Massachusetts Law on Bicycles and Vehicles on The Road

Even before the Covid era, bicycles were becoming more ubiquitous, especially in urban areas. Towns and cities have responded with more designated bike lanes, trails, and traffic signals for bicyclists so as to accommodate and encourage bike riding for all ages. So, as a Massachusetts motorist and/or bicyclist, you should be aware of the laws governing motor vehicles and cyclists and their interactions.

Bicyclists and motorists need to be especially cautious at intersections where the majority of motor vehicle/bicycle accidents occur. This often occurs when a driver making a left or right turn fails to observe an approaching bicyclist. Motorists are required to yield to the cyclist who is coming from the opposite direction whether in a bike lane or not. 

Cars and Bikes Don’t Mix

There are also other circumstances where bicyclists and cars have a tendency to have an adverse interaction. These include:

  • Opening a car door into the path of a cyclist
  • Encountering bicyclists on the road between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., regardless of the time of year
  • Driving in the city–nearly 80% of all bike/car accidents occur in an urban setting
  • The rider is male (either there are more male riders or they take more risks when riding)

Bicyclists are required to follow all traffic laws, which includes stopping at red lights and stop signs, not speeding, and allowing pedestrians the right of way. Cyclists are allowed on many roadways and may use an entire lane if the roadway is too narrow. If wide enough, bicycles only need to stay on the right side of the lane or road. Cyclists are required by law to use hand signals when turning, and to only pass vehicles on the right. As a rider, you are not barred from riding on the opposite side of traffic, though it is certainly riskier to do so. You can also ride two- abreast or side-by-side if the roadway is only one lane but not if there are two lanes of traffic in the same direction. 

Further, when riding between dusk and dawn, the law requires your bike to have a white headlight and a rear, red reflector. Some riders have blinking or flashing lights on their helmets or legs, but this does not obviate the requirement regarding a headlight and reflector. 

As a motorist, you have more responsibilities since any accident with a cyclist can result in very serious injuries or death for the rider while leaving you and your vehicle unscathed. These responsibilities and laws include:

  • Stay a safe distance, or at least 3-feet, from a cyclist when approaching one or driving alongside a rider
  • When passing a bicyclist, do not return to your lane until a safe distance away
  • Stay out of designated bike lanes except when making a right turn and signaling well before you enter the lane and are assured that no bicyclists are present 
  • It is unlawful to crowd or pressure a cyclist when following or driving side-by-side

Remember that cyclists are entitled to use the roadway. With more cyclists than ever before, motorists need to be on the lookout for riders in all areas.

Common Injuries to Bicyclists 

Only riders under the age of 16 are required to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle but wearing a helmet can significantly reduce the incidence of concussions and traumatic head injuries. Other common injuries are:

  • Road rash and abrasions
  • Arm, leg, elbow, and neck scarring and/or fractures
  • Spinal injuries
  • Chest injuries such as fractured ribs, shoulder blades, and collarbones

The American Medical Association reports that bike accident injuries resulting in hospitalizations are up by 120% in the past several years. All bike injuries have increased by 23% overall. The age group most affected are those 45 years and older. 

Proving liability in a bike accident with a motor vehicle can be difficult at times, which is why you should retain an experienced bicycle accident attorney as soon as possible after your accident. 

Damages in a Bike Accident Injury Claim

Damages in a typical accident injury claim include:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Past and future income losses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Permanent disability and disfigurement
  • Emotional distress
  • Spousal claim for loss of consortium

Damages need to be substantiated and proved before you can expect to be adequately compensated. Your compensation also depends on the available insurance coverage that your bicycle accident attorney can discuss with you. 

Retain a Bicycle Accident Attorney from Burns and Jain 

As noted, bicycle accident claims often involve issues of contested liability and damages that an experienced bicycle accident attorney from Burns and Jain can handle. Call us at (617) 227-7423 for a free consultation about your injury claim.

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