Massachusetts Bike Laws for Riders and Motorists

I had two great weekend rides with my husband and a first for this year; an evening ride! Saturday was a 32 mile very windy ride. With a northeast wind we headed out in a southwesterly direction keeping that stiff wind to our side. Riding 15 miles in that direction we did an about face and headed northeast. Now the wind came from the other side. It’s not possible to ride a 32 mile loop and not go directly into the wind at some point but we managed to keep it to a minimum.

Sunday was cooler with a light east wind off the Atlantic. We rode 33 miles around the reservoir; our typical Sunday ride.

With today’s afternoon temperature reaching 73 and a light workload, I managed to get it done a little early and had time for a 23 mile ride after work/before supper. My first of the year! PMC training is nearing full swing!

I am often surprised at how close vehicles come to us while on our bicycles. Seriously, who is in such a hurry that they’d risk running down a bicycle because they don’t want to wait until it’s safe to pass? I knew my state had laws established but never took the time to look them up and see exactly what they say. Here’s what I learned:


On a bicycle in Massachusetts you have these rights

  • 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.

On a bicycle in Massachusetts your responsibilities are

  • 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 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.

In a motor vehicle in Massachusetts your responsibilities are

  • 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 when passing. Motorists are also prohibited from returning to the right until safety 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.


And there you have it. Motorists must pass at a safe distance. If they are unable to they must wait until there is opportunity to pass safely. This does not mean if there is oncoming traffic on a narrow road that it’s ok to squeeze by in a rush to get home say what? five seconds earlier? Please folks, share the road!

PMC 2014 is less than three months away. I’ll soon be mailing, emailing and handing out fundraising requests. PMC is a two day 192 mile bike-a-thon raising money for Boston’s Dana Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund. Over 5,000 cyclists participate each year. I am required to raise $4,300. To date my total is $1,446. Last year I raised over $8,000. My goal this year is $10,000. Would you consider sponsoring me in my 11th ride with the PMC? You can do so by going to and my ID is JS0126. You can also “Text to Give to My Ride” which means donors can text PMC JS0126 to 20222 to donate $10 to my ride. You must reply “Yes” to the confirmation text message. You can do this up to 5 times from the same phone and the donation will appear on your cell phone bill.

Thanks for reading my blog. Ride and drive safe!



  1. I went to Secondary School in Mass. I love it up there and it’s so beautiful in the fall. I wasn’t a cyclist back then, but I would think you have some amazing scenery as you ride there. I went to school in the Berkshires, and the next time I am up that way, I will definately bring the bike. I also love the wording of the bike laws. They make it very clear what the rules are. I am surprised about the helmet rules for kids in the trailers though. I would still put my kids in helmets regardless.

    Nice post, and thanks for the comment on my post. Look forward to hearing about more of your adventures in the future.

    Simon A.


    1. I love the Berkshires! My husband grew up in Dalton and we lived out there for a couple years before moving to central MA. Biking out there is soooo beautiful!


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