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Tuesday, 26 May 2020 14:27

Rules of the Road for Motorists

Sharing the Road with Bicyclists

Now that Governor Charlie Baker has relaxed the stay at home order, more people are likely to take to the roadways on their bicycles. This may not be the best news for those behind the wheel -- the relationship between motorists and bicyclists is often contentious -- but since bicycles are classified as vehicles, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists.

Before your next encounter with a bicyclist, get to know the rules of the road as mandated by the Massachusetts Legislature. (See: Rules of the Road for Bicyclists.) Guidelines from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's are includedas well.

Rules of the Road for Motorists In the Presence of Bicycles1

  • Do Not Cut-Off After Passing: When passing a bicycle traveling in the same direction that is on your right, you must not return to the right until you have safely passed the overtaken bicycle. (Chap. 89, Sec. 2)

  • Do Not Make an Abrupt Turn After Passing: When passing a bicycle near an intersection or driveway where you want to turn right, you cannot turn unless you are at a safe distance from the bicyclist and you can make the turn at a reasonable and proper speed. (Chap. 90, Sec 14)

  • Do Not Squeeze Bicycles in a Narrow Lane: If a lane is too narrow to pass a bicycle at a safe distance, be PATIENT until you can safely use an adjacent lane or WAIT until it is safe to pass in the lane you share. (Chap. 89, Sec. 2) You should stay at least three feet away when passing.

  • Do Not Fail to Yield When Turning Left: When turning left at an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway, you must yield the right of way to a vehicle approaching from the opposite direction, including a bicycle, if it is in the intersection or close enough to be an immediate hazard. (Chap. 90, Sec 14)

  • Watch for Bicycles on Your Right: Bicycles can legally ride to the right of motor vehicle traffic. The law says it is not a defense for a motorist causing a crash with a bicycle that the bicycle was to the right of other traffic. (Chap. 85, Sec 11B)

  • Do Not Open a Door Without First Looking: Drivers and passengers can be fined up to $100 for opening a vehicle door into an oncoming bicycle. (Chap. 90, Sec 14) Before opening your door, you should always check behind you to make sure that no bicyclists are approaching.

  • Be aware that bicyclists can ride two bicycles side-by-side. However, on a road with more than one lane in the direction of travel, they must stay in one lane. (Chap. 85, Sec. 11B)

  • Be aware that bicyclists Do Not Always Have to Signal Turns! Bicyclists must signal their intent by either hand to stop or turn. However, the signal does not have to be continuous or be made at all if both hands are needed for the bicycle’s safe operation. (Chap. 85, Sec. 11B)


Download the MA Rules of Road PDF here.


Safety Tips from NHTSA 

The NHTSA, a federal agency dedicated to keeping people safe on America’s roadways, encourages drivers and bicyclist to make safer choices to help reduce deaths and injuries on our roads:
  • Yield to bicyclists as you would motorists and do not underestimate their speed. This will help avoid turning in front of a bicyclist traveling on the road or sidewalk, often at an intersection or driveway.

  • In parking lots, at stop signs, when packing up, or when parking, search your surroundings for other vehicles, including bicycles.

  • Drivers turning right on red should look to the right and behind to avoid hitting a bicyclist approaching from the right rear. Stop completely and look left-right-left and behind before turning right on red.

  • Obey the speed limit, reduce speed for road conditions and drive defensively to avoid a crash with a cyclist.

  • Give cyclists room. Do not pass too closely. Pass bicyclists as you would any other vehicle—when it’s safe to move over into an adjacent lane.


Driving Safely Video from NHTSA

Massachusetts law requires that motorists and bicyclists obey the rules of the road. When you know and observe the rules, the road is safer for everyone.


Recommended Reading

Coexisting with Bicylists: 10 Rules for

 Sources: Rules of the Road,

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration 


This article was orginally part of our Rules of the Road for Bicylists story.

Read 2454 times Last modified on Thursday, 30 July 2020 23:01

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