new bike law in massachusetts

apropos of this post from last week, i read this past weekend that massachusetts has passed the bicycle safety law. an overview of the components of the legislation can be found here, on the website of massbike, a massachusetts grassroots cycling group. it addresses the safety of cyclists on the road directly, rather than retrofitting existing traffic laws and applying them willy-nilly to cyclists. some other notable elements of the law include penalties for “dooring” cyclists (or anyone, for that matter); guidelines for motorists on safe passing practices; and an assertion that cyclists are permitted to ride to the right of traffic (thus eliminating this as a potential defense for any motorist who might hit a cyclist to the right of traffic. in addition, the law calls for the training of police in bike law and bike safety. to me, this is important, since it could address one of the concerns many cyclists have, which is that police are at the least unfamiliar with and at the worst indifferent to the rules that govern the safe coexistence of automobiles and bicycles. police aware of bike laws  may be more sympathetic to cyclists’ “side” of the story. at least in massachusetts.

what i like about this is that it doesn’t simply prescribe what bikes can and can’t do; instead, it approaches the situation acknowledging that both motorists and cyclists need to behave safely, and then provides guidelines and regulations for both motorists and cyclists to achieve that safety. and it brings police training into the mix.

a quick glance at the ohio statutes governing bike operation reveals some interesting first comparisons. these statutes were updated in 2006 following passage of the better bicycling in ohio act to ensure that “ohio laws regarding cycling conform more closely aligned with the Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC).” the result of years of advocacy on the part of the ohio bicycle federation (obf) and others, this law made ohio’s traffic code more cyclist-friendly. good — but to my untrained eye, the massachusetts law seemingly goes a bit further in making police and motorists accountable as well.

but i’m not all that familiar with the local laws, having only recently begun to look beyond the handy-dandy summaries of “bicyclists’ rights and responsibilities.”  for those readers with more knowledge of local bike ordinances, what’s your take on this new law in massachusetts? what can the buckeye state learn (if anything) from the bay-staters?


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