Whether you bike as a commuter, for pleasure or fitness, do you know your rights and responsibilities on Massachusetts’ roads? You are entitled to many rights as a cyclist, but you also have a fair amount of responsibilities under Massachusetts law that are important to be aware of.
As a cyclist, you can ride your bike on any public road, street, or bikeway in Massachusetts. Bicyclists have a right to use all public ways in the state except for limited access or express state highways with signs posted that prohibit bicycles. You can also ride your bike on sidewalks outside of business districts as long as there are no local ordinances that prohibit you from doing so.
- You Can Use a Full Lane: you’re allowed to use an entire lane when cycling anytime, anywhere, and on any street in Massachusetts, even if there is a bike lane (exception: not on limited-access highways where bikes are prohibited).
- Sidewalks: Unless banned locally, you may ride on sidewalks, even if they’re in front of businesses. Conversely, pedestrians cannot walk in bike lanes and must stay on sidewalks.
- Passing: You may keep to the right when passing a car or motor vehicle in the travel lane.
- Intersections: When at a stoplight at an intersection, you may move to the front of the intersection.
- 3-Feet Rule: As a cyclist in Massachusetts, you are entitled to three feet of safety from all other motor vehicles.
- Bike Races: Competitive bike races are allowed on public roads when there is a recognized bicycle organization sponsor involved, and the organization has appropriate approval from the police departments of the municipality.
- Not cut off cyclists after passing them, and leave plenty of room to pass cyclists.
- Ensure there is a safe distance between themselves and cyclists when turning right.
- Wait until it is safe to pass a bicycle and not to squeeze cyclists in narrow traffic lanes.
- Look before opening their car doors. Drivers and passengers can be fined for opening car doors in front of bicyclists.
As a bicyclist in Massachusetts, you must follow all of the rules of the road, including riding your bike appropriately on streets, avenues, traffic rotaries, intersections, and more. Cyclists must follow all the same basic traffic laws and regulations that apply to motor vehicle drivers.
There may be additional rules and regulations in individual cities, such as Cambridge’s Bicycle Road Rules, but the following restrictions apply to the entire state.
- Bike with the Flow of Traffic: You need to bike in the same direction as traffic unless a sign or marking indicates otherwise. This is true when biking in a traffic lane or in a bike lane.
- Signals: You are required to signal your stops and turns, but you can do so with either hand. If you need both your hands to operate your bike safely, you do not need to signal.
- Stop: You must stop at all stop signs and red lights.
- Sidewalks: You may bike on sidewalks (unless in the business districts) at a walking speed, but you must give pedestrians the right of way. You also need to give an audible signal before passing a pedestrian, but sirens and whistles are not allowed. You can park a bicycle on a sidewalk as long as it doesn’t block pedestrian or vehicle traffic.
- Two-Wide: You may bike side by side with one other bicyclist. Only two bikes may be operated side by side but must stay in the same lane and not unnecessarily block a vehicle’s ability to pass you.
- Safe Distance: maintain a safe following distance from other cyclists, especially when approaching intersections.
- Crosswalks & Intersections: Slow down as you approach crosswalks & intersections.
- Permanent Seats: You and all passengers must ride on a permanent seat attached to the bike or a trailer towed by the bike.
- Children Transport: If a child is between 1 year old and 4 years old, and weighs 40 pounds or less, they must be transported only in a baby seat attached to the bicycle. The child must be in a harness, seated upright, and have their hands and feet protected from hitting the wheel spokes. You cannot transport a child under 1 year old unless in a trailer. You cannot transport a child under 1 year old unless in a trailer.
- Bike Helmets: All cyclists and passengers under 16 years old must wear helmets. The only exception is if a passenger is secured in an enclosed trailer that protects their head.
- Working Brakes: Your brakes must be in proper working condition and be able to come to a smooth, safe stop from riding at 15MPH within 30 feet on a dry, clean, hard, and level surface.
- Lights & Reflectors: 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise, you must have a white lamp in the front of your bike that is visible up to 500 feet, and a rear-facing red light or reflector visible for up to 600 feet.
Anytime there is a bike crash that results in an injury or property damage over $100, you are required by Massachusetts state law to report the crash to the police in the town or city where the bike crash occurred. If you are injured in a bike accident, you will want to contact an experienced bike accident attorney as soon as possible. While we hope you are never involved in a bike accident, there are also a couple of different forms of insurance we recommend for cyclists in event of a bike crash
Injured On A Bike In Massachusetts? Our Chelsea And Peabody Bike Accident Attorneys Offer FREE Consultations
If you were injured in a bicycle or e-bike accident, Spada Law Group’s injury attorneys can work to protect your legal rights. We have three offices and proudly serve the entire state with the ability to meet with you remotely from the comfort of your own home. Contact us for a free consultation so we can learn more about your bike or e-bike injury case and see how we can help you get the recovery you deserve after your accident.