Massachusetts law about bicycles and vehicles on the road


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SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – MassDOT is reminding motorists to “scan the streets” to help prevent collisions between bicycles and cars.

According to MassDOT, there has been 146 reported bicyclist crashes in Massachusetts in 2022 as of Thursday. Thirty-three percent of accidents involving bicycles happen at intersections. The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration says a majority of bike-related accidents could be prevented if both bicyclists and drivers were following the rules of the road.

Under Massachusetts law, bicyclists are allowed to ride on the road just like drivers are, but they’re also required to follow the same rules. If they don’t, they too could get a ticket. State law requires bicyclists to use hand signals, give pedestrians the right of way, and only pass cars on the right.

Many communities in western Massachusetts have been adding bike lanes to their roads to ensure a safer ride for both bicyclists and drivers. It is legal for riders to be on the opposite of the road, it’s just very dangerous.

Common crashes between, motor vehicles and bicyclists include left cross angle, T-Bone, right-hook & sideswipes.

The following tips are provided in the Massachusetts Driver’s Manual when driving in the presence of a bicyclist:

  • Do Not Cut-Off After Passing: When passing a bicycle traveling in the same direction that is on your right, you must not return to the right until you have safely passed the overtaken bicycle.
  • Do Not Make an Abrupt Turn After Passing: When passing a bicycle near an intersection or driveway where you want to turn right, you cannot turn unless you are at a safe distance from the bicyclist and you can make the turn at a reasonable and proper speed.
  • Do Not Squeeze Bicycles in a Narrow Lane: If a lane is too narrow to pass a bicycle at a safe distance, be PATIENT until you can safely use an adjacent lane or WAIT until it is safe to pass in the lane you share. (Chap. 89, Sec. 2) You should stay at least three feet away when passing.
  • Do Not Fail to Yield When Turning Left: When turning left at an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway, you must yield the right of way to a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction, including a bicycle, if it is in the intersection or close enough to be an immediate hazard.
  • Watch for Bicycles on Your Right: Bicycles can legally ride to the right of motor vehicle traffic. The law says it is not a defense for a motorist causing a crash with a bicycle that the bicycle was to the right of other traffic.
  • Do Not Open a Door Without First Looking: Drivers and passengers can be fined up to $100 for opening a vehicle door into an oncoming bicycle. Before opening your door, you should always check behind you to make sure that no bicyclists are approaching.
  • Be aware that bicyclists can ride two bicycles side-by-side. However, on a road with more than one lane in the direction of travel, they must stay in one lane.
  • Be aware that bicyclists Do Not Always Have to Signal Turns! Bicyclists must signal their intent by either hand to stop or turn. However, the signal does not have to be continuous or be made at all if both hands are needed for the bicycle’s safe operation.

It’s important to remember that under Massachusetts law, anyone under 16 must wear a helmet when riding a bike, but everyone should wear one at all times to be safe.

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