, Gloucester, MA

August 14, 2013

Letter: Rules of the road for motorists, cyclists

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor:

This past month when I have been out cycling the roads of Essex, Gloucester and Manchester, cars have come up behind me and beeped.

Why? Possibly they thought I was impeding them from getting where they were in a rush to go.

Trust me, as a cyclist, I am trying to stay out of the way of cars as much as possible.

But it appears that many drivers are not aware of their responsibilities under the laws of the commonwealth of Massachusetts, some of which are as follows: Massachusetts General Law Chapter 89, Section 2 and Chapter 90 Section 14):

Motorists and their passengers must check for passing bicyclists before opening their door. Motorists and their passengers can be ticketed and fined up to $100 for opening car or truck doors into the path of any other traffic, including bicycles and pedestrians.

Motorists must stay a safe distance to the left of a bicyclist (or any other vehicle) when passing. Motorists are also prohibited from returning to the right until safety clear of the bicyclist.

Motorists must pass at a safe distance. If the lane is too narrow to pass safely, the motorist must use another lane to pass, or, if that is also unsafe, the motorist must wait until it is safe to pass.

Motorists are prohibited from making abrupt right turns (“right hooks”) at intersections and driveways after passing a cyclist.

Motorists must yield to oncoming bicyclists when making left turns. The law expressly includes yielding to bicyclists riding to the right of other traffic (e.g., on the shoulder), where they are legally permitted but may be more difficult for motorists to see.

Motorists may not use the fact that bicyclists were riding to the right of traffic as a legal defense for causing a crash with a bicyclist

I also believe that cyclists, including myself, should follow the law and obey traffic lights, stop signs and every other traffic regulation as it pertains to cyclists. If we do not follow regulations as they pertain to cyclists then why should we expect drivers to respect our rights?

The biggest point of contention between cyclists and motorists these days appears to MGL Chapter 85 Section 11.1:

Bicyclists riding together shall not ride more than two abreast but, on a roadway with more than one lane in the direction of travel, bicyclists shall ride within a single lane. Nothing in this clause shall relieve a bicyclist of the duty to facilitate overtaking as required by Section 2 of Chapter 89.

It is not against the law for cyclists to ride two abreast on the majority of the roads in Gloucester, Manchester or Essex but it is a cyclist’s “duty to facilitate overtaking.”

Neither motorists nor cyclists own the road, we share it. We all have rights and responsibilities. If we all follow the law (speed limits included) and respect each other’s rights then the roads can all be shared safely and hopefully without injury.