Thinking about pulling out the old bicycle for the summer? That’s great news! Warmer summer weather provides the perfect opportunity to start cycling again. However, it’s also the peak time for fatal cycling accidents in Massachusetts. So, before hopping on the bike, it is crucial to have an understanding of your rights, obligations, and regulations as a cyclist. We’ve also got some safety tips and what to do if you have an accident.
Bicycle Riders’ Rights and Regulations
When you’re getting ready to head out, keep in mind the rules of the road that are intended for your safety and that of those around you. As defined by MA General Laws your rights and obligations as a cyclist include:
- Use of all public roads except in areas where signs are posted that specifically prohibit cyclists, such as express state highways.
- The use of hand signals when turning or stopping.
- Use of sidewalks outside of business districts unless otherwise posted. Cyclists must yield the right of way on sidewalks to pedestrians and audibly signal when approaching them
It is important for both cyclists and motor vehicle drivers to understand these rights in order to limit potential surprises on the road. Failing to follow the rules can lead to potentially harmful misuse of the roads. Abiding by these rules is good not only for your safety but can also prevent potential difficulties in obtaining financial compensation if you have an accident.
- Cyclists riding together must ride no more than two bikes side by side.
- All operators must sit upon a permanent seat attached to the bicycle and passengers must follow the same rule or be seated in a trailer attached to the bike.
- A baby seat is required for any passenger ages 1-4 and must have appropriate harness security.
- Transportation via bike of any child under the age of one is prohibited.
- Individuals ages 16 and under are required to wear a protective helmet unless securely seated in a trailer that provides adequate protection.
- The cyclists must not tow or be towed by any other vehicle or person (except regulatory bicycle trailers).
- The operator shall not carry any package or bundle unless placed in a basket, rack, or trailer. They must keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times.
- During the time of one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise, the operator must display a lamp that emits a white light that can be seen from 500 feet away at the front of the bike. As well as either a lamp emitting red light or red reflective lights at the rear of the bike which are visible from at least 600 feet away when in front of a motor vehicle. Plus, during this time slot, it is necessary that the operator has reflective material on either their bike pedals or around their ankles which are visible from both the front and rear when within at least 600 feet of a motor vehicle.
- And finally, a bicycle operator must report an accident that results in personal injury or property damage that exceeds costs of $100 to the police department of the city or town in which it occurred.
Following the law is a start to staying safe, but there’s more you can do.
- Always wear a helmet (even if over 16)
- Wear bright clothes
- Keep your lights/reflectors on your bike even during the day
- Enter intersections with heightened caution
- Make sure your bike fits your physical size and personal needs before heading out
- Ensure that your bike’s brakes and gears work properly
- Check that any straps, laces, strings or loose clothing are properly tied or tucked and cannot get caught in the bike
- Become familiar with your route prior to taking it via bike
- Choose routes with less traffic, lower speed limits, bike lanes, or paths
- Avoid listening to music or otherwise using personal devices while cycling
- Ride in the direction of traffic
Rules for Motor Vehicles
There are also rules (Chapter 90 Section 14) that motor vehicles must follow in regards to sharing the roads with cyclists. Failure to comply can put cyclists in danger and lead to potentially fatal accidents. The rules generally state that motor vehicle operators:
- Must slow down when passing a cyclist on the road and pass at a safe and reasonable speed and distance.
- Must not open any doors unless it is safe to do so and does not interfere with traffic, including bicyclists.
- Must not make a right-hand turn after passing a bicyclist moving in the same direction unless it is reasonably safe to do so.
Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents
Apart from rights backed by the General Massachusetts Laws, bikers are usually only protected by a helmet, leaving them vulnerable to serious injury and even death caused by impact from a motor vehicle. Common causes of accidents between bikes and motor vehicles include speeding, negligence of laws or regulations, and otherwise reckless or distracted driving.
Moving cars are an issue, but even when stopped, cars pose a threat to bikers. “Dooring” is a major concern as drivers open their doors without checking for bikers. The door creates an obstruction to the bikers’ path and potentially a serious injury.
If You Are In an Accident
Before getting on your bike, be prepared with a plan in case you get into an accident. Carry identification with you and keep a card with who to call in an emergency.
These are the steps to follow:
- Check to see if anyone involved needs immediate medical attention.
- Call the police and wait for their arrival (even if you believe yourself to be unharmed because some injuries may not be immediately apparent).
- Exchange information with the driver(s) involved including name, address, license plate number, driver’s license number, insurance, and phone number.
- Get witness contact information.
- Take photos of the vehicle(s) and bike(s) involved, and any other property affected.
- Record your surroundings and write down the events of the accident.
- Document and seek aid for any injuries sustained, even small ones as they may later progress.
- Before speaking to your insurance company, contact a personal injury lawyer, as they are better equipped to negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf if necessary.
If you or a loved one has experienced a biking accident, we are here to help you understand what comes next. Your health is of utmost importance, so receiving any immediate medical assistance necessary should be prioritized. After that, it is time to collect your insurance information, medical bills, photographs from the scene of the accident, and any other evidence or documentation obtained and bring them to an experienced personal injury attorney. Your attorney will help you obtain proper compensation for any costs or injuries. These costs may include not only medical bills but also rehabilitation expenses, lost wages, or loss in potential earning capacity. The financial burden may be long-lasting and it is in your best interest to allow an experienced, trustworthy personal injury attorney to help you plan ahead and obtain all the current and future compensation you deserve.