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oh snap!

two versions of bicycle law on signs

sticker fight go!

So sometime in the spring some enterprising individual (or organization) put up stickers on the backs of many signs along the bike path in Lexington. Unlike the usual "stop snitching" messages or band logos, these stickers are reserved and official in appearance; also very large. This gives them the stamp of authority, especially when combined with their content, which reads in full:

BICYCLISTS MUST YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS

MASS. STATE LAW CHAPTER 85 SECTION 11

I was a little taken aback when I saw one of these stickers for the first time. I like to thing that we're all polite people, and resorting to legalism isn't necessary to keep cyclists from violent anti-pedestrian savagery. Also, I hate when people tell me what to do. Clearly I wasn't the only one in that latter category, because someone much more enterprising than me went so far as to put up (over the first sticker) a competing message. In a nice bright red, it reads:

Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 85; Section 11

A person operating a bicycle on the sidewalk shall yield the right of way to pedestrians.

Yeah! That shows them! I'm glad that, here on the bike path, we can go back to shouting at walkers to get out of the way, and just flat-out ramming them if they're not quick enough! Wait, no one does that at all. Well, it's still nice to know the law is on your side if you decide you want to go that route.

Sarcasm aside, the second, redder sticker is technically more correct. It actually quotes the relevant statute, while the words—or indeed the sentiments—of the first are nowhere to be found anywhere in Chapter 85 of Massachusetts' General Laws. If you want to look for yourself, though, you should note that the the law in question is actually Chapter 85 Section 11B; Chapter 85 Section 11 proper says nothing about the subject at all, which quite confused me when I looked it up:

Section 11. Whoever violates an ordinance or by-law prohibiting persons from riding or driving at a rate of speed inconsistent with public safety or convenience may be arrested without a warrant by an officer authorized to make arrests and kept in custody not more than twenty-four hours, Sunday excepted; and within such time he shall be brought before a proper magistrate and proceeded against according to law.

Navigation on the malegislature.gov site (love that mal in there!) is so terrible that I never would have suspected an 11B existed, except for google: it was only a search for bicycle yield pedestrian site:http://www.malegislature.gov that led me to the real stuff. At least now I know where what looks like most of the bike laws are hiding!

So far only one of the original blue stickers has been covered. Will the red sticker vigilante strike again?!

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