Bicycling for Transportation

You may know how to ride a bike already, but you may need to brush up on how to ride safely and legally in the city.

Laws in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania

  • A bicycle is a legal vehicle. Bicycles traveling on roadways have all the general rights and responsibilities as drivers of motor vehicles. They ride with traffic, obey all traffic signals, and use hand signals to indicate turning, slowing, or stopping.
  • Sidewalk riding is illegal in Philadelphia if you are older than twelve. It’s also dangerous for yourself and for pedestrians!
  • Ride with lights from dusk until dawn. You’re required by law to have a front white light and red rear reflector, but we recommend a red light.

Urban Riding Techniques

  • Riding in traffic is a dance YOU lead. If you act with confidence and communicate your moves, you will help cars know how to act courteously toward you.
  • Be visible and predictable. Ride in a straight line, and don’t weave in and out of parked or moving cars. Use clear hand signals!
  • Make eye contact with motorists. If you have a driver’s eyes, you know they have seen you.
  • Position yourself properly in the lane.
    • If there is a bike lane, you should use it. But you are NOT required to use it. If the bike lane is obstructed or inconvenient, ride where you think is best and most safe.
    • If there is no bike lane, ride where the right wheel of a car would be.
  • Stay clear of the dooring zone! Ride 4 feet away from parked cars, and avoid being struck by an opening door.
  • Tip #1: Turning Left
    • You can turn like a motor vehicle. Merge to the left, signaling and looking over your shoulder, then proceed with the turn as you would in a car.
    • Option 2: a box turn
      box turn
  • Tip #2: Trolley Tracks
    • Always cross trolley tracks at a perpendicular angle.
    • Be especially careful if roads are wet!crossing trolley tracks
  • Tip #3: Right Hooks
    • When you approach an intersection in a bike lane and there is traffic to your left, be aware that cars might cut you off by turning right.

Choosing a Route

The most direct route isn’t necessarily the best one! Be willing to experiment and try a few options. Consider:

  • Bike lanes and/or sharrows
  • Width of shoulders
  • Speed of traffic
  • Streets with stop signs or stop lights
  • Hills
  • Bus routes
  • Construction, potholes, sewer grates, trolley tracks

The Philadelphia Bike Map can help direct you to streets with bike facilities, and Google Maps will give you options for point-to-point directions.

Locking Your Bike

No bike is impossible to steal, but proper locking can greatly increase the security of your bike. A helpful goal: make your bike look harder to steal than its neighbor.

Good places to lock:

  • Official bike racks
  • Street signs with signs on top
  • Places that are visible and well-lit

Bad places to lock

  • Trees
  • Fences
  • Sign posts without signs on top
  • Bike racks that aren’t properly secured to the cement
  • Private property
  • Outside overnight

Use a U-lock and leash to lock your bike, so that your frame and both wheels are secure. Don’t skimp on security when it comes to locking your bike!

Note: It’s a good idea to know your bike’s serial number and have a picture of you with your bike in case it’s stolen.

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