Update, April 2019

This bill did not get passed in the House in 2018. So, we filed it again in January 2019 and the Senate passed it again on Thursday, April 25, 2019.

The bill now moves to the House. I am hopeful that with the additional support that seems to building for the bill it will get all the way through the process this time. It is very promising that Leader Mike Moran and Chairman Bill Strauss have filed a similar bill.

This post, originally published last June (2018) when the Senate first passed the legislation, explains the legislation, which did not change much from 2018 to 2019.

BOSTON — The Massachusetts State Senate voted Thursday to pass legislation that aims to create safer streets for all road users. Developed in collaboration with a coalition of bicycle, pedestrian and transportation advocates, S.2570, An Act to reduce traffic fatalities, includes several measures to improve road safety, lessen the severity of crashes, and standardize the collection and analysis of crash data.

The bill classifies several groups, including pedestrians, utility workers, first responders and cyclists, as “vulnerable road users,” and requires motor vehicles to apply a “safe passing distance” of at least three feet when traveling 30 miles per hour or less with an additional foot of clearance required for every 10 miles per hour over 30 miles per hour. Current law only requires motor vehicle operators to pass at “a safe distance and at a reasonable and proper speed.” The bill would further require a vehicle that is overtaking a vulnerable road user to use all or part of the adjacent lane, crossing the center line if necessary, when it cannot pass at a safe distance in the same lane and only when it is safe to do so.

“We need to keep working year after year to achieve a future in which traffic fatalities get as close as possible to zero,” said Senator William N. Brownsberger (D-Belmont), lead sponsor of the bill in the Senate. “This bill will help us move in the right direction.”

“This legislation updates basic protections for pedestrians, cyclists and others who may be on the road, and is a common-sense policy to ensure safer roadways for pedestrians and drivers alike” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “I am very happy the Senate has passed this legislation.”

“This bill takes an important step in encouraging the use of multimodal transportation to relieve the congestion and reduce our state’s carbon footprint,” said Senator Joseph A. Boncore (D-Winthrop), who serves as the Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Transportation, which advanced the legislative measure forward with a favorable recommendation earlier this year. “Ensuring that pedestrians and cyclists have more protections on shared roads is vital to that end.”

The bill would require certain large vehicles newly purchased, leased or operated pursuant to a contract with the Commonwealth to be equipped with lateral protective devices to eliminate a vehicle’s high ground clearance and the extraordinary risk posed to vulnerable road users, who are susceptible to slipping underneath large vehicles during accidents. Such large vehicles would also be required to utilize convex and cross-over mirrors to increase a driver’s ability to see around their vehicle. These provisions would apply to vehicles purchased or leased by the Commonwealth after January 1, 2019 and to vehicles operating pursuant to leases entered into January 1, 2020.

MassBike congratulates the Senate on the passage of An Act to reduce traffic fatalities,” said Galen Mook, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition. “We have seen too many unnecessary and completely preventable fatalities on our roads, and MassBike believes this legislation provides distinct safety elements for cyclists across the Commonwealth, including defining that vehicles must pass cyclists at ‘a safe distance’ of at least three feet, and requiring sideguards on large vehicles to protect vulnerable road users from the dreaded ‘right hook.’ MassBike is grateful for the collaborative work of Senator Brownsberger and all of the advocacy organizations, and we thank everyone for the continued persistence to protect all cyclists and pedestrians across the state. Though we have not yet finished our work, this bill goes a long way toward the goal of zero deaths on our streets.”

The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security would be required to develop a standardized analysis tool to report crashes and incidents involving a vulnerable road user and maintain a publicly accessible database of such reports to help inform further efforts to reduce traffic fatalities.

WalkBoston is thrilled that the Senate has passed An act to reduce traffic fatalities, which includes elements to immediately improve the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists and all vulnerable road users across the Commonwealth,” said Wendy Landman, Executive Director of WalkBoston. “The data collection and analysis requirement will help communities focus their road safety efforts on the places that need it the most.”

The bill would establish a 25 mile per hour speed limit on an unposted area of state highway or parkway inside a thickly settled or business district within a city or town that has accepted the 25 mile per hour local option, as lower vehicle speeds reduce the severity of crashes. While current law requires persons riding bicycles at night to use a front white light, this bill would also require use of both a red rear light and a red rear reflector when riding at night to improve the visibility of bicyclists.

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for further consideration.

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17 Comments

  1. Hi Will,

    You mentioned in your email about this that there is a law about hands-free cell phones, S.2103, moving separately through the legislature. I read the text of S.2103 and it’s incomprehensible to me, since it’s mostly “Paragraph foo of section bar shall be amended as follows” with out-of-context sentence fragments and such. Can you give us a high-level idea of what this bill is intended to accomplish?

  2. Interesting. Out here the bikes take up the whole road and do not follow traffic rules. They go through red lights , ride on the wrong side of the road , scream at each other while riding, cut traffic and a multitude of other things and then complain about vehicles.

    1. I agree with David and Patricia. I don’t see the need for this bill. Generally speaking, when bikes behave like cars everyone is pretty courteous. It’s when bikes start to behave like jet-fueled entitled pedestrians that things go sideways. Cutting in between cars in stalled traffic, running red lights, going on and off road as convenience are not behaviors to be rewarded. Where are the penalties for bad bike behavior which endangers both drivers and pedestrians? Where are the penalties for badly equipped riders? There seems to be little appetite for really making the road safer, this is simply pandering to the biking crowd.

  3. Wasn’t allowing towns and cities to implement automated traffic enforcement included in the original bill. What happened to that? Drivers will continue to act irresponsibly if there is no enforcement.

  4. Will there be PSAs for this once it becomes law? Without it, it will be worthless because no one will know about this.

  5. What about requiring bikers to wear helmets? I was in an accident and if I wasn’t wearing my helmet I would likely be dead. Rental bikes should be mandated to require helmets also.

  6. Is there a plan for minimizing cyclist impact on mass transit, primarily buses? Oftentimes an over full bus is trapped behind a cyclist to the huge detriment of all on board and the transit schedule of that line as a whole. This especially impacts the 57 bus line through Brighton and Allston.

  7. I agree that we should share the road & show courtesy to cyclists, however, it grinds my teeth to see them run red lights, brush by pedestrians & be obnoxious to people walking on bike/walking trails.
    For all of you who ride responsibly, theres is an equal number who are rude, crude & socially unacceptable. Can anything be done along those lines?

  8. Is there anything in the bike bill about requiring riders to wear high-visibility vests or some other high visibility item? There are many tree-shaded streets where bikers can be hard for drivers to see. I know people may object to being told what to wear, but this is a safety issue. Yes, I know about the yellow jacket controversy in France. Someone is sure to bring that up but this is a different issue.

  9. Sen. Brownsberger –
    Thank you very much for your leadership and support on this legislation. It is much appreciated, and I hope it also passes in the House!

  10. How can anyone report a cyclist who does not obey rules of the road and does things to cause accidents etc., when you cannot ID them? Growing up in the 1950’s (in New Bedford), we had to have our bikes registered, pass a rules test, receive and display a license plate on the rear fender. There may have been a small fee for that. I do not remember.
    However, there was a room in the basement of the police station and an officer was assigned to that department. Plate numbers could be used to report incidents, report lost or stolen bikes, etc. Today, most bikes do not even have fenders. They keep muddy water from being thrown up the rider’s backside (no common sense here). With all the rental bikes around now, it is impossible to report anyone to the police for any reason.
    And when a bike lane ends as a street narrows, or there are no bike lanes because of a narrow street, what do bike riders do then, other than obstruct traffic and cause problems.
    I could go on but I’ll leave it at that.

  11. I’m interested by the consequences of adherence to the requirement that motorists traveling at 30 mph or less may pass no less than 3 feet from a cyclist. On Brattle Street in Cambridge, if the cyclist rides just inside the white line marking the division between the bicycle lane and the automobile lane, I don’t think that it will be possible for most cars to pass without crossing into oncoming traffic. The street is divided by a double yellow line, which I don’t believe is to be crossed except in emergency. Consequently, the law-abiding motorist may find herself or himself traveling at 10 mph or less, behind the cyclist, followed by a procession of angry drivers. Traffic may slow significantly. I wonder what the effect on safety would be to specify that where there is a designated bicycle lane, cars must pass at least 3 feet from the center of that lane, rather than 3 feet from the cyclist. Traveling East at the corner of Huron Avenue and Fresh Pond Parkway, there is another interesting situation: the bicycle lane is interpolated between the right turn lane for cars and the two center auto lanes. The only way for a driver in the turning lane or the lane crossing Fresh Pond Parkway to adhere to the law at that intersection will be to wait until the bicyclist has passed. These considerations may seem petty, but it seems to me that if statute specifies a distance, we should consider how the possibility that it will be enforced will affect our individual and collective behavior. Since it will be a speed limit, I suppose that one can anticipate only very selective enforcement.

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