There are multiple bills pending in this session, sponsored by Senator Brownsberger that would improve bicycle safety:

S.1807 – “An Act to protect vulnerable road users” would create a definition of vulnerable road users, which would include but not be limited to cyclists.  It would further define the safe passing distance of “vulnerable road users,” based on the speed of the passing vehicle.  Under 30 miles per hour would require a minimum passing distance of 3 feet, adding 1 foot per 10 miles per hour after that; 4 feet at 40 MPH, 5 feet at 50 MPH and so on.

S.1808 – “An Act to protect bicyclists in bicycle lanes” would make it a ticketable offense to park a motor vehicle in a marked bicycle lane (punishable by a fine of up to $100.)

S.1809 – “An Act providing for the safety of bicyclists traveling on bicycle paths” Senator Brownsberger has requested the Joint Committee on Transportation consider a redraft, rather than the bill as originally filed.  The redrafted bill would require drivers to yield for bicyclists crossing in crosswalks and other marked facilities used by bicyclists, such as road crossings of bicycle or shared use paths, intersection crossings of bike lanes or other bicycle facilities, and all designated school crossings. These changes would not relieve a bicyclist from the responsibility to yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. The proposed changes would also require investigation of accidents that occur in such marked facilities.

S.1810 – “An Act to protect vulnerable road users by requiring certain vehicles to be equipped with side under-ride guards and blind spot mirrors” would require convex mirrors and a “lateral protective device” or a side guard to be installed on all trucks in the Commonwealth over a certain size.  The mirrors would allow drivers to see more of whats around them and the side guard is intended to prevent any pedestrians or cyclists hit by a truck from being run over by the rear wheels.  Turning trucks have been responsible for many cyclist and pedestrian fatalities in the region during recent years.

Senator Brownsberger also filed a bill relative to mandatory helmet use.  He has however, decided to support an approach that would encourage helmet use but not make it mandatory,  due to concerns about selective enforcement.

Andrew Bettinelli
Legislative Aide
Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger

34 replies on “Bicycle Safety Legislation”

  1. As a bicyclist who rides both for pleasure and commuting I do agree with the above. I do feel strongly that helmets should only be mandatory on public streets not bike paths. I would also like to see it mandatory that bicyclists be required to have lights front and back that are operational, side reflectors and helmut reflectors. I would also consider registration and inspection of bicycles. This could be done on bikes over a certain size or age of the operator. I strongly believe our traffic laws should be more diligently enforced for both motorized vehicles and bicycles. Particular speeding and cell phone use. I am also concerned about the possible problems that maybe caused by electric bikes that approach 30 mph. I would encourage regulation or clear classification of said vehicles and their operation.

  2. These three bills, I very much support. I do have some concerns about the 3 foot for 30 mph. How is the measured? As a cyclist, I have been trying to gauge this in my commutes. When I signal to turn, my arm extends 3 feet. If I were to touch a car, that would be way too close. The idea of passing a cyclist at 50 mph at all seems dangerous. Why not a simple 4 feet and never pass more than 40 mph? Most of our roads are 30 mph, as the state default speed limit and back roads where long distance cyclists go would be helped by not being past speedily by cars. I’m sure you’ve thought a lot about this one and I appreciate the idea, but am nervous that 3 feet is really just not enough. Aside from this, I also support the new signs going around that move the ‘share the road’ to “Bikes Use Full Lane” – these are helpful.

  3. I don’t understand why all motor vehicles don’t have blind spot mirrors. I’d love to have them for my cars – they have blind spots too.

    This is easy technology to add. I actually did add something to one of our cars, but I don’t understand why I had to do it. Why are blind spots acceptable?

  4. Education of all road users and following the rules of the road is vital.

    The state should encourage cyclists to undergo training in safely riding on the road and offer courses. The number of times I see cyclists go on the inside of trucks and buses at stop lights is amazing; it makes them very vulnerable to being hit if the vehicle is turning right.

    The police should strictly enforce traffic rules for all. So please stop and fine everyone that goes through a red light, stop sign or doesn’t stop for pedestrians. Some advertising and announcements from politicians about this might help.

    1. Agreed that cyclists have to ride defensively — one never wants to be to the right of a long vehicle that might turn right and sometimes cyclists do voluntarily put themselves in that spot. Sometimes long vehicles over take and turn right though — the “right hook” move: very scary.

  5. As a cyclist who chooses not to wear a helmet I am glad that you dropped the mandatory helmet law. I feel that safe riding skills are far more important than protective head wear.

  6. Education is huge here. Neither drivers nor bicyclists are interested in getting into accidents, but certain legislation will not prevent them.

    For example, cars already have right side view mirrors, but do drivers remember to scan that area for bicyclists before making a standard right turn? I know I wasn’t, even though I drive and bicycle in traffic.

    We need to establish norms through mass education, not simply react to each fatal accident with a new law.

  7. While all of these bicycle safety bills might help protect cyclists, the key is to get bicyclists out of traffic! It is absurd to call a painted line on the street a “dedicated bike lane”, especially when that lane unexpectedly narrows and disappears on many of our streets. Parked cars and large moving vehicles plus the condition of many of our roads makes safety for a biker a challenge. The expense is huge but when streets are being rebuilt, such as Trapelo Road, Belmont Center, the time would have been right for a totally separate bike lane, separated by permanent “bollards” or even better, elevated from parking and traffic such as on Concord Ave near Fresh Pond and Vassar Street near MIT’s athletic facilities. Permanent and effective infrastructure is a life saving solution. On this issue Europe is way ahead of us!

  8. As a regular user of the Minuteman Bikepath, I strongly support the redraft of S1809 regarding yielding to cyclists in the marked crosswalk. I have experienced (too often) near misses by motorists speeding through the crosswalk I’m already occupying. This is the real danger of cycling on the path. Most of the crossings lack adequate caution signage/signaling for motorists.

  9. Senator, I’m a daily commuting cyclist andthankful for your efforts to increase bike safety. I know it would be monumental but one of the biggest hazards on the road are cyclist, they should be licensed and required to have lights. They should also be fine for violating traffic laws. As I say I know it would be a huge undertaking and opposition would be vociferous but if we’re serious about road safety this should be done. Thanks

    1. Actually, cyclists are required to have lights already. And they can be ticketed for violating traffic laws — as noted above, I’ve made it easier to ticket cyclists.

      However, remember that police don’t even get around to ticketing motorists for much of their misbehavior — we have a general dearth of traffic enforcement.

  10. 151 Coolidge Ave Apt 6051

    I applaud your concern about the perils of right-turning trucks, but I wonder if an eye-level means might be more effective in alerting bicyclists and pedestrians..something like a flashing stip along the right side of the “semi” or even an alarm which might be engaged automatically with the turn of the steering wheel?

    1. I think the problem is that once that truck has got to the point when it is ready to swing right, if there is a cyclist in the wrong place, the cyclist may be unable to evade the trailer swinging over even with some warning.

  11. I support underside barriers, but insist on evaluation of their effect after some period, say a year.

    I do not support helmet law, except for minors. I suggest instead, each bike must have a bell. See New York State?

    Some state (s) assign responsibility for a crash to the operator of the motor driven vehicle.

  12. I cycle mostly for fitness, but I also commute to work a few times per month. I suspect though that my commute is a bit different than most. It’s 20 miles each way and I commute through mostly suburban back roads. Given this distance, I commute on what most would consider a racing bike (made in Watertown).

    Inattentive drivers are certainly a problem. However, the biggest danger I face is potholes. If I try to be courteous to drivers by not impeding them and staying near the fog line, I run a very real risk of crashing due to potholes.

    So, to me, better road quality and wider shoulders would be the biggest safety improvement that could be made for cyclists.

    1. Extremely well taken. Pot holes probably do hurt more cyclists than cars. I know several cyclists with a broken collar bone or a head injury as a result of pavement irregularities. I bear that in mind as I consider the importance of different public investments.

      1. Thanks Will, that’s what I wanted to hear.

        Incidentally, I went for a 25 mile ride at lunch today out to Carlisle and back. I observed the local DPW fixing some potholes by shoveling some cold patch into the hole, then driving over it with the dump truck a few times. I can’t say how prevalent that technique is, but I’ve seen it before and it’s pretty poor workmanship.

        I realize you don’t work at the local level but maybe there are state wide standards for this sort of thing.

  13. I definitely do not support this legislation. If a bike or a walker comes to the road, with a pedestrian crossing, they still need to at least slow down, if not stop. Like many others, I see bikes as being about 70/30 at this point. 30 % obey laws and use common sense, 70% don’t.
    When Cambridge tried to enforce bike laws they were actually made fun of on PBS – I was amazed. I work with seniors who are very afraid of bikes. One of my clients was stepping off a bus and a bike came racing through by the curb, knocked her down, broke her shoulder. I was in the hospital and rehab for 3 weeks and my elbow is now constructed of metal plates and wires – a bike. When I cross Mass Ave with the light, in the crosswalk, a bike often runs the red, turns left and passes within a foot or two of me – no exaggeration. I try to thank bicyclist who actually obey traffic laws but I am fed up with many. Also, these distances etc seem much more difficult to enforce than the helmet law.

    1. Hi Liz,

      This legislation would not relieve cyclists of the obligation to stop before crossing. It would just mean that having stopped, once they start to cross, they would have the right to continue.

      /w.

      1. but it kind of gets back to – are they vehicles or not?
        If I could slow down or stop and then go through, look both ways and go through the red light, I would get places much faster – well, probably not – gridlock.
        Never mind – in Cambridge we are all entitled!!!

  14. Who is going to advocate for pedestrian safety?Bicyclists routinely ride on crowded sidewalks, disregard traffic laws on streets and almost never yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. I have experienced bicyclists who seem to engage in games of chicken with pedestrians on sidewalks. I have had to literally jump off the sidewalk onto the street to avoid speeding bicyclists. This is a serious problem for anyone with mobility issues, or those with impaired sight or hearing who wish to walk on sidewalks. I would appreciate it if you could refer me to someone who advocates for pedestrians on our sidewalks and streets.

    1. Completely agree on that. I constantly see a lot of very offensive biking in the area. Bicyclists are going in opposite direction on one way streets and police do not care. They do not stop on pedestrian crossings. Before protecting bicyclists it is of high priority to make the bicyclists themselves obey the traffic rules. And this is a task for police.

  15. I live in Belmont and bike commuting is just the most efficient and economical way for me to get around. So thank you very much for your work on making it safer.

  16. In the interest of keeping cyclists safe, how about adding a provision that, if a driver parks next to a bike lane, by law, he/she and their passengers are required to LOOK behind them for oncoming cyclists BEFORE they open the driver side doors. Many times cyclists are forced to make last minute maneuvers into traffic because a car door opens unexpectedly.

  17. I drive in Boston, Allston, Brighton-
    Cambridge, for work daily, my observations;

    Bicycles do not observe traffic laws.

    1. Bicycles run thru red lights, cross- walks.
    2. They ride too close to pedestians.
    3. Are distracting to drivers, lead to accidents involving cars, trucks, by not stopping at cross walks, stop signs and
    drivers must take evasive action.

    No insurance or identity signage.
    If a rider hits and damages a car, there is no method to identify that person.
    1. How does the vehicle owner or walker
    collect for their medical or property
    damages.

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