Now that cooler weather is here, it is a great time to get back on your bicycle. In fact some of the top cyclists in the world did just that when they descended upon Boston recently for the TD Bank Mayor’s Cup. What a glorious weekend as the riders enjoyed perfect warm, sunny and early fall North Shore weather. There are plenty of trails to enjoy in Massachusetts, but even if you’re not near a designated bike-path such as the Minuteman Bikeway or Stony Brook Reservation, you have the “the right to use all public ways in the commonwealth except limited access or express state highways.” M.G.L. ch. 85, § 11B.
Beware, however, if you are making use of a public way. It is important to remember that all of Massachusetts’ traffic laws must be followed. You must adhere to all traffic lights, stop-signs and the rules of the road when on your bike. State law also requires that every cyclist use hand signals to indicate when he or she intends to stop or turn, but only if “both hands are not necessary for safe operation of the bicycle….” As a bike rider on public ways anywhere in Massachusetts, you must be vigilant of motorists and follow the rules of the road. M.G.L. ch. 85, § 11B.
The way traffic is today, you can often get where you’re going faster by bike and it is better for the environment and your health. But be safe. Anytime you pass a moving car, it should be done by passing on the right; and when a car is trying to pass you and you’re not on a road that is conducive for easy passing, you may not unnecessarily obstruct that vehicle’s passage.
When cycling with friends or if you are part of a riding club: no more than two riders may ride next to each other. If there are multiple lanes of traffic going in your direction, all cyclists should ride within a single lane. That is the law on the North Shore and throughout Massachusetts, to help avoid bicycle accidents.
In addition, Massachusetts has safety specific requirements for cyclists that are intended to help prevent bicycle injuries by insuring cyclists are visible to car drivers:
- Between the one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise, a cyclist must have a white light visible from at least 500 ft. or a red reflector that is visible for at least 600 feet by a vehicle using low beams;
- Between the one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise, a reflector must be placed on each pedal of a bicycle or on the cyclist’s ankles and the reflectors must be visible from a distance of 600 ft.; and
- Between the one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise, reflectors or reflective material must be on the bicycle or on the cyclist and visible by anyone on any side of the cyclist that is standing within 600 ft.
It also is important to ensure that you have proper equipment for a safe (and enjoyable) bike ride. If you are sixteen years old or younger, you must wear a helmet that meets ANSI requirements. Although anyone over the age of sixteen is not required to wear a helmet, for your safety it is a really good idea. Also, all bicycles must allow the cyclist to stop within thirty feet while traveling at a speed of 15 mph. Make sure to check your brakes before you head out for your next ride.
And remember, if you are in a bicycle accident, every accident that involves property damage or personal injury that exceeds $100.00 must be reported to the local police department.