Know Your Right of Way: Massachusetts Bicycle Laws

According to the League of American Bicyclists, Massachusetts ranks as the 4th Most Bike Friendly State in the country and with summer in full bloom there are more bicycles on the road than ever. Whether you drive a vehicle or ride a bicycle it’s wise to review the laws relating to sharing the road for the safety of all. Bicyclists have the right to use all public ways in Massachusetts except limited access or express state highways where signs specifically prohibit bicycles. When riding on public ways, bicyclists must observe the same basic traffic laws and regulations that apply to motor vehicle operators, such as riding in the same direction as vehicles and obeying traffic lights and right-of-way laws. Indeed, bicyclists may be issued citations for traffic violations under the same procedure used for motorists.

 Bicyclist Rules of the Road

  • must use hand signals to stop or turn, but the signal does not have to be continuous or made at all if both hands are needed for the bike’s safe operation. A bicyclist must keep one hand on the handlebars at all times and cannot carry objects that would interfere with the bike’s safe operation;
  • can ride on sidewalks outside of business districts for safety unless banned locally, and if on the sidewalk, a bicyclist must yield to pedestrians and give an audible signal before overtaking and passing (no sirens or whistles);
  • can keep to the right when passing a motor vehicle moving in the travel lane;
  • under 16 years old must wear a bicycle helmet approved by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission at all times while on the road.

In addition, two, but not more than two, bicycles can be operated side by side on the roadway. On a road with more than one lane in the direction of travel, bicyclists riding side-by-side must stay in one lane and not restrict a passing vehicle. From a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise a bicyclist must have a reflector on each pedal or ankle, or reflective material on the bicyclist or bicycle, and must have a white lamp in front visible from up to 500 feet and a rear facing red light or reflector visible up to 600 feet.

Motorist and Bicyclist

  • must slow down when passing a bicycle traveling in the same direction in the travel lane and may not return to the right until after the vehicle has safely passed the bicycle. If the bicyclist may not be passed safely, the motorist must wait. When passing a bicycle, a motorist may not turn right unless at a safe distance from the bicyclist and if the motorist can make the turn at a reasonable and proper speed;
  • when turning left must yield the right of way to a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction, including a bicycle;
  • must watch for bicyclists riding to the right of motor vehicle traffic and check for approaching bicyclists before opening a car door. By statute, it is not a defense for a motorist causing an accident with a bicycle that the bicycle was to the right of traffic, and drivers and passengers can be fined for opening a vehicle door into an oncoming bicyclist.

 Free Consultation

If you or a loved one were injured because of someone’s negligence, contact Attorney Allison now for a free consultation by calling 978-740-9433 or filling out our free consultation form. We look forward to talking to you about your claim.