Neither Philadelphia city code nor Pennsylvania law requires a cyclist to ride on bike lanes when they exist. Philadelphia cyclists have the option of riding in a bike lane, but it’s not mandatory.
Pennsylvania Bike Laws: Where to Ride
In Pennsylvania, like most states, a bicycle is treated the same as a vehicle when riding on the streets and highways in the state. (75 VC Ch 35). Philadelphia also has a similar rule stating that in the city, a bicycle is treated as a motor vehicle – meaning it has to follow the same rules and rights-of-way that motorists do. (PC 12-800).
This means that a bike is allowed to ride on the same roads and streets with motor vehicles. They can ride in the middle of a lane and have to obey all traffic rules and are subject to getting tickets for any code violation.
However, a Pennsylvania law—which also applies to Philadelphia—requires that when a cyclist is unable to travel the same speed as motor vehicles in a given street, then the cyclist is required to move to the right-hand side of the right lane of traffic. (75 VC Ch 33). This is based on the flow of traffic and not solely on the posted speed limit.
There are some exceptions to this, which are:
- When overtaking and passing another cyclist or other vehicle,
- When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into an alley, private drive or driveway,
- When the surface of the far-right hand side of the right lane is unsafe to ride on, or
- A narrow lane that has a width of not more than one lane of traffic.
Philadelphia Bike Lane Rules
In Philadelphia, there is no city rule that mandates the use of a bike lane even for bikes traveling slower than the flow of traffic. In many states and cities outside Pennsylvania, riding in a bike lane is required when going slower than traffic.
So a cyclist in Philadelphia—and all of Pennsylvania—has the option of riding in the bike lane or on the right-hand side of the right lane if going slower than traffic.
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