[*BCM*] Horrifying editorial in the TAB

Ian criticalmass at ianw.org
Tue Jul 20 01:01:15 EDT 2004

Lee Peters wrote:

> Yea, PJ O’Rourke did one of these anti-bike articles about 12 years 
> ago, except it was funny.
> This is straight-up illegal according to the manual. What an idiot.
> “Occasionally I spot a bicyclist actually using the sidewalk, where 
> one is present, to ensure his or her own safety, which I usually 
> respond to by giving that biker dude a thumbs-up or a pumped-fist 
> "Rock On" sign to demonstrate my approval.” <>
What bothers me is that riding on the sidewalk isn't completely illegal
in MA. (I believe other posts in this thread have touched on this.)
After reading the editorial I looked up the section in the MA General
Laws on bicycles (http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/mgl/85-11b.htm), and
this is what I found:

"Every person operating a bicycle upon a way, as defined in section one
of chapter ninety, shall have the right to use all public ways in the
commonwealth except limited access or express state highways where signs
specifically prohibiting bicycles have been posted, and shall be subject
to the traffic laws and regulations of the commonwealth and the special
regulations contained in this section, except that: (1) the bicycle
operator may keep to the right when passing a motor vehicle which is
moving in the travel lane of the way, (2) the bicycle operator shall
signal by either hand his intention to stop or turn, and (3) bicycles
may be ridden on sidewalks outside business districts when necessary in
the interest of safety, unless otherwise directed by local ordinance. A
person operating a bicycle on the sidewalk shall yield the right of way
to pedestrians and give an audible signal before overtaking and passing
any pedestrian."

I suppose that, in rural areas with busy roads that have no shoulder,
riding on the sidewalks /might/ be a safer alternative and thus warrant
such a clause. Also, I'm curious if part of why it's allowed has to do
with areas like Memorial Drive or the Esplanade where bikes are forced
to share the way with pedestrians. But for the most part, I think the
wording here is way too vague, and that cyclists should always be
discouraged from riding on the sidewalks unless it's completely
necessary. I guess it's that "completely necessary" part that needs some

One more thing I found interesting about the law was this: "Operators of
bicycles shall be subject to the following regulations: (1) The operator
shall ride single file on any way except when passing." That pretty much
states flat-out that rides like critical mass are in violation, no?

Oh well. I guess I'll be breaking the law next Friday then. Hope you all
will be too. :)

-Ian Westcott

P.S. - Down on the bottom of that page: "Violations of any provision of
this section except violations of subclause (iii) of clause (2) shall be
punished by a fine of not more than twenty dollars." I don't know about
anybody else, but a fine of that magnitude doesn't worry me all that much.

> -----Original Message-----
> *From:* bostoncriticalmass-bounces at bostoncriticalmass.org 
> [mailto:bostoncriticalmass-bounces at bostoncriticalmass.org] *On Behalf 
> Of *TSmith4918 at aol.com
> *Sent:* Monday, July 19, 2004 3:09 PM
> *To:* list at bostoncriticalmass.org
> *Subject:* Re: [*BCM*] Horrifying editorial in the TAB
> thanks for sending, max....it really is a stupid article/column/editorial.
> hard to figure what the guy's point is other than to demonstrate how 
> much of a moron he is.
> next time he steps off the curb, I say seven of us, riding abreast, 
> take him out...
>Boston Critical Mass mailing list
>list at bostoncriticalmass.org

    ~Ian Westcott
     criticalmass at ianw.org

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