Massachusetts Bicyclists' Rights and Responsibilities

In Massachusetts, a bicycle is considered a vehicle. Generally, bicycles may operate on all roads (except limited access highways or where otherwise posted) and must follow the same rules as motor vehicles, with some exceptions.

Your Rights:

  • You may ride on public roads and streets
  • You may ride on sidewalks outside the business district, unless otherwise posted
  • You may signal turns with either hand, and you do not have to signal continuously if that would be unsafe
  • You may pass cars on the right
  • You may operate in any lane of travel when it is appropriate to do so
  • You may ride two abreast so long as you are not impeding traffic

Your Responsibilities:

  • If you are under 16, you must wear a helmet (and we suggest always wearing an approved helmet)
  • You must obey all traffic laws and regulations (be a good citizen!)
  • You must use hand signals to indicate turns or stopping
  • You must have visible white headlights, visible red taillights, and reflectors if you are riding ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise. You must have reflectors on your ankles if your pedals are not equipped with them. You can have as many reflectors and lights on your bicycle as you desire
  • You must notify the police of any accident with property damage over $100
  • You may not carry passengers, except in an approved seat or in a trailer
  • You may not carry a child under the age of one on your bicycle (but you can use a trailer)
  • You must use a basket, rack, bag or trailer to carry things
  • You must keep one hand on the handlebars
  • Your bicycle must be equipped with working brakes and a bell or horn
  • You must yield the right of way to pedestrians, and you must warn them of your approach with a bell or horn
  • You must properly identify yourself to a police officer who asks your name and address
  • You cannot use another vehicle to tow you

Motorist Responsibilities:

  • Motorists must pass at a safe distance. If it is unsafe to pass, motorists must wait until the road is clear before they pass
  • Motorists cannot cut you off when making right turns after overtaking you (no “right hooks”)
  • Motorists must yield the right of way when making left turns, and must take precaution to yield to you, even if you are passing cars on their right  Motorists and passengers must not open doors in your path of travel—they much check before they open their doors.

Local Resources

We encourage you to regularly check in with your city or town's local bicycle committee, planning office and police department about local ordinances, bicycle lane rules and construction projects which may detour your morning commute. Many communities, such as Boston, Cambridge and Quincy, are building bicycle lanes, protected bicycle lanes and cycle tracks, so you may learn you have a safer travel option. There are also some new off-road bike paths, including the Cochituate Rail Trail in Framingham and the Neponset River Greenway from Boston to Milton.

For more information on bicycle laws and bicycle accidents, visit the bicycle accident page on our website.

You can also review the laws in M.G.L. c. 85, §§ 11B, 11C and 11D;  M.G.L. c. 89, § 2;  and M.G.L. c. 90, § 14.

About Breakstone, White & Gluck

Breakstone, White & Gluck is a Boston personal injury and medical malpractice law firm. We work to promote bicycle safety in Massachusetts by supporting local bike groups and through our Project KidSafe campaign, which has donated over 15,000 bike helmets to children. If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, contact our attorneys. We can provide you with a free legal consultation and answer the questions you must have. Call 800-379-1244 or use our contact form.