If you’re familiar with the east coast, world-renowned destinations of Cape Cod and the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket in the summertime, you’ll likely know that the population around towns like Barnstable, Falmouth, Hyannis, Yarmouth and several others straight down to Provincetown will triple or quadruple from June to August. This means there are more cars, more pedestrians, and plenty of bicyclists driving and riding in unfamiliar territory, unaware of the roadways and infamous rotaries and worse yet, in vacation mode and/or distracted with GPS and devices to get vacationers to their hotspot.
Riding a bicycle is a popular and fun mode of transportation, as well as a terrific form of exercise, but it comes with the responsibility of practicing bicycle safety. Due to factors like distracted drivers and poorly lit roadways, auto-bicycle accidents happen every day throughout Massachusetts. Bicyclists are extremely vulnerable, so many of these accidents can result in catastrophic personal injury and sometimes wrongful death. Let’s go over some rules and safety tips so help ensure that you and your family can enjoy an accident-free summer on two wheels.
Rules of the Road for Bicyclists in Massachusetts
Bicycles on the roadway are considered vehicles, so they have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists and are subject to many of the same rules and regulations such as riding on the right side of the road, with motor vehicle traffic.
General laws regarding bicycle riding in Massachusetts:
- The operator shall keep at least one hand upon the handlebars at all times
- Bicyclists should always ride with the flow of motor vehicle traffic at all times (however pedestrians should always walk against the flow of traffic). When bikers are riding together they shall not ride more than 2 abreast but, on a roadway with more than 1 lane in the direction of travel, cyclists shall ride within a single lane with the flow of motor vehicle traffic
- Bicycles may be ridden on sidewalks outside business districts when necessary in the interest of safety, unless otherwise directed by local ordinance
- Any person under the age of 16 riding a bicycle, as an operator or passenger, must wear a protective bicycle helmet. It’s a good idea as both a bicyclist and motorist to be educated on all of the Massachusetts Bicycle Laws
General Bicycle Safety Tips:
- Always wear a helmet! Helmets have been proven to save lives time and time again
- Keep your bicycle tuned up. Make sure that the tires are fully inflated and that all brakes and gears are functioning properly before heading out for a ride
- When riding after sunset, be sure to have working front and back lamps, as well as reflectors on you pedals. Wear light-colored or reflective clothing
- Ride defensively. Always assume that motor vehicles on the road don’t see you.
Common Auto-Bicycle Accident Causes
Your average car weighs more than two tons, while your average bicycle weighs about fifteen pounds. In the event of an auto-bicycle collision, the bicyclist will most likely be the one to come away with severe, sometimes life-threatening injuries. The following are some common scenarios:
The Right Cross – This occurs when a car is pulling out of a street or driveway to the right of the cyclist in motion. This can result in two different types of collision. The car will clip or collide with the bicycle, or the car will pull in front of the cyclist with no time to react and the bicycle will crash into the side of the ca
The “Door Prize” – This occurs when a car is parked, and the driver swings their door open without glancing in the rear-view mirror to be sure that there isn’t a bicycle approaching. For a cruising bicyclist, it appears to come out of nowhere, giving the cyclist little to no reaction time. Always make sure to keep attention on activity further up the road, as well as to not ride too close to the line of parked vehicles if possible. And drivers, make sure to check your rear-view before swinging that door open;
Bike Lane Confidence – Bike lanes are terrific for protecting bicyclists, especially in urban settings. However, just because this is a designated lane for bicycles does NOT mean that every driver is going to be aware. Distracted driving prevents people from seeing other cars, so you can bet their ability to notice a bicycle is even less. Don’t let your guard down in a bike lane.
Bike Safely and Enjoy Another Cape Cod Summer!
We hope this information and these safety tips will help you and your family have a safe and healthy visit as you pedal around the Cape. Just remember to follow the rules of the road, ride defensively, and encourage your younger ones to do so as well.