The Bicycle Coalition of Massachusetts has reprinted the entire text of
Chapter 85, Section 11 of the General Laws of the Commonwealth of
Massachusetts, which contains operator's instructions for bicyclists.
These laws apply to all cyclists in Massachusetts. We also have information
on 2001 Massachusetts bicycle legislation
and on bike law in other states.
- Doug Mink 13 February 2001
Violation of any provision of this section shall be punished by a fine of one dollar, and in addition the police department of such city or town, or the selectmen of a town having no organized police department, may suspend the registration certificate of any registered bicycle operated in violation of any provision of section eleven B. No violation of any provision of this section relative to the registration of bicycles shall affect any civil right or liability, nor shall any such violation by a minor under the age of eighteen be considered a criminal offense.
Operators of bicycles shall be subject to the following regulations:
(ii) The operator shall not transport another person between the ages of one to four years, or weighing forty pounds or less, on a bicycle, except in a 'baby seat', so-called, attached to the bicycle, in which such other person shall be able to sit upright; provided, however, that such seat is equipped with a harness to hold such other person securely in the seat and that protection is provided against the feet or hands of such person hitting the spokes of the wheel of the bicycle; or upon or astride a seat of a tandem bicycle equipped so that the other person can comfortably reach the handlebars and pedals. The operator shall not transport any person under the age of one year on said bicycle.
(iii) Any person twelve years of age or younger operating a bicycle or being carried as a passenger on a bicycle on a public way, bicycle path or on any other public right-of-way shall wear a helmet. Said helmet shall fit the person's head, shall be secured to the person's head by straps while the bicycle is being operated, and shall meet the standards for helmets established by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI Z90.4) or subsequent standards or the Snell Memorial Foundation's nineteen hundred and eighty-four standard for use in bicycling or subsequent standards. These requirements shall not apply to a passenger if the passenger is in an enclosed trailer or other device which adequately holds the passenger in place and protects the passenger's head from impact in an accident.
(iv) A violation of clause (ii) or (iii) shall not be used as evidence of contributory negligence in any civil action.
Any federal product safety standards relating to bicycles which are more stringent than the requirements of clauses (7) through (10), inclusive, shall supersede said requirements.
Competitive bicycle races may be held on public ways, provided that such races are sponsored by or in cooperation with recognized bicycle organizations and, provided further, that the sponsoring organization shall have obtained the approval of the appropriate police department or departments. Special regulations regarding the movement of bicycles during such races, or in training for races, including, but not limited to, permission to ride abreast, may be established by agreement between the police department and the sponsoring organization.
Violations of any provision of this section except violations of subclause (iii) of clause (2) shall be punished by a fine of not more than twenty dollars. The parent or guardian of any person under age eighteen shall not authorize or knowingly permit any such person to violate any of the provisions of this section. A bicycle operated by a person under the age of eighteen in violation of this section may be impounded by the police department, or in a town which has no police department, by the selectmen, for a period not to exceed fifteen days. A violation of any provision of this section by a minor under the age of eighteen shall not affect any civil right or liability nor shall such a violation be considered a criminal offense.
A police officer taking cognizance of any such violation may request the offender to state his true name and address. Whoever, upon such request, refuses to state his name and address, or states a false name and address or a name and address which is not his name and address in ordinary use, shall be punished by a fine of not less than 20 nor more than 50 dollars. Any such offender so refusing to state his name and address may be arrested without a warrant, but no person shall be arrested without a warrant for any other such violation.
Every police officer who takes cognizance of such violations may give the offender a notice, which shall be in tag form, as provided in this section, to appear before the clerk of the district court having jurisdiction, at any time during office hours, not later than twenty-one days after the date of such violation. If the offender is under sixteen years of age, the officer may give such notice to the parent or guardian of the offender. All tags shall be prepared in triplicate and shall be prenumbered.
Said tag shall contain but shall not be limited to the following information: the registration number of the bicycle, if any; the name and address of the offender, if served with notice in hand at the time of such violation; the date, time, place and nature of the violation; the amount of the fine; instructions for the return of the tag; and a notice which reads as follows:--This notice may be returned by mail, personally, or by an authorized person, and if properly returned shall be deemed non-criminal. A court hearing may be obtained upon the written request of the offender. Failure to obey this notice within twenty-one days after the date of the violation will result in the offender's appearance in court on a criminal complaint. Such notice shall be signed by the officer and shall be signed by the offender whenever practicable in acknowledgment that the notice has been received. The officer shall, if possible, deliver to the offender at the time and place of the violation a copy of said notice. Whenever it is not possible to deliver a copy of said notice at the time and place of the violation, said copy shall be mailed or delivered by the officer, or by his commanding officer or any person authorized by said commanding officer to the offender's last known address. The mailing of such notice by the officer, his commanding officer or the person so authorized, to the said offender shall be deemed a sufficient notice, and a certificate of the officer or person stating that such notice has been mailed in accordance with this section shall be deemed prima facie evidence thereof, and shall be admissible in any court of the commonwealth as to the facts contained therein.
At or before the completion of each tour of duty, the officer shall give to his commanding officer those copies of each notice of such a violation taken cognizance of during such tour. Said commanding officer shall retain and safely preserve one of such copies and shall at a time no later than the beginning of the next court day after receipt of such notice deliver another of such copies to the clerk of the court before whom the offender has been notified to appear. The clerk of each district court shall maintain a separate docket of all such notices to appear.
Any person notified to appear before the clerk of a district court, as provided herein, may appear before such clerk and confess the offense charged, either personally or through an agent duly authorized in writing, or by mailing to such clerk the notice accompanied by the fine provided therein, such payment to be made only by postal note, money order or check made out to the clerk of the court. Returning the notice to the clerk of court and payment of the fine established shall operate as a final disposition of the case. Proceedings under this section shall not be deemed criminal; and no person notified to appear before the clerk of a district court as provided herein shall be required to report to any probation officer, and no record of the case shall be entered in the probation records.
If any person notified to appear before the clerk of the district court fail to appear or, having appeared , desire not to avail himself of the benefits of the procedure established by this section, the clerk shall, as soon as may be, notify the officer concerned, who shall forthwith make a complaint against the offender and follow the procedure established for criminal cases. If any person fails to appear in accordance with the summons issued upon such complaint, the clerk shall send such person by registered mail, return receipt requested, a notice that the complaint is pending and that if the person fails to appear within twenty-one days from the mailing of such notice the court shall issue a warrant for his arrest. The notice to appear, provided herein, shall be printed in such form as the administrative justice for the Boston municipal court department and the administrative justice for the district court department may prescribe for the respective departments; provided, however, that any city or town may request that the notice prepared for said city or town pursuant to section twenty A or section twenty C of chapter ninety be so revised or adapted that said notice may also be used for the notice provided for in this section.
All fines collected pursuant to this section shall be used by the respective cities and towns for the development and implementation of bicycle programs.
"Bicycle", a two-wheel nonmotor-powered vehicle.
"Bike path", a route for the exclusive use of bicycles separated by grade or other physical barrier from motor traffic.
"Bike lane", a lane on a street restricted to bicycles and so designated by means of painted lines, pavement coloring or other appropriate markings.
"Bike route", a roadway shared by both bicycles and other forms of transportation designated by the means of signs or pavement markings.
"Bikeway", bike paths, bike lanes and bike routes.
"Bicycle parking facility", any facility for the temporary storage of bicycles which allows the frame and both wheels of the bicycle to be locked so as to minimize the risk of theft and vandalism.
"Department", the department of highways.
"Commissioner", the commissioner of highways.
Section 2. The commissioner shall promulgate such rules, regulations, plans, proposals, and procedures as are necessary and appropriate to the construction and maintenance of bikeways and bicycle parking facilities.
Such rules, regulations, plans, proposals and procedures shall take into consideration potential users in high density employment areas, bicycle accident locations, connections to other modes of transportation, special signs, markings necessary for the benefit of cyclists and motorists, bicycle parking facilities at points of public interest and provisions to insure safe, smooth, direct continuous bikeways.
The commissioner shall designate the bureau of transportation planning and development in the department as the principal source for the planning of bikeways in the commonwealth.
The commissioner shall establish, with the advice and assistance of the bicycle advisory board, established by section eleven A of chapter twenty-one A, a bikeways program which shall include, but not be limited to: surveys, safety measures, demonstration projects, research, education, utilization of existing streets and walkways, provisions of bikeways to and from schools affording a minimum of hazard from automobiles, provision of comfort stations and weather shelters, provision of facilities in connection with commuter railroads to facilitate the use of bicycles by commuters in traveling to and from the railroad stations, the use of abandoned rights of way for bicycle paths; the development of commuter and recreational trails; provision of bicycle transportation facilities roadways, bridges and airports; the development of a coordinated program for bicycles and motor vehicles; the development of bicycle amenities such as assigned parking facilities; bicycle routes, paths and trails; bicycle sensitive traffic light actuation; and bicycle transportation as a commuter activity and promulgation of standards, security measures and regulations for the registration and use of bicycles. (Amended by 1987, 465, Sec. 21.)
The commissioner shall promulgate such rules, regulations and procedures, including public hearings, as are necessary and appropriate to provide the following parties the timely opportunity to participate in the development of bikeway proposals, plans, programs and projects of the department, as defined by the commissioner, and to review and comment thereon:
(a) state, regional and local agencies and authorities, including without limitation, regional planning agencies, affected by said proposals, plans, programs and projects;
(b) elected officials from cities and towns affected by said proposals, plans, programs and projects;
(c) other public and private organizations, groups and persons who are affected by, and who have provided the commissioner with reasonable notice in writing of their desire to participate in the development of said proposals, plans, programs and projects.
In this section, the words "timely opportunity" shall mean sufficiently early in the planning process to permit comments to be considered prior to the final development of or commitment to any such proposal, plan, program or project, at each stage of development.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Count assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:
Chapter 90E of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 2, as appearing in the 1994 Official Edition, the following section- --
Section 2A. The commissioner [of the Massachusetts Highway Department] shall make all reasonable provisions for the accommodation of bicycle and pedestrian traffic in the planning, design, and construction, reconstruction or maintenance of any project undertaken by the department. Such provisions that are unreasonable shall include, but not be limited to, those which the commissioner, after appropriate review by the bicycle program coordinator [currently, Stanley Wood - see Appendix C for contact information] determines would be contrary to acceptable standards of public safety, degrade environmental quality or conflict with existing rights of way.
This bill was followed up by two MassHighway Engineering Directives:
MassHighway Engineering Directive-97-004, dated 7/l/97, titled "In Response to MGL Chapter 87 Acts of 1996 - Bicycle and Pedestrain Accommodation" outlines the state's position on "reasonable" bicycle accommodations.
Mass Highway Policy Directive P-97-001, dated 6/16/97, "Bicycle Route Signing - State Highways' applies to situations where bicycle routes are being considered on state highways.
Funds made available for the construction of bikeways shall be expended as follows:
(a) Seventy-five per cent of the costs for bikeways, the balance of the costs to be borne by the city or town in which said bikeways are located.
(b) Fifty per cent for the cost of constructing a bicycle parking facility at or adjacent to a mass transit facility, the balance of the costs to be borne by the city or town where said bicycle parking facility is to be constructed.
(c) One hundred per cent for the cost of unique regional bikeways and bicycle parking facilities, as determined by the commissioner.
The department is hereby authorized and directed to take all steps necessary to obtain federal funds that may be available for the construction of bikeways and said funds shall be credited to the Federal Highway Construction Program Fund.