Passing laws: Massachusetts requires that when a motor vehicle passes a bicycle it shall leave a safe distance and stay in its own lane. If it is not possible for the motor vehicle to remain in its lane and have a safe distance to pass, then it may use the oncoming lane when safe to do so.
Helmet law: Massachusetts requires that an operator of a bicycle under the age of 16 to wear a helmet.
Laws to Protect the Bicyclist: Massachusetts does not have any specific vulnerable laws, but has laws that protect bicyclists such as:
- A motor vehicle that passes and overtakes a bicycle shall not make a right turn at an intersection or private driveway unless safe to do so ; and
- It is not a defense to a motorist causing an accident with a bicycle that the bicycle was to the right of vehicular traffic.
Distracted Driving Laws: As almost every bicyclist knows, distracted driving creates one of the most dangerous risks to a bicycle on a public road way. Every state has varying laws to attempt to reduce the amount of distracted driving that exist. Nonetheless, it still presents a serious problem.
In Massachusetts there have been laws passed to attempt to reduce distracted driving by punishing violators. Here is a summary of the present laws:
- A person under the age of 18 years may not use a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle;
- A person may not operate a motor vehicle on a roadway while using an electronic communication device to read, write or send a text message; and
- An operator of a vehicle used in public transportation shall not use a mobile communication device while operating said vehicle.
Where to Ride: Generally speaking, in Massachusetts bicycles are subject to the same laws and regulations as motor vehicles. Accordingly, there is no law that requires a bicyclist to be as close to the right hand edge of the road as possible.
Sidewalk Riding: The general rule in Massachusetts is that you are permitted to ride on sidewalks outside of business districts when necessary in the interests of safety, unless otherwise prohibited by statute or ordinance. A person riding on a sidewalk is required to yield the right of way to pedestrians and give an audible warning prior to passing.
Riding a Bike under the Influence: Massachusetts’s law prohibiting driving while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances is written so that it applies to motor vehicles, and therefore does not apply to bicyclists. Of course, it is not advisable to ride a bicycle while intoxicated
Stop Sign Laws: Massachusetts bicycles have to follow the same rules as motor vehicles regarding the requirement to come to a complete stop when directed to stop by traffic control devices and Massachusetts does not authorize bicyclists to disobey traffic lights that fail to detect bicyclists.
Important Resources and Links