Philadelphia Bike Laws

A bicycle is a legal vehicle, entitled to the same rights and responsibilities as a car. One exception: bicycles are not allowed on highways.

In the street
  • Bicycles must be ridden in the same direction as traffic.
  • Bicycles are entitled to ride in the middle of the lane.
    • In order to pass a bicycle, a vehicle must be able to give the bicyclist 4 feet of clearance before passing. Drivers may cross the double-yellow line in order to do so.
  • Bicycles can be ridden on any city street, including streets without bike lanes or sharrows.
  • Bicycles must obey all street signs and signals, including traffic lights, stop signs, yield signs, and crosswalks.
  • Bicycles may not be ridden on the sidewalk unless the rider is under 13 years of age.
    • If you want to avoid unsafe street conditions or a traffic jam, walk your bike on the sidewalk.
  • Like a car, bicyclists must yield to pedestrians in sidewalks.
  • “Filtering” through traffic to the front of the line of cars stopped at a red light is illegal.
  • Motor vehicle operators or passengers must make sure it is safe to exit into moving traffic. In other words, they need to check before opening their car doors. They bear the legal responsibility in dooring incidents.

Bikes in bike lanes
  • Bike lanes are one-direction only, unless the lane is explicitly marked as two-directional.
  • Bike lanes go the same direction as adjacent vehicular travel lanes unless explicitly marked as a “contraflow lane.”
  • Bicyclists may ride 2 abreast in a bicycle lane.
  • Bicyclists are not required to ride in a bicycle lane just because there is a lane on that street.
  • For information on the issue of parking in the Pine and Spruce bike lanes, see this page.

Vehicles in bike lanes
  • When a bicycle is proceeding straight and a vehicle in an adjacent lane is making a turn, the bicyclist has the right of way.
    • Avoid biking in a vehicle’s blind spot as you approach an intersection so the driver knows you are there before making a turn.
  • Drivers can merge into a bike lane in order to make a turn but must do so safely and yield to bicycles occupying the lane.
  • For information on the weekend parking in the Spruce and Pine bike lanes, see our page on that topic.

Bike lanes can be marked with a variety of parking signs. Here is what they mean:

  • No Parking: Vehicles may not park, but may load/unload for up to 20 minutes (eg. groceries, FedEx trucks).
  • No Standing: Vehicles may not park or load/unload goods, but can drop off/pick up people (eg. taxis).
  • No Stopping: Vehicles may not stop for any reason except to obey other traffic laws or in case of emergency.
Equipment
  • Bicycles are required to have a front white light and a back red reflector.
    • A back red light is highly, highly encouraged. Bike lights are not so you can see your way; it’s so others can see you.
  • Adults do not have to wear a helmet. In Pennsylvania, all children under age 13 must wear a helmet.
    • But seriously – wear a helmet. You don’t want an unexpected fall to give you a concussion or worse.
  • A bicycle can carry only as many riders as there are seats.
  • Bicycles must have brakes.
    • We have not heard of any people riding brake-less fixies being cited for breaking this rule.
    • That said, riding a fixie without brakes is really bad for your knees.
  • Bicyclists (and motorists) are prohibited from wearing headphones.
  • Bicycles are required to have bells.
    • Enforcement of this rule is virtually unheard of.

Locking Your bicycle

You may lock your bike to:

  • Bike racks placed in the sidewalk, or bike corrals placed in the street.
  • Public street poles or parking meters, so long as you do not block the pedestrian right-of-way; ie, prevent people or wheelchairs from easily getting past your bike.
  • Parking signs designating handicapped parking locations.

You are prohibited from locking your bike to:

  • Trees. In addition to it being illegal, locks damage trees and this encourages thieves to cut or knock down trees in order to steal your bike.
  • Objects on private property. This includes railings or fences on private property, the little fences around trees embedded in sidewalks, and chain link fences.
  • Bike racks placed on private property. These racks’ availability are at the discretion of the property owner.
  • The railings of trolley stations in the middle of Girard Avenue.
  • Other places where the City or SEPTA has erected No Bike Parking signs.

“No Bike Parking” signs are not permitted to be placed on city or Parking Authority street signs, and locked bicycles are not allowed to be removed from sign poles or street furniture that are in the public “right of way”, including the sidewalk.

Fines and Links

Click on the table below for a list of fines (current as of April 2014).

bicycling fines chart

For the most recent code, look here or navigate to it through the links available on the City of Philadelphia website.

Volunteer for the BCGP!

Take the next step in getting involved in your bicycling community. Learn more here.