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Bicycle Safety

The North Shore of Massachusetts is a great place to go bike riding.  Whether it’s for shopping, recreation or to go to and from work, bicycling saves money on gas and is terrific exercise!  According to the Boston Globe, some North Shore towns, including Beverly, Lynn and Salem are taking initiatives to support bicycle riding in the North Shore by increasing bike lanes, off road paths, and signage.  Bike lanes and off road trails are popping up in other towns too, like Lynnfield, Wakefield and Saugus.  As biking grows, bicycle safety has taken on a new importance.

commerce-acts-books-477966-mAccording to Mass.gov, 15 bicycle-related fatalities and 131 bicycle-related serious or incapacitating injuries were reported in 2012.  In 2008-2012, the highest number of fatalities occurred on Mondays in August and September.  During the same timeframe, males accounted for 79% of all bicycle fatalities.  In Massachusetts, bicyclists must adhere to all applicable motor vehicle laws.  Children 16 years of age and under, operating or riding as a passenger on a bicycle, must wear a properly fitted and fastened helmet.  The helmets must be approved helmets with a U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission certification sticker.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration suggests that bicyclists take the following precautions to prevent accidents on the roadways:

  • Look left-right-left before entering a roadway
  • Ride in straight, predictable lines and use hand signals before changing lane positions
  • Follow the same rules of the road as the motorists (stop at a stop sign or a red light)
  • Ride with the flow of traffic, never against it
  • Do not drink and ride
  • Do not ride after dark

Some suggestions for motorists are:

  • Yield to bicyclists as you would a motorist and do not underestimate their speed
  • Look around for bicyclists
  • Look left-right-left before turning right on red
  • Obey the speed limit
  • Drive defensively
  • Always be prepared to stop
  • Pass bicyclists as you would another vehicle, when it is safe to move over to an adjacent lane

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 89 §2 states that:

The driver of a vehicle passing another vehicle traveling in the same direction shall drive a safe distance to the left of such other vehicle and shall not return to the right until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle; and, if the way is of sufficient width for the two vehicles to pass, the driver of the leading one shall not unnecessarily obstruct the other. If it is not possible to overtake a bicycle or other vehicle at a safe distance in the same lane, the overtaking vehicle shall use all or part of an adjacent lane if it is safe to do so or wait for a safe opportunity to overtake. Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on visible signal and shall not increase the speed of his vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

The driver of a vehicle may, if the roadway is free from obstruction and of sufficient width for two or more lines of moving vehicles, overtake and pass upon the right of another vehicle when the vehicle overtaken is (a) making or about to make a left turn, (b) upon a one-way street, or (c) upon any roadway on which traffic is restricted to one direction of movement.

When riding a bicycle or if you are a motorist sharing the road with bicyclists it is important to take precautions to prevent accidents.  Check your blind spots and make sure to slow down when passing a bicyclist.  If you are injured while bicycling or if you injure a bicyclist, call an experienced attorney to discuss your rights.