Below is a partial summary of the most relevant portions of the Massachusetts’ bike laws that cover equipment, riding, safety standards, violations, and penalties. The summary includes your rights and responsibilities as a cyclist. For the exact requirements, read the complete text of the laws pertaining to bicyclists and bicycling in Massachusetts.
- You may ride your bicycle on any public road, street, or bikeway in the Commonwealth, except limited access or state highways where signs specifically prohibit bikes.
- You may ride on sidewalks outside business districts, unless local laws prohibit sidewalk riding.
- You may use either hand to signal stops and turns.
- You may pass cars on the right
- You must obey all traffic laws and regulations of the Commonwealth.
- You should use hand signals to let people know you plan stop or turn; however, signals do not need to be made continuously and you are not required to signal when the use of both hands is necessary for the safe operation of the bicycle.
- You must give pedestrians the right of way.
- You must give pedestrians an audible signal before overtaking or passing them.
- You may ride two abreast, but must facilitate passing traffic. This means riding single file when faster traffic wants to pass, or staying in the right-most lane on a multi-lane road.
- You must keep one hand on your handlebars at all times.
- You must use a white headlight and red taillight or rear reflector if you are riding anytime from 1/2 hour after sunset until 1/2 hour before sunrise.
- You must notify the police of any accident involving personal injury or property damage over $100.
Equipping your bike:
- At night, your headlight must emit a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet.
- At night, your taillight must be red and must be visible from a distance of at least 600 feet.
- At night, your reflectors must be visible in the low beams of a car’s headlights from a distance of at least 600 feet. Reflectors and reflective material on your bike must be visible from the back and sides.
Motorist Responsibilities (MGL Chapter 89, Section 2 and Chapter 90, Section 14):
- Motorists and their passengers must check for passing bicyclists before opening their door. Motorists and their passengers can be ticketed and fined up to $100 for opening car or truck doors into the path of any other traffic, including bicycles and pedestrians.
- Motorists must stay a safe distance to the left of a bicyclist (or any other vehicle) when passing. Motorists are also prohibited from returning to the right until safely clear of the bicyclist.
- Motorists must pass at a safe distance. If the lane is too narrow to pass safely, the motorist must use another lane to pass, or, if that is also unsafe, the motorist must wait until it is safe to pass.
- Motorists are prohibited from making abrupt right turns (“right hooks”) at intersections and driveways after passing a cyclist.
- Motorists must yield to oncoming bicyclists when making left turns. The law expressly includes yielding to bicyclists riding to the right of other traffic (e.g., on the shoulder), where they are legally permitted but may be more difficult for motorists to see.
- Motorists may not use the fact that bicyclists were riding to the right of traffic as a legal defense for causing a crash with a bicyclist.
- Motorists may not stand or park in an on-street bike path or lane designated by official signs or marking for the exclusive use of bicycles, except in a case of emergency.