10 Important Bicycle Laws in Massachusetts

Bicyclists in Boston and throughout Massachusetts have beautiful scenery as they enjoy the outdoors and get exercise. In the city, bicycles are inexpensive and convenient forms of transportation. However, bicycle accidents can be common in both rural and urban areas.

Bike riders have a high risk of catastrophic injuries when they are struck by a motor vehicle. Even though bicyclists might be wearing a bicycle helmet, pads, and other protective gear, the rider’s body receives the force of the blow from the vehicle. 

Common injuries in a bicycle accident include traumatic brain injury, broken bones, spinal cord injuries, lacerations, facial injuries, and internal organ damage. To reduce the risk of bicycle accidents, bicyclists and motorists must obey Massachusetts traffic laws. 

Ten Massachusetts Bicycle Laws You Need to Know

The Primary Bike Law is located in MGL c.85 §11B. This section of the code governs where you can ride bicycles in Massachusetts. It also contains many of the rules and regulations for bicycle safety in the state.

Some of the bicycle laws that every rider needs to know include:

 1.  You Can Ride Your Bicycle on a Sidewalk in Some Places

A bicyclist may ride a bicycle on sidewalks that are outside of a business district. However, some local ordinances may prohibit riding bicycles on sidewalks. If riding on a sidewalk is permitted, the biker must yield the right of way to pedestrians.

Cyclists can ride on almost all roads and public ways in Massachusetts except for express or limited access state highways that have signs prohibiting bicycles.

2.  Bicyclists Can Ride Side-By-Side on Some Roads

A maximum of two riders may ride side-by-side. However, on roadways with more than one lane moving in the direction of travel, riders must ride in a single lane. 

3.  Children May Require Baby Seats

A rider cannot transport a child between the ages of one to four years or a child that weighs less than 40 pounds unless the child is secured in a baby seat attached to the bicycle. Riders cannot transport children under one year of age on a bicycle.

4.  All Children 16 Years of Age or Younger Must Wear a Bicycle Helmet

Children must wear a bicycle helmet when riding or being transported on a bicycle. The bicycle helmet must meet the standards for helmets set forth by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. 

5.  Parked Bicycles Cannot Obstruct Traffic

Bicycles may be parked on sidewalks, as permitted by local ordinances. However, bicycles cannot obstruct traffic or pedestrians.

6.  You Must Use Appropriate Devices to Transport Packages

Packages cannot be transported unless they are in a rack, basket, trailer, or other device designed to transport packages. A biker must keep at least one hand on the bicycle’s handlebars at all times.

7.  Bicycles Must Have Brakes

Every bicycle operated on roads or trails must be equipped with a braking system. The braking system must allow the rider to stop the bicycle safely and smoothly within thirty feet when traveling at a speed of 15 mph on a hard, clean, level surface.

8.  Bicyclists Must Obey Traffic Signals and Signs

Bicyclists must stop for red lights and stop signs. They must obey all traffic laws as motorists, with very few exceptions. For instance, bicyclists can pass vehicles on the right side instead of the left side.

9.  Bicyclists Must Use Hand Signals

Massachusetts law requires that bicyclists use hand signals to signal their intention to turn. However, riders do not need to signal if they need to hold onto the handlebar with both hands to avoid a bicycle accident. 

10.  Bicyclists Must Report Accidents

A bicyclist must report an accident that involves property damage or personal injury above $100. Riders report accidents to the police department in the town or city in which the accident occurred. 

Bicyclists are Responsible for Knowing the Law

The above laws are only some of the bicycle laws that riders must follow. It is a rider’s responsibility to know, understand, and obey the bicycle and traffic laws. If a bicyclist breaks the law, it could impact the rider’s ability to recover full compensation for damages caused by a bicycle accident.

If a rider is partially at fault for the cause of a bicycle accident, the state’s contributory negligence law applies. A bicyclist is not barred from receiving compensation for damages if the rider is partially at fault for the accident, unless the fault is more than 50 percent. 

However, the bicyclist’s compensation for accident damages is reduced by the percentage of responsibility the rider has for the cause of the accident. If you do not understand your legal rights after a bicycle accident or have questions regarding how much your claim is worth, a bicycle accident lawyer can help. 

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