On the other hand, bike lights are required by Massachusetts law. Safety vests are not, but are an inexpensive way to protect yourself in Boston traffic. Do whatever you can to stand out to drivers, especially in the dark evening and early morning hours, and to large trucks and vehicles.
Where you ride is important. Motorists have a responsibility to share the road with cyclists and cyclists are allowed to ride in the center of the traffic lane. This may be the safest option at times. But for the most part, try riding on the right side of the road or in the bike lane, traveling in the same direction as traffic. This prevents traffic from backing up.
The City of Boston encourages cyclists to ride in the street and save the sidewalk for pedestrians. You can use the sidewalk if you must in the interest of safety, except where signs and markings prohibit this.
Like motorists, you must follow traffic laws, such as stopping at red lights. To learn more, read our article, Quick Facts About Cycling in Massachusetts.
Dangerous Boston Streets and Intersections for Cyclists
Plan your commute to avoid dangerous intersections for bicyclists. If you must travel through these areas, look for protected bike lanes and traffic signals. Try to avoid areas known for heavy truck traffic at intersections. It can really help to walk along the sidewalks in these areas before you ride and observe the intersections.
Commonwealth Avenue has long been one of the most dangerous roads in Boston for cyclists. Over the years, cyclists have been seriously injured on Commonwealth Avenue, Massachusetts Ave. (Mass. Ave) and Beacon Avenue, along with Saint Paul Street and Packard’s Corner, which sits at Commonwealth and Brighton avenues in Allston. Nearby are Boston University, Kenmore Square and Fenway Park, also highly congested traffic areas.
The good news is these roads have seen some safety improvements, including protected bike lanes. In 2017, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) announced a $20.4 million roadway project with help from the City of Boston and Boston University. This partnership resulted in a mile-long protected bike lane along Commonwealth Avenue, from the Boston University Bridge to Packard's Corner. In 2019, BU Today published guidelines for using the new protected bike lane.
When it comes to Boston intersections, take time to learn as much as you can before you ride. Remember that construction and traffic patterns are always changing.
More on Bike Accident Locations in Boston:
Drivers have a responsibility to check for cyclists and leave them enough room. One common mistake is drivers do not fully check for cyclists. They may look ahead and to the side, but not in their blindspot.
As a cyclist, you can take steps to protect yourself. Familiarize yourself with your route and ride defensively. Be cautious and leave space between yourself and all vehicles. Use special caution near truck drivers and operators or large vehicle, who can cause cyclists serious injuries when they turn without checking in all directions for cyclists. Read more about right hook accidents
If you feel unsafe at anytime, look for a safe opportunity to depart the bike lane and step onto the sidewalk for a few minutes. This may not always be an option, but when it is, it can help you regroup in challenging traffic conditions.
Boston Bike Sharing
You do not need to own your own bike to commute in Boston. Just access the Blue Bikes app on your cell phone.
If you are not familiar with the system, here is some background. In 2011, the City of Boston teamed up with New Balance to introduce Hubway. Season one began with a plan for 600 bike rentals at 61 stations in Boston. But the bike share was an immediate success and expanded into Cambridge, Brookline and Somerville the next year. The four municipalities operated the system as a regional bike sharing system.
Today, Blue Cross & Blue Shield is the name sponsor. The City of Everett joined the regional collaboration in 2019. In 2020, MassDOT and Lyft provided additional support to expand into Arlington, Chelsea, Newton, Revere and Watertown.
To learn more, visit the BlueBikes.com
website or download the app.
Wearing Bike Helmets in Boston
Bicycle helmets are the first step for protecting yourself from the risk of a head injury
in a bicycle accident
. The City of Boston once reported 72 percent of city cyclists wear helmets and has worked to increase this number. Discounted helmets
are available from some of the city's retailers. Blue Bike riders should pack their own helmets because you are required to wear one while using the bike share.
Boston Bike Parking
Massachusetts law says you can park your bike anywhere it does not disrupt vehicle or pedestrian traffic. In recent years, the City of Boston has installed thousands of new bike parking spaces. You can find a bike rack before you make your trip by visiting this Boston Bike Parking map
. Another option is to park at a MBTA station. Many stations offer "pedal & park" facilities (though we recommend you check before traveling).
For many, cycling doesn't stop in the snow and cold. If you ride during the winter, dress the part with a neon safety vest and use bike lights. Your goal is to stay visible to traffic at all times.
Before you ride, ask other bike commuters about their experiences. Also look for winter biking classes in your community (these are starting to be offered more and more in the Boston area).
Find more information by reading:
Boston Bike Accidents - Reporting
Massachusetts law requires you to report any bicycle accident
resulting in personal injury, death or $100 or more in damage to police. In Boston, report your bike crash to the Boston Police Department as well as campus police if you are a college student. As a cyclist in Boston, you should always call police to the scene of a bike accident to help you gather information from the motorist. If you have been critically injured and cannot make the call yourself, ask the driver or a bystander to call. This is important because motorists do not always follow through with their legal obligation to stay on the scene.
Visit the emergency room if you are involved in a bicycle accident. Go right away. The sooner you are examined, the sooner you can receive medical treatment if you need it.
Boston Bike Dooring Accidents
Dooring is against the law in Massachusetts and is punishable by a $100 fine. So is parking in a bike lane (since 2009 in the City of Boston and statewide since 2017). Drivers should well understand their responsibilities to stay out of the bike lane and always check for cyclists before opening a vehicle door.
But dooring is a common occurrence in Boston and Cambridge. Too many cyclists will tell you they have had a door open onto their path. Just as dangerous is when Uber and Lyft vehicles use the bike lanes to board passengers or commercial trucks stop to make deliveries.
Cyclists who are injured by a car door should report the crash to police just as they would any other type of crash. You should also receive immediate medical attention.
Protecting Yourself Through Your Massachusetts Auto Insurance Policy
No one wants to think about suffering a bicycle accident. But it is important to be prepared. Review your Massachusetts auto insurance policy with your insurance agent. With a few strategic decisions, you can buy and increase your coverage types to help you with medical expenses and financial losses should you be injured in a bike accident
. Read more in our article, What Every Massachusetts Bicyclist Needs to Know About Car Insurance
Bay State Bike Week
also offers cycling events each year, concluding with Bike to Work Day
at Boston City Hall Plaza. You can usually find our attorneys at our Project KidSafe tent; come over and say hello!
Updated February 2020.
About Breakstone, White & Gluck
Breakstone, White & Gluck is a Boston personal injury law firm which represents those injured by the negligence of others. Our attorneys have obtained record verdicts and settlements in the areas of personal injury, medical malpractice and product liability. We are committed to promoting safety for cyclists and pedestrians in Boston and Massachusetts. Since 2013, our Project KidSafe campaign has partnered with nearly 50 community organizations - police departments, schools, bicycle committees and Massachusetts Safe Routes to School - and donated 30,000 bicycle helmets to children across Massachusetts. In 2017, the American League of Bicyclists recognized Breakstone, White & Gluck as a Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Business.
If you have been injured by someone else's negligence, learn your legal rights. For a free legal consultation, contact our attorneys at 800-379-1233 or 617-723-7676 or use our contact form.