Reduce Bicycle Accidents: What Are MA State Bike Rules?
Reduce Bicycle Accidents: What Are Massachusetts State Bike Rules?
More and more people are hitting the road on a bicycle for both health and to lower their carbon footprint.
Massachusetts has been proactive about creating laws for cyclists which are aimed at reducing the number of bicycle accidents and their often devastating outcomes. The finer details of these laws can be accessed in Chapter 85, Section 11B of the General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Rights as a Cyclist in Massachusetts
- A cyclist may ride his/her bicycle on all public roads, streets and designated bikeways in the state except where limited access is stated or on the state’s express highways which display signs which prohibit specifically the riding of bicycles.
- A cyclist may ride on any sidewalks that are not in business districts, unless there are local laws in force which prohibit riding in these areas;
- A cyclist can use either the right or left hand when signaling any stops or turns;
- A cyclist may pass a car on the right;
- Helmets don’t need to be worn by children, or any other passengers if they are seated inside a trailer which is enclosed or any other device that will restrain them sufficiently and offer protection for their heads if a crash were to take place;
- A cyclist can hold a bicycle race on a public road or street within the Commonwealth, if cooperation from a recognized bicycle organization is agreed, and if the appropriate police department approves it before the commencement of the race;
- A cyclist is entitled to display as many reflectors and lights on his/her bike as s/he wishes.
Obligations as a Cyclist in Massachusetts
- Obey all the Commonwealth’s traffic laws;
- Must use hand signals to inform other road users of your intentions unless it is too dangerous to do so;
- Must always give pedestrians the right of way.
- An easily heard signal needs to be used before a pedestrian is passed;
- Cyclists can ride two abreast, but passing traffic must be considered as well. This means you should ride in single file if any faster traffic wishes to pass, or remain as far right as possible on a multi-lane road.
- You are required to ride on a permanently fixed seat.
- One hand must be kept on the handlebars at all times.
- Any cyclist who is 16 years old or less must wear a helmet that fits the head and has the chin strap fastened at all times and anywhere.
- All cyclists are required to display both a red tail light and a white headlight if riding anytime from 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise.
- Ankle reflectors must be worn at night if no reflectors are fastened to the pedals;
- All cyclists are required to inform the police if any accident takes place which involves any personal injury or property damage worth more than $100.
If charged with any serious cycling offense in Massachusetts, it is best to seek the help of an attorney. You could face a fine and your bike impounded unless you fight the charge against you.
A Cyclist Cannot do any of the Following in Massachusetts:
- Must not carry any passenger on cycle anywhere unless a regular seat has been permanently attached to the cycle or to a trailer that is being towed by the cycle.
- No child from aged 1 to 4 years or weighing in at 40 pounds or less can be carried anywhere on a bike designed for one person unless a suitable baby seat has been fixed in place on the bike. The child has to sit in an upright position in the seat and has to be held by a seat belt or harness in the seat. Their feet and hands must not be able to reach the spokes on the wheel;
- No child below 1 year of age can be carried on a bike, even if it is in a baby seat but this doesn’t apply to the use of a trailer for carrying the baby;
- Must not use a whistle or siren while on your bike as a way of warning pedestrians.
- Must not park a bike on a road, street, sidewalk or, bikeway if it is in the way of other people.
- Must not carry a thing on your bike except in a basket, on a rack, in a bag, or a trailer which is purposely designed.
- Must not alter your bike so that the hands are above the shoulders when holding onto the handlebars.
- Must not modify the fork of the bike so as to extend it.
A Cyclist’s Responsibilities When Equipping a Bike in Massachusetts:
- The bike is required to have attached a permanent, regular seat.
- The bike must have brakes that are good enough to stop at a speed of 15 mph and within 30 feet of stopping assuming that the surface is clean, dry, level and hard.
- The bike’s headlight must emit a white light that can be seen from at least 500 feet. A light that gets its power from a generator which shines just when the bike is moving is quite acceptable.
- The bike’s taillight at night has to be red and visible from 600 feet at least.
- The bike’s reflectors at night have to be visible when a vehicle’s headlights are set on low beam and can be seen at a distance of 600 feet at least. Any reflector and reflective material on the bike has to be visible from both the sides and back.
Penalties in Massachusetts for Violating Cycle Rules
Violations of bike laws can result in a fine. Any bike rider under 18 years is the responsibility of his/her parents or guardians. A violation of the law could result in the impounding of the bike for 15 days or less by the town selectmen or police.
If you believe you were unjustly charged with violating Massachusetts cycle rules and your bike has been impounded, you should seek help from a Massachusetts attorney to fight the charge.