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Prevent Boston Bicycle Injuries: Cyclists Must Adhere to Rules of the Road

Massachusetts bicycle accident attorneyBicycle ridership in Boston has soared in recent years. City officials in the 2013 Cyclist Safety Report noted that since 2007, the city has worked hard to become one of the country's top bicycle-friendly destinations.

More than 60 miles of bike lanes and 1,000 bike racks have been installed. In 2011, the New Balance Hubway bike-share system was launched, alongside the community bike program, which involved donation of 1,700 bicycles to low-income residents. The average number of Boston bicycle trips per day in 2012 was estimated to be nearly 56,000.

While Boston is considered one of the safest cities for cyclists, there are nonetheless riders who continue to be seriously injured or lose their lives in collisions with motor vehicles. The city recorded 1,450 bicycle accidents and 9 deaths between 2010 and 2012. Factors associated with bike crashes included drivers not seeing cyclists or opening doors on cyclists, or riders who failed to adhere to traffic safety laws. Young men between 18 and 30 were the most likely cyclists to be injured.

Injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone know it is paramount for riders to educate themselves on the rules of the road and their own responsibilities to ensure they safely reach their destination. Cyclists must adhere to many of the same traffic laws as motor vehicle drivers - and should be afforded the same respect as an equal user of the road.

Primary bike law in Massachusetts is codified in MGL c. 85 11B, which addresses bicycle operation, equipment regulation, federal product safety standards, racing requirements, violations and penalties.

The statute is clear that every person who operates a bicycle has the right to use all public streets, except for highways where use is specifically barred and posted. But with that right comes the duty to adhere to all traffic safety laws and regulations.

There are a few exceptions. For example, while it's generally preferred for cyclists to ride on the road, they can operate on sidewalks when it's necessary for safety purposes, so long as it is outside of business districts (unless it's prohibited by local ordinance). If a person on a bicycle encounters a pedestrian, the cyclist must yield to the person traveling on foot and give an audible signal before passing.

Bike riders are also required to use hand signals if they intend to turn or stop, though the signals need not be continuous and may not be required at all if both hands are needed to safely operate the bike. Cyclists are additionally permitted to keep right when passing a car moving in the travel lane.

Those bicyclists who are riding together can't ride more than two in a lane. However, cyclists are restricted to a single cyclist per lane when there is more than one lane in that direction of travel.

The only legal way to ride a bicycle is either on top of it or on an affixed seat or attached trailer. Anyone who is riding on handlebars or "pegs" is doing so illegally. Children under age 4 can only be transported in an attached "baby seat." Infants under age 1 should not be transported on a bicycle at all.

Helmets are another issue on which the law touches. Only riders and passengers 16 and under are required to wear a helmet. Keep in mind, however, the risk of head injury for a cyclist who wears a helmet is reduced by 85 percent and brain injury by 88 percent. Citywide helmet usage rate is slightly over 70 percent.

While it is incumbent upon riders to follow the law to protect themselves, it's worth pointing out state statute is clear on an important point: A violation can't be used as evidence of contributory negligence in a civil action stemming from an accident.

This is important because a finding of contributory negligence could reduce the potential amount of damages in such a case. Our goal is to ensure you receive the full compensation you deserve.

Make your case matter. Contact the Law Offices of Mark E. Salomone and schedule a free case evaluation. We can help you hold the one at fault responsible and get the compensation you deserve for your losses.

Atty. Heather LaPorte