Bike Law FAQ

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia gets a lot of questions from cyclists and motorists about what the rules and general behaviors. So, we’ve made this page of Frequently Asked Questions about the rules of the road. If you’ve still got questions, check out our Bike Laws page.

For Cyclists:

 

Is it OK to ride against traffic?

No, with two exceptions. Bicycles are legal vehicles and, therefore, are required to ride in the same direction as motor vehicles in traffic. Riding against traffic—“contraflow riding,” as it’s called—is only allowed on streets where there is a specific contraflow bike lane, or a two-way bike lane.

Are bicyclists allowed to roll through Stop Signs?

No. All vehicles are required to stop at stop signs. Failure to yield at Stop Signs is potentially dangerous for pedestrians looking to cross the street. So, please stop at Stop signs—and follow all other street signs and markings—including traffic lights, yield signs, and crosswalks.

Can I ride my bike on the sidewalk?

Are you 13 years of age or younger? Then sure, go ahead. Otherwise, you should ride on the street.

My friend and I want to ride next to each other in the bike lane.

You should do that. Cyclists are allowed to ride two-abreast in the bike lane, whether it’s a standard 5-foot lane or a buffered/protected 10-foot lane.

There’s an obstruction or something else in the bike lane.

You are not required to ride in the bike lane just because there’s a bike lane on the street. Sometimes the safest place to ride is the bike lane, sometimes it isn’t. Motorists often completely block bike lanes in Philadelphia, and the rider has no choice but to go around, into traffic. If you have to do this, please make sure the coast is clear for you to ride into traffic.

I was trying to ride over the Manayunk Bridge (which connects Manayunk and Lower Merion) and it was closed! What’s up with that?

Until the city and township can get lighting installed on the Manayunk Bridge, it closes at dusk and opens at Dawn. We frequently blog about this issue when updates are available.

I was in a crash on my bicycle. What should I do?

Go to the Bicycle Coalition’s “What to do in a crash” page. We have a series of steps you should take upon being in a crash, and have listed two lawyers there who work specifically with bicyclists involved in crashes.

For Motorists:

 

Why is that cyclist riding in the middle of the street?

Because they are allowed to, and, sometimes, encouraged to. Bicyclists are legal vehicles and entitled to the same rights as all other legal vehicles. Sometimes, the safest path a cyclist can take is in the center of the street.

Can I pass the cyclist if they’re riding this way?

Sure—as long as you’re giving them four feet of passing space. In Pennsylvania, you are legally required to give a cyclist four feet of space when passing, and you can drive over the double-yellow lines to do this. If you can’t give four feet of space, you can’t pass. Also, please don’t honk at the cyclist. It doesn’t help anyone.

Looks like I don’t have four feet, but I really, really need to pass this cyclist. I’m going to be late.

Sorry. Rules are rules. Don’t pass the cyclist unless you can do so safely providing four feet of space. And, let’s be honest here, if you’re in a rush on a city street, the most likely scenario of passing a cyclist is meeting that cyclist at the next red light or Stop Sign.

I need to pull over real quick in a bike lane to drop off some groceries. Is that cool?

No. It’s never cool to do so. By blocking a bike lane, you’re putting every cyclists’ and motorists’ life behind you in danger. Obstructing rights-of-way is never a good idea and you shouldn’t do it.

That said, in some cases, due to compromise and neighborhood concerns, some bike lanes have been marked “No Parking” zones, which means motorists are allowed to pull over for 20 minutes in case of emergency. Please do not abuse this privilege.

I opened my driver’s side door and hit a cyclist. Am I at fault?

Yes. Motorists are required to check their rear-view mirror for oncoming cyclists when opening a door into traffic or a bike lane. Check out “What to do in a crash” page for more details.

Got it. So, about pulling over into a bike lane. I just need to run into the store!

Nope. Not cool. Even when it’s technically legal, it’s not recommended and potentially dangerous.

So, where should I park?

A parking space. There are many of them, both on the street and in garages all over the city.