Locking & Theft

Sydenham1

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.

The rules in Philadelphia about where bicycles may legally be locked are not widely known. Familiarize yourself with the laws below, and tell your friends, family, associates, lovers, nemeses, and patrons so as a city we can all get on the same page.

Philadelphia laws about locking your bike
legal and illegal street bike parking

The bike on the left is parked legally. The bike on the right is not. (Click for bigger version)

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 (see example here); 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.
Private owners’ ability to limit bike parking
illegal sign

This was an illegally-posted sign.

Private property owners are not allowed to remove or forbid bicycles from being locked to street furniture in front of their stores or buildings. The sidewalk is public space.

Additionally, property owners are not allowed to post private signs on public poles:

  • 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 6125
    • § 6125. Display of unauthorized signs, signals or markings
    • (a) General rule.–No person shall place, maintain or display upon or in view of any highway any unauthorized sign, signal, marking or device which purports to be or is an imitation of or resembles an official traffic-control device or which attempts to direct the movement of traffic, or which hides from view or interferes with the effectiveness of an official traffic-control device.

Should you see such a sign, report it to the City by calling 311 or using the Philly 311 app.