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[ Summary of Mass. Bike/Ped laws ]
Do you know your rights of the road? Do you know what your responsibilities
are when biking in Massachusetts? Here is a summary of Massachusetts
bike law that covers equipment, riding, safety standards, races,
violations, and penalties. This law applies to all cyclists in
Massachusetts -- even you!
For exact requirements, read the complete text of
this law (General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Chapter
85, Section 11).
- You may ride your bicycle on any public road, street, or bikeway
in the Commonwealth, except limited access or express state highways
where signs specifically prohibiting bikes have been posted.
- 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.
- If you carry children or other passengers inside an enclosed trailer
or other device that will adequately restrain them and protect
their heads in a crash, they need not wear helmets.
- You may hold a bicycle race on any public road or street in the
Commonwealth, if you do so in cooperation with a recognized bicycle
organization, and if you get approval from the appropriate police
department before the race is held.
- You may establish special bike regulations for races by agreement
between your bicycle organization and the police.
- You may have as many lights and reflectors on your bike as you
Your responsibilities: you MUST do these things
- You must obey all traffic laws and regulations of the Commonwealth.
- You must use hand signals to let people know you plan stop or turn.
- You must give pedestrians the right of way.
- You must give pedestrians an audible signal before overtaking
or passing them.
- You must ride single file unless passing.
- You must ride astride a regular, permanent seat that is attached
to your bicycle.
- You must keep one hand on your handlebars at all times.
- If you are 12 years old or younger, you must wear a helmet that
meets ANSI requirements on any bike, anywhere, at all times. The
helmet must fit your head and the chin strap must be fastened.
- You must have your headlight and tail-light on if you are riding
anytime from 1/2 hour after sunset until 1/2 hour before sunrise.
(See the section on equipment for more about lights.)
- You must wear reflectors on both ankles if there are no reflectors
on your pedals.
- You must notify the police of any accident involving personal
injury or property damage over $100.
Your responsibilities: you MAY NOT do these things
- You may not carry a passenger anywhere on your bike except on
a regular seat permanently attached to the bike, or to a trailer
towed by the bike.
- You may not carry any child between the ages of 1 to 4, or weighing
40 pounds or less, anywhere on a single-passenger bike except
in a baby seat attached to the bike. The child must be able to
sit upright in the seat and must be held in the seat by a harness
or seatbelt. Their hands and feet must be out of reach of the
- You may not carry any child under the age of 1 on your bike, even
in a baby seat; this does not preclude carrying them in a trailer.
- You may not use a siren or whistle on your bike to warn pedestrians.
- You may not park your bike on a street, road, bikeway or sidewalk
where it will be in other people's way.
- You may not carry anything on your bike unless it is in a basket,
rack, bag, or trailer designed for the purpose.
- You may not modify your bike so that your hands are higher than
your shoulders when gripping the handlebars.
- You may not alter the fork of your bike to extend it.
Your responsibilities: equipping your bike
- Your bike must have a permanent, regular seat attached to it.
- Your brakes must be good enough to bring you to a stop, from a
speed of 15 miles an hour, within 30 feet of braking. This distance
assumes a dry, clean, hard, level surface.
- At night, your headlight must emit a white light visible from a distance
of at least 500 feet. A generator-powered lamp that shines only
when the bike is moving is okay.
- At night, your tail-light 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
- Violations of any of these laws can be punished by a fine of up
to $20. Parents and guardians are responsible for cyclists under
the age of 18. The bicycle of anyone under 18 who violates the
law can be impounded by the police or town selectmen for up to
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