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Bike Laws in Boston

The State legislature determines most laws about bicycling. We’ve summarized Mass. General Law Chapter 85, Section 11B below.

Still have questions? Contact:
Boston Bikes
1 City Hall Square, Room 721
Boston MA  02201
United States

YOU MUST

  • Follow all traffic laws and regulations, including stopping at stop signs and following all traffic lights, unless signs are posted otherwise.

  • Ride in the same direction of traffic unless the street is signed otherwise.

  • Use hand signals to indicate stops or turns, unless you need both of your hands to operate your bike safely.

  • Ring a bell or give another audible signal whenever necessary to ensure safe operation of your bicycle. Do not use a siren or whistle.

  • Keep at least one hand on your handlebars at all times.

  • Carry packages, bundles, or articles in or on a basket, rack, trailer, or other device designed for such purposes.

  • Report any crash involving either personal injury or at least $100 worth of property damage to the police department.

YOU MAY

  • Ride a bike on all roads in Massachusetts except limited access or express state highways where signs prohibiting bicycles are posted.

  • Pass cars on the right.

  • Ride your bike on sidewalks when necessary in the interest of safety, except where prohibited by signs and markings. We encourage you to use the street.

  • Ride side-by-side with another bicyclist. You both must stay in a single lane.

WHEN RIDING ON A SIDEWALK OR SHARED USE PATH, YOU MUST

  • Yield to pedestrians.

  • Ring a bell or give another audible signal when you pass a person walking. Do not use a siren or whistle.

YOUR BIKE MUST HAVE

  • A permanent seat attached to the bicycle

  • A braking system that allows you to stop within 30 feet when traveling at 15 mph on a dry, clean, hard, level surface

WHEN RIDING AT NIGHT, YOU MUST HAVE

  • A white light on the front of your bike visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet

  • A red light or reflector on the back of your bike

  • Reflectors, on either your pedals or ankles, that are visible from the front and back of your bicycle

  • Reflectors, on either your bike or your clothing, that are visible from the left and right sides of your bike

Night is defined as one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise. Your lights may be generator-powered lamps, which emit light only when the bicycle is moving. All reflectors must be visible from a distance of at least 600 feet when directly in front of lower beams of headlamps of a motor vehicle.

WHEN BIKING WITH passengers, including children, YOU MUST

  • Have an additional permanent seat for each passenger or carry them in a trailer towed by your bike.

  • Carry children between the ages of one and four, or weighing forty pounds or less in ''baby seat'' that is attached to the bicycle, on a tandem bicycle that allows the child to comfortably reach the handlebars and pedals, or in a trailer towed by the bicycle.

  • Ensure that any "baby seat" attached to your bike allows the child to sit upright, has a harness that holds the child securely in the seat, and prevents the child’s hands and feet from reaching the wheel spokes.

  • Ensure that children 16 years old or younger wear a helmet. Children don’t need to wear a helmet if they are inside an enclosed trailer that restrains them and protects their heads in a crash.