Bicycles aren’t just for recreation. They are a key mode of travel for many in Massachusetts. Of course, they take up far less parking space than cars and are powered by pedals instead of gas. Still, they are an integral part of our transportation system, particularly in Boston and other urban areas.
As ridership has increased dramatically in recent years, with growing support from local government, the safety of cyclists must remain a top priority. While riding a bicycle is environmentally-friendly, efficient and great exercise, it can also be very dangerous. When a crash occurs involving a cyclist vs. a vehicle, the cyclist is at high risk for serious injury or death.
At The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman's BikeAttorney.com, our Boston bicycle injury lawyers are committed to promoting safe cycling practices and to educating drivers about how careless actions can forever change lives.
Our experienced legal team works on behalf of injured bicyclists and the families of those killed throughout Massachusetts.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports hundreds of cyclists die and tens of thousands are hurt every year in the U.S.
Bicycle advocates in Boston have worked hard over the course of decades to make this city safer for ALL vulnerable road users, including those on two wheels. But people are still dying. Riders are still suffering life-altering injuries, including:
- Head injuries
- Brain trauma
- Spinal cord injuries
- Facial injuries
- Internal organ damage
- Broken bones and fractures
- Permanent scarring
Boston can do better.
Understanding Cyclist Rights & Responsibilities
The laws pertaining to bicyclists and bicyclist safety in Massachusetts are outlined mostly in Mass. Gen. Law Ch. 85, Section 11B.
As a cyclist in Boston, or elsewhere in Massachusetts:
- You have the right to ride on any public street, road or bikeway in the state, except limited access expressways where there are posted signs prohibiting bicyclists.
- You may use either hand in order to signal a turn or stop.
- You may ride to the right of motor vehicles in the travel lane.
- You may ride on sidewalks except in commercial districts or where otherwise prohibited, although you probably don’t want to do so, as it is almost always safer to be on the street.
- You may use public ways for organized bicycle events, although you may be required to obtain a permit or coordinate with local police.
- You may affix your bicycle with as many reflectors and lights as you choose.
- You may ride two abreast in a lane, where there are more than two lanes of travel in the same direction or in a single lane, so long as you move to single file if there is faster traffic that wants to pass.
That comes with numerous responsibilities, which include obey all laws, give pedestrians the right-of-way and use a headlight and taillight if you’re riding in the dark.
There are also a number of things you can’t do, including:
- Carrying a child under 1 in the baby seat.
- Carrying any passenger on the bike except on a regular seat that is permanently attached or in a trailer towed by the bike.
- Carrying anything on the bike unless it’s in a bag, basket, rack or trailer that is especially designed for that purpose.
- Modifying your bicycle such that the rider’s hands will sit higher than the shoulders on the handlebars.
- Using a whistle or siren to warn pedestrians.
- Failing to keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times while the bike is in motion.
Bicyclists also need to make sure their bikes are in good working order. That means having a seat that is permanent and attached. It means having brakes that can bring the rider to a full stop from 15 mph within 30 feet. It means there has to be visible headlights and brake lights.
Violations can result in a $20 ticket, plus a 15-day bike impoundment. Parents of violators under 18 can be held responsible.
What Worries Cyclists the Most?
The NHTSA conducted a survey of cyclists that revealed the average bike ride nationally was about 45 minutes. More than half ride for recreation and exercise, 17 percent running personal errands and 12 percent making their way to work or school.
About a fifth side they felt their safety personally threatened at some point during these trips, most often by:
- Motorists (83 percent)
- Uneven road surfaces (43 percent)
- Dogs or other animals (12 percent)
- Potential crime/ assault (12 percent)
The fear of motorists is well-founded, as the city of Boston has reported 9 out 10 reported bicycle accidents in the city involve a motor vehicle.
Top Mistakes Made by Drivers
The NHTSA identifies the top mistakes made by drivers when it comes to cyclists as:
- Turning in front of a cyclist traveling on the road or sidewalk, usually at an intersection or driveway.
- Failing to scan the area (at a stop sign, in a park lot, while backing up or parking) before accelerating.
- Turning right at a red light and striking a cyclist approaching from behind. This is why it’s critical for drivers to stop completely before making a turn.
- Speeding. A driver traveling too fast for conditions isn’t going to be able to stop or take evasive actions in time if a cyclist enters the road.
- Overtaking a bicyclist without realizing it because driver doesn’t see the cyclist. This is why it’s always critical to constantly be scanning the road visually for other traffic.
- Passing a cyclist too closely.
Motorists who make these mistakes could find themselves criminal responsible for their actions, and also civilly liable to pay for damages caused.
While there are ways cyclists can ride defensively and protect themselves, bicycle safety is truly everyone’s responsibility.
Contact the Boston Bicycle Accident Lawyers at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman's BikeAttorney.com.