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Is It Legal To Ride a Bicycle on the Sidewalk in Philadelphia?

We see many cyclists every day alongside our cars on our way to work or as we’re walking along the sidewalk. Research from the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia shows that in 2021, bicycle traffic increased by 29% and an estimated 2.1% of commuters in the City of Brotherly Love rode their bicycles to work.

With so many bicycles traveling in our city and so many of us choosing to use that mode of transportation ourselves, it’s important to understand the laws regarding where bikes can or cannot ride. So, is it legal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk in Philadelphia?

We’ll answer that question and give insight into general bicycle safety in this post.

Bicycle Use on City Sidewalks

According to Pennsylvania Consolidated Statute 3508, anyone riding a bicycle who is age 13 or older is legally required to ride on the street in business districts, except where permitted by official traffic-control devices. Only cyclists younger than the age of 13 are allowed to ride on the sidewalk and it must be next to an adult riding on the road.

You are allowed to walk your bicycle on the sidewalk in a business district, but if you are riding, you must be in a designated bike lane or regular lanes of traffic. It is also recommended that cyclists walk their bicycles across crosswalks instead of riding across them, as this is generally safer for cyclists as well as any pedestrians who may be crossing the street.

Districts and Zones Prohibiting Cycling on the Sidewalk in Philly

Philadelphia City Code 10-611 discusses appropriate sidewalk behavior, including rules for bicycles, scooters, and skateboards on sidewalks. Section c of the code specifically outlines the designated zones where riding your bicycle on the sidewalk is prohibited:

  • The First Councilmanic District
  • The Fourth Councilmanic District
  • The Sixth Councilmanic District
  • The Seventh Councilmanic District
  • Broad Street, from the south side of City Hall-South to the Philadelphia Naval Center
  • South Street, from the west side of Broad Street to the Schuylkill River
  • Washington Avenue, from the west side of Broad Street to Grays Ferry Avenue
  • Grays Ferry Avenue, from Washington Avenue to 49th Street
  • Woodland Avenue, from 58th to 74th Street
  • Passayunk Avenue, from Broad to 63rd Street
  • Essington Avenue, from 63rd Street to the Bartram Avenue Airport District
  • The area bounded by the north side of Vine Street on the north, the west side of Broad Street on the east, the south side of Lombard Street on the south, and the Schuylkill River on the west
  • The area bounded by the Schuylkill River on the east, running west on Spring Garden to 40th Street, then south to Market Street, then west to 52nd Street, then south to Woodland Avenue, then east to University Avenue, then south to the Schuylkill River

Where Are Cyclists Allowed To Ride?

Of course, with that long list of where you’re not allowed to ride your bicycle, it’s important to know where you are allowed to ride and what rules cyclists must follow. Outside of the areas listed above, cyclists are allowed to ride on the sidewalk, provided they yield right of way to pedestrians, however, it’s recommended that cyclists ride on the street as much and as safely as they can.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT), there are guidelines for cyclists to help both them and drivers of motor vehicles stay safe out on the road. Cyclists are allowed to:

  • Ride on the shoulder of the road or regular traffic lanes in the same direction as the flow of traffic
  • Ride in the right-most travel lane if one is available or on the right half of the roadway if there are no designated lanes
  • Move from the right lane when overtaking another vehicle, preparing to make a left turn, or when there is an obstruction in their lane of travel
  • Ride no more than two abreast within a travel lane, but may do so within a designated bicycle lane
  • Treat an inoperable or malfunctioning traffic signal at an intersection as a stop sign when red or as a caution when green or yellow

It is important to note that cyclists are not allowed to ride against the flow of traffic, called “contraflow riding,” except on streets with designated two-way bike lanes.

Bicycles in Philadelphia are considered motor vehicles and must obey road laws just like every other one, such as cars. If they don’t follow the laws, catastrophic and often deadly bicycle accidents can occur. As with the rest of our city’s traffic, cyclists are expected and required to come to a complete stop at stop signs and traffic lights and observe traffic signs such as yield signs and crosswalks.

If you have questions or concerns regarding the bike rules in Philadelphia or you’ve been injured in an accident while cycling on our city’s streets, our team at Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco is here to help. We have extensive knowledge and experience regarding local laws, and our initial conversation is always free.

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