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Random Thoughts: Pedaling through all the rules and regulations on the road

May 24, 2013

Wait a minute.

That can't be true.

Riding a bicycle around town has the same laws as driving a car around town.

Are you saying that going down a one-way street the wrong way on a bike is in violation of the law?

Oh, boy, somebody is in trouble.

It's hard to believe, but bicycle laws parallel the laws that govern those for automobiles.

A bike is considered a vehicle when operating on a public thoroughfare and, thus, is subject to the same laws as any other moving vehicle.

You mean to tell me there's no riding a bike down the sidewalk?

That brings up the first question, because everyone has seen many a parent on a bike alongside a child on a bike on the sidewalk.

Who gets the ticket here?

Oh, my, there's a blurry picture forming here.

Is it riding on the sidewalk for safety reasons or on the street for the letter of the law?

It could be riding downtown, especially with a child, is not the prudent thing to do.

Parents have the ultimate responsibility for a child under 12 years old.

That means, by state law, that child has to be wearing an approved helmet, and that also includes the baby riding in an attached restraining seat behind a parent on a bicycle.

Oh, you say your child rides in a trailer towed by the bike and not on the bike.

Sorry, still means a helmet if the child is underage

If you want to be funny on your bike and try to ride freehanded, think again.

One hand on the handlebars at all times.

Oh, and have your friend get his own bicycle, because that friend does not ride on your handlebars.

Well, yes, he can ride with you, but only if it's a two-seater.

Translated, that means you cannot have more people on the bike than the bike is designed to carry.

Before automatic turn signals became standard on cars, some folks might remember having to stick their hands out the window to indicate they wanted to make a turn.

That was stick your hand out the window, rain or shine.

Bike riders are required to do the same thing by sticking their hand out to indicate they want to turn.

Think about 500 feet.

How far is that?

That is how far your front bike lights have to shine to be visible to others.

Why a front light on the bike and side reflectors?

That is because you have decided to ride the thing between sunset and sunrise. Another thing is that your pedalcycle — the term used by the state in its Sections 3501-11 of Title 75 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes — must be equipped with brakes that will stop the bike 15 feet from an initial speed of 15 mph on dry, level pavement. Boy, oh boy, that's a lot to think about, and who really does?

A bicycle is to travel the same direction as an automobile.

That means don't go speeding down a one-way street the wrong direction.

Any path used by a pedestrian gives that person the right-of-way.

Sometimes a bicycle can be on the sidewalk, as in certain residential areas, but certainly not what is considered the business district of a community.

Here in Punxsutawney, there really is no designated business district, but traveling on one's bicycle in an area where there are stores and businesses may not be the best-laid plans of mice and men.

One place you really cannot ride a bicycle, excuse me, let's be correct here — a pedalcycle — is on a Pennsylvania freeway, unless you have prior permission from the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.

In case you really need to be a freeway rider, it is PennDOT you call at 1-800-932-4600.

Not all the rules are against the biker.

A new one enacted in 2012 says a motorist must be at least 4 feet from the bicycle when passing, even if it means crossing the double yellow line.

Now forget the rule here, please, and let common sense take over when you see a semi coming at you just as you think you want to pass that biker.

Oh, yes, you can do it by darting in front of the bike and maybe causing the biker to upset, but you did avoid being hit by the truck.

We needed a law that bypasses our common sense?

Folks, the few items here on biking are just the tip of the iceberg. All the rules and safety procedures dealing with the bike rider are much more involved than these few hundred words.

For more information on bike rules, try Punxsutawney Police Chief Tom Fedigan or Chad Horner at Sam Smith's office.

They are not only helpful but good-looking as well. Thanks, guys.

All in all, use common sense when riding a bicycle or, yes, your pedalcycle.

Maybe all this good bike riding starts for us with that first trip down the sidewalk on the tricycle Santa brought us.

Last month's teaser asked how the fall election date was determined. Surprise of surprises.

Someone sent an email with the correct answer. Fall elections come the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, so, this year, we vote Nov. 5, 2013.

Let's stay with bicycles for this month's teaser. When were the first bicycles manufactured in America?

Did you know any of this? Well, now you do.

Roberta Dinsmore can be reached at randomrmd@yahoo.com.

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