Getting Started: The Essentials

Everything you need to know to start riding

So you’re thinking about riding a bike in Philadelphia. Here’s what you need to know before you get started.

FAQs

Where can I get a bike to ride?

You can use Indego, Philadelphia’s bike share system. If you’re looking to buy a bike, you can find a local bike shop on our Bike Shops page. Some shops also rent bicycles. Shops that rent are indicated on our Bike Shop map.

What other gear will I need?

A local shop can help you gather all the necessities for starting out. But we think the essentials are a bicycle (duh), a helmet, lights, a bell, and a u-lock or other heavy-duty lock. If you’re using an Indego bike, you don’t need lights, a bell, or a lock (lights and a bell are built into the bike, and you dock the bike at an Indego station).

What other gear should I think about getting?

Spare tubes, a pump, patch kit, and tire levers are key to have on hand if you need to fix a flat tire. We recommend chain lube and a cleaner like SImple Green for basic bike maintenance. A rack and panniers can help you haul groceries, etc. and keep weight (and sweat) off your back. Fenders are great for keeping you clean on your commute, especially on a rainy day. Gear for keeping you dry in the rain and warm in the cold weather (especially gloves!) will increase the number of days of the year you can ride.

How can I stay safe? What are the rules?

Check out our Bike Law FAQ page information about bike laws. We recommend using our Bike Maps page to help plan a safe route. For tips on how to share the road safely with pedestrians and drivers, see our Bike Nice, Drive Nice campaign. 

You can also check our Event Calendar for Urban Riding Basic classes. These are hosted monthly (except during the winter) and are an encouraging space to learn about safe riding tips, bicycle infrastructure, and rules of the road.  

I hear a lot about bikes getting stolen. How can I keep my bike safe from thieves?

Bike theft is common everywhere, and Philadelphia has an especially high rate of bicycle theft, so it is important that you lock your bike properly. We have compiled information on how to lock your bike correctly and what to do if it’s stolen.

How do I plan a safe route?

Find routes with bike lanes and trails on our Regional Bike Map. Don’t always trust Google Maps’ suggested route! Ask a friend or cycling-related Facebook group for recommended routes. When you’re first testing a new route, be sure to leave extra time to get to your destination.

Quick Tips on Safe Riding in Philadelphia

  • A bicyclist can always become a pedestrian. Blocked bike lane? Crazy construction or potholes on the street? Jammed traffic? Instead of riding through a potentially dangerous situation, you can always hop off your bike and walk around any obstruction.
  • Be very careful around trolley tracks. The metal tracks are slippery when wet and bike tires can get stuck in the center groove. Avoid riding parallel to tracks and always cross perpendicularly. Plot your route out in advance to avoid them when possible.
  • Making left turns can be difficult on busy streets. Instead of merging over multiple lanes you can also do a Box Turn. Simply cross straight through the intersection, turn your bike to the left, and when the light changes cross straight again.
  • When approaching an intersection, always be aware of turning cars. If you are in a car’s blind spot, or if the driver isn’t paying proper attention, they may make a turn directly into you. This is called a Right Hook and can be avoided by staying out of blind spots and being on the lookout at intersections.
  • Stay out of the Door Zone. Try to keep a few feet between yourself and parked cars. Car doors unexpectedly opening is one of the biggest dangers to cyclists but can be avoided by riding on the left half of the bike lane or by taking the full lane where there are no bike lanes.
  • Remember that you have the right to take the full lane. Bicycles are considered legal vehicles in PA and have the same right to ride in the middle of the street even if it slows traffic. This guarantees that you won’t be in the door zone and that cars won’t pass too closely. It can be stressful having cars behind you so feel free to let traffic pass you when you get to an intersection.

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