re hit.

A bike shop mechanic in Pittsburgh recently recalled a car accident he was involved in years ago. The crash was so severe that he shattered his pelvis and almost died. After several surgeries, he still has nerve damage in his right leg. He acknowledges that some bicyclists “hog up the whole road,” which the new law disallows, but he also says drivers need to be more patient and aware of bicyclists. “The big difference is that cars are the major mode of transportation,” he said. “We’re a minority, and we’re more vulnerable.”

The new bike law could go a long way to reduce the number of car accidents with bicyclists. But if you are injured in such a crash, it’s important to seek legal help right away. An attorney who focuses on car and bicycle accidents can help ensure you get the compensation you need to recover quickly and get back out on the road again.

Source: The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Pennsylvania’s new bike safety law starts war of words,” Anya Sosteck, April 8, 2012