posts tagged with 'laws'

sticker shocker

The previously mentioned sticker wars have heated up some.

another, more angry sign

I sense some hostility.

Hey Stupid!

Wake up! Bicyclists must yield to pedestrians no matter where they ride. Read the laws fully, you obviously don't have a clue. Bicyclists must abide by all motor vehicle laws.

Signed,
Pedestrians Against Arrogant Bicyclists Who Risk Other People's Lives

That signature line totally looks like it should result in a cool acronym, like PEDAVENGER or something, but it doesn't. PAABWRPL? That's a lost opportunity.

It's late, and rather than taking time away from working on my own sticker I'll just say this: motor vehicles aren't allowed on the bike path. Where does that leave your logic now, PAAB?! (Can I call you PAAB for short?)

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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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biking law and praxis

Commenter Cindy points out that Massachusetts bike laws are friendlier to cyclists than ever before, which is of course very comforting. It's even better to see hordes of folks out on the bikes, as they were today: all sorts of folks on all sorts of bicycles. When drivers have lots of reminders that other forms of transportation exist they're more likely to look around a little bit before turning or pulling out; my careful study of human psychology tells me that actual bikes on the road will be more of a factor than a friendly legal climate. We can't even get more than one driver in four to stop for us at the crosswalk when we're on foot and pushing a stroller, and the state's crosswalk laws are hardly new or controversial.

Happily, I don't let it bother me much. When I'm on the street I behave like a vehicle, staying as far to the right as possible but not hesitating to move left before turning or to take the lane when necessary. I find that, with enough time spent out there on the roads, it's not even that terrifying: sure, I expose myself danger from the unaware—like the driver who prompted Cindy's comment—and the insane—like the gentleman who threw a cigarette at me a couple years ago—but most drivers are paying a modicum of attention and will not actually run you over should they happen to see you. In fact, in this case a certain amount of "aggressiveness" is safer than the caution exhibited by riders who aren't used to busy roads and who let themselves get into situations where they have to move across traffic from a virtual standstill.

Just as I don't rely on cycling-specific laws to protect me, I don't always pay the strictest attention to those that aim to regulate my behavior on the roads. As long as there are people saying that bikes don't belong out there with cars, I'm going to interpret traffic regulations liberally to keep myself safe (and moving fast!). I don't need to stop at all stop signs: with much better visibility and maneuverability than the driver of a car I can choose when it's safer to roll through. I can turn right on red even when the sign says otherwise. I can even ride on the sidewalk when that will keep cars from getting stuck behind me. Naturally, I only do any of those when conditions warrant. And hey, I've never caused, or even been involved in, an incident on the roadways! (spills on the ice don't count).

As I continue to ride almost every day, I do so in confidence that my skill and alertness, combined with the skill and alertness of most of the drivers out there, will keep me safe. And while it would be nice if everyone in a car could be aware of the legal rights of cyclists, I'd be content if they're just aware that we're there. Maybe even coming up on the right!

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