Report a problem, learn the laws
We've summarized information about how to report a bike-related problem to various agencies. We've also included a summary of the Mass. General Laws about biking to better help you understand your rights and responsibilities.
Road maintenance issues
Report potholes, debris in the roadway, or quick-fix issues to BOS:311. You can connect with the 311 team in any of the following ways
- dial 3-1-1 from any phone in Boston
- call 617-635-4500 from any phone
- visit boston.gov/311
- download the BOS:311 mobile app from the App Store or Play Store, or
- report issues via Twitter by writing to @BOS311.
General safety concerns
Visit visionzeroboston.org/input to share your safety concerns that can be addressed through longer-term planning processes.
Cars or trucks in bike lanes
Blocking a bike lane is illegal. People can be ticketed and fined $100. If you see a motor vehicle stopped in a bike lane, report it to 311.
Crashes and dooring
Call 911 if any of the following occur:
- you or anyone else is injured
- there is at least $100 of property damage, or
- someone opens a car door into your path of travel (also known as dooring).
Everyone who was involved in the crash should remain at the scene until officers arrive. Collect as much information as you can about the crash, including:
- names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of anyone involved in the crash
- names, addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses of any witnesses
- license plate states and numbers of any motor vehicles involved in the crash
- time and location, and
- details of the crash, including pictures.
When you get your bike
Record the serial number of your bike. Take photos of yourself with your bike. Make note of any unique features. There are various bike registries online where you can register your bike. Check out various apps that are able to track your bike if it's stolen.
If your bike is stolen
Contact your local police station to file a report. Provide the serial number and pictures of your bike. Some lost or stolen bikes can be recovered through bike registries or apps as mentioned above.
The state legislature determines most laws about bicycling. We’ve summarized some of them below. For the complete text refer to Mass. General Law Chapter 85, Section 11B.
- 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.
- 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, except where prohibited by signs and markings. We encourage you to use the street. If you ride on the sidewalk, go at a pedestrian’s pace.
- Ride side-by-side with another bicyclist. But, you both must stay in a single lane and ride single when others need the space to pass you at a safe distance.
When riding on a sidewalk or shared use path, you must
- yield to pedestrians, and
- 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
- additional permanent seats attached to the bicycle or a trailer towed by the bicycle for any passengers, and
- a braking system that allows you to stop within 30 feet when traveling at 15 mph on a dry, clean, hard, and 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, and
- 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 that 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 children, you must
- 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.
- Carry children between the ages of one and four, or weighing forty pounds or less, in a ''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 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.