Bicycle Laws – Massachusetts
The League of American Bicyclists releases an annual rank each year with the most bike-friendly states. Massachusetts, which routinely ranks high, came in 4th place for 2015 due to the state’s strong policies, infrastructure, education, and legislation. Massachusetts bicycle laws make it possible for commuters to get to and fro on every public road with the exception of limited access roads and state highways. But bicycle accidents are always a concern, so we list the specific laws regarding bicycle ownership, operation, and safety in Massachusetts.
The same authorities that construct roads throughout the state also have the authority to build bike paths through communities and between cities. Examples of famous Massachusetts bike paths include the 22-mile Cape Cod Rail Trail, which passes through both small towns and cranberry bogs alike through the peninsula, popular with tourists and natives alike through beach season. Automobiles may not be driven on bike paths and any children riding bicycles on bike paths must be accompanied by an adult and must wear helmets. Outside of business districts, bicyclists may ride on sidewalks rather than within the street. However, any bicyclist riding on a sidewalk must yield the right of way to pedestrians, and must also given an audible signal whenever they pass pedestrians. This signal must be spoken, as sirens and whistles are prohibited to bicyclists. No bicycle of any kind can be drawn by another moving vehicle and must be powered only by the rider during transit.
Any individual ages 16 or younger who operates a bicycle or is carried on a bicycle must wear a helmet for the duration of the ride. This law applies to all roadways, including bike paths and public roads, but does not apply to private roads. The helmet must fit securely upon the head with straps that prevent it from becoming dislodged, and all helmets must meet the standards for protection established by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission. The only exception to the Massachusetts helmet law is for anyone riding in an enclosed trailer that provides adequate protection against impact, such as an infant trailer. While it is legal for adults in Massachusetts to ride bicycles without helmets, it is crucial to remember the number of incidents of road rage in the state and prepare yourself adequately for automobile drivers who have control of a much larger and heavier vehicle by wearing protective equipment. Furthermore, any individual who does not wear a helmet will not be able to use their experience as an example of contributory negligence in a civil case.
Massachusetts law prohibits the transport of any infant less than one-year-old on a bicycle in any condition. It further prohibits the transport of any child between the ages of 1 to 4 or weighing less than 40 pounds, on a bicycle unless the child is securely strapped into a baby seat where they can sit upright without risk of injury. This seat must be able to protect an infant by restricting their limbs from coming into contact with any part of the bicycle. An adult may use a tandem bicycle to ride with a child, provided that only the adult has access to the pedals and the handlebars. All passengers of all ages are prohibited from riding upon the handlebars of any bicycle.
Since bicycles do not have built-in turn signals, bike riders must use their hands to communicate their path of motion to other bicyclists and motorists on any road. Whenever it is safe to use only one hand for the direction of the bicycle, an operator must use their hand to signal their direction at any stop. Extending their left or right hand to either side serves as an indication of their intended direction, but bicyclists who cannot use their right hand can signal a right-handed turn by extending their left hand up in the air rather than out to the left side. A bicyclist does not have to signal for a stop but must have working brakes that can function to bring a bike to a stop within thirty feet on a smooth surface.
Light and Reflectors
Any time a bicycle is operated from half an hour before sunset to half an hour after sunrise, the bicyclist must attach a lamp emitting white light to the forefront of the bike and a lamp emitting red light (or a red reflector) to the rear of the bike, both of which can be seen 500 feet away. Furthermore, the bicyclist must attach reflectors to each pedal or each ankle that can also be seen from 500 feet away.
If you have any additional questions about Massachusetts bicycle laws or your accident, contact Worcester Personal Injury Attorney Peter Ventura, or call 508-755-7535.