Biking in Philadelphia
Consider some of the reasons why biking in Philadelphia is such a great option:
- It saves fuel
- It's easy to get around the city
- You'll experience more Philadelphia culture
- It's free
- It counts as exercise
I haven't been on a bike in years. How should I practice before I get out in traffic?
- If you're not comfortable in traffic, practice your riding skills (turning, stopping, signaling, etc.) on quiet streets or empty parking lots. You will develop confidence with experience.
What do I need to know to ride safely in traffic?
- A bicycle is considered a vehicle, and a bicyclist is subject to almost all the same road rules as a motorist.
- Ride in a visible and predictable manner. Don't make motorists guess your next move.
- Always ride in the same direction as traffic. Riding against traffic is the cause of 20% of car-bike crashes.
- Be careful of parked car doors opening (ride at least 3 feet away from parked cars), road debris, and irregularities in the pavement. Don't swerve to the left without signaling, or weave around parked cars.
- When riding in traffic, maintain your speed, and if your speed is slower than the traffic flow, move to the right edge of the through traffic lane.
- Ride as far to the right of traffic as is safe, unless:
- you are traveling at or above the speed of traffic,
- there is insufficient lane width for the motorist to pass within the lane, or
- road conditions are so poor as to require a whole lane to maneuver around obstacles. (In these instances, it is better to ride in the middle of the right-hand lane; doing this is a way of telling drivers that they must change lanes to safely pass.)
- Signal before all turns and stops and make eye contact with motorists before turning into their path, and wave when someone yields.
- Where you position yourself on the road will indicate to motorists whether you want to make a left or right turn or go straight through an intersection.
- When approaching pedestrians from behind or passing another cyclist shout out your location in the roadway or path, such as, ``on your left."
What do I need to stay alert to and look for in traffic?
- Look out for road debris and gravel, broken roadway surface, sewer grates that catch bike tires, and railroad tracks. Always keep your eyes on the road and monitor the traffic behind with a mirror or occasional glance.
- Listen for cars approaching from the side or from behind
- Don't follow too closely to vehicles (you may be in their blind spot and you can't see road problems ahead).
- Watch for cars turning into your path. Often motorists do not see a bicyclist or misjudge the speed of the bicyclist.
- Always be prepared to stop. Keep your hands on or close to the brakes.
How do I make turns and cross intersections?
- Most car/bike crashes occur at intersections.
- When turning right, move toward the right of the roadway and point to the right to indicate your turn. Look for other motorists making turns.
- When turning left, look for gaps before moving to the left or changing lanes. Use a hand signal to point to the left and make eye contact. If the traffic speed is too fast and congested for a left turn at the intersection, make a box left turn (as a pedestrian would cross an intersection.)
- Going straight, where possible, ride through intersections in the middle of a travel lane for added visibility. Do not veer to the right out of the motorist's sight.
How do I handle my bike during a quick stop?
- Making a quick or an emergency stop can be tricky, because when you brake quickly your weight shifts forward and you could go over the handlebars. Learn which levers control your front and back brakes. Push your weight back as far as you can go while lowering your torso (hunker down and move back on your bike) at the same time apply your brakes, with more pressure applied to the front brake. If your rear wheel starts to skid, ease up on the front brake.
How do I avoid things like potholes without swerving into traffic?
- In traffic you want to steer quickly around an object. Just as you reach the object steer to one side, then quickly turn the other way to correct your balance staying in as straight a line as possible. Try practicing this move on quiet streets until you feel comfortable.
How do I make a quick turn to avoid objects, such as cars coming towards me?
- To make a very sudden turn you must first momentarily steer towards the object you are trying to avoid, which makes you lean in the opposite direction (to keep your balance), then steer into the lean.
- Use your brakes before or after a turn, not during the turn; and bring your pedal up as you lean into the turn to prevent catching the pavement. This is another move that will take practice; try practicing at slower speeds.
I am not sure the motorist sees me on the road. How can I be more visible?
- Wear bright colorful clothing, or even better, wear materials made of fluorescent neon, or day glow, during the day. At night, wear retroflective clothing and retroflective material on your helmet. Make yourself as visible to the motorist as possible. Many motorists are not looking for cyclists. During bad weather, dusk and night use both a bright front headlight and a red rear reflector or taillight. A front white light visible at least 500 feet to the front is required at night in Pennsylvania. Rear flashing red lights can supplement the rear reflector.
Do I really have to wear a helmet?
- Yes. Everyone should wear a helmet on every ride, no matter how short the trip is. Children under 12 years of age are required to wear a helmet, but adults are strongly encouraged to wear them whenever they ride.
- Wear a helmet with a Snell, American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), or American National Standards Institute (ANSI) approval sticker inside the helmet or the box. The helmet should fit snugly and sit flat on your head without shifting and be secured with a chin strap.
What are the most important laws that apply to me on my bicycle?
- Bicycles are classified as vehicles in the Philadelphia Area, and are subject to similar laws as automobiles.
- Stop and yield right-of-way at stop signs.
- Slow and yield right-of-way at yield signs.
- Stop at red lights. Yield right-of-way to pedestrians in crosswalks.
- Yield right-of-way to traffic traveling straight when turning left.
- Signal before turning, stopping or slowing.
- Play by the rules, ride responsibly, and be courteous.
What bicycle equipment is required by law?
- Rear red reflector visible in light shining from 150 feet to 300 feet to the rear, and amber reflectors on each side. A rear red light visible to 500 feet to the rear can be used in addition to the reflector.
- Front white light visible from at least 500 feet to the front from between sunset and sunrise.
- Brakes that will bring a bicycle traveling at 15 miles per hour to a complete stop within 15 feet.
How do I park the bicycles?
- Sidewalk parking is permitted and most likely the best option. Be sure not to impede pedestrian or other traffic. Also look for any posted restrictions.
- Be sure to lock the bike to a secure post or something available on the sidewalk.
Are bicycles allowed on a freeway?
- No. There are not many freeways in Philadelphia so you should be able to avoid the need for this law.
SEPTA rules for bicycles:
1. May I bring my bike aboard a SEPTA bus?
All SEPTA bus routes — with the exception of Trackless Trolley Routes currently operated with substitute buses (59, 66, and 75) — are bicycle accessible. Buses are equipped with front-mounted bicycle racks that can accommodate two bikes. If space permits, a customer may load their bike into the rack. Bikes are not allowed inside a SEPTA bus at any time. Bicycles are NOT permitted on any bus substituting for rail service.
Tips for Loading & Unloading Bikes from Bus Racks:
- Before stowing a bike on a rack, please remove any unsecured items - water bottles, air pumps - that might fall off in travel
- Let the Operator know you will be loading your bike. Please stay out of the lane of traffic - always remember to load your bike from the curb or the front of the bus
- Squeeze the handle up to release the latch and fold the bus bike rack down
- Lift your bike onto the rack and fit the wheels into the labeled wheel slots
- Raise the support arm up and over the front tire so that the hook rests at the highest point on the front wheel
- Before exiting the bus tell the Operator that you will be unloading your bike from the rack
- Please remember to unload your bike from the curb or the front of the bus, not in the active lane of traffic
- Raise the support arm off the tire. The support arm will automatically fold down in to a secure position
- Lift your bike out of the rack
- If there are no other bikes on the exterior bus rack, squeeze the handle and fold up the rack
- For your safety, step to the curb with your bike. Please wait for the bus to pull away and check for on-coming traffic before crossing or riding in the street
2. May I bring my bike aboard the Subway?
Market-Frankford and Broad Street Subway Lines
- Bicycles are permitted during off-peak hours only (before 6:00 a.m., between 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m., and after 6:00 p.m.)
Weekends & Major Holidays*
- Bicycles are permitted at any time
3. May I bring my bike aboard a Trolley?
Trolley Routes 10, 11, 13, 15, 34, 36, 101 & 102
- Bicycles are not permitted on these vehicles at any time
4. May I bring my bike aboard the Regional Rail?
- On weekdays, weekends, and major holidays bicycles must occupy areas designated for wheelchairs. If passengers in wheelchairs are occupying all designated wheelchair areas, cyclists will not be allowed to board. If a passenger in a wheelchair boards after a cyclist, and the space is needed to accommodate a wheelchair, the cyclist must vacate the space and leave the train unless another designated wheelchair area is available
- Folding bicycles are permitted on Regional Rail, at all times, however they must be collapsed in the folded position and stowed in the designated luggage area of the train
- Bicycles are permitted during off-peak hours only
- Bicycles are not allowed on peak hour trains, indicated by the shaded areas of the public timetables
- Space permitting, a maximum of two bicycles per train are allowed
Weekends & Major Holidays*
- Space permitting, a maximum of five bicycles per train are allowed.
*Major holidays: New Year's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas
5. Bicycle Racks at Stations
- Free hitching-post bicycle racks are available at many stations. Bikes should be properly secured only in these designated locations