You’re quite vulnerable when riding a bicycle. Unlike a car or similar enclosed vehicle, a bicycle doesn’t have a metal frame to protect you from harm should a collision occur.

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Thus, if you frequently use a bicycle to get around in Massachusetts, you might wonder where the safest spot to ride is. Specifically, you may be considering whether it’s safer to ride on the sidewalk than on the road.

The following overview will cover the pros and cons of riding on the sidewalk instead of the road. However, it’s important to understand that local laws regarding whether you can or can’t ride on the sidewalk will vary from one town or city to another. It’s best to familiarize yourself with your area’s laws to ensure you’re in full compliance when riding your bike.

Riding a Bicycle in Massachusetts: Important Information

Throughout Massachusetts, bicycle riders may ride on any street, road, or bike path, unless signage clearly states that bicycles are not permitted. For example, bicycles are usually not allowed on state highways and certain limited access roads.

Generally, bicyclists also have the right to ride their bikes on sidewalks if those sidewalks are outside of business districts. Again, though, local laws may prohibit sidewalk riding throughout entire municipalities and jurisdictions. Additionally, it may not always be clear whether you’re still in a business district within a particular town or city.

Reasons the Sidewalk May Not Be as Safe As it Seems

You might assume that riding your bicycle on the sidewalk is safer than riding on the road. To be fair, in some instances, this assumption might be correct.

Not all roads have proper bike lanes. If infrastructure in a given area hasn’t been designed to facilitate usage of a bicycle, and a sidewalk is relatively clear, you might actually be safer riding on the sidewalk.

Throughout Massachusetts, bicycle riders may ride on any street, road, or bike path, unless signage clearly states that bicycles are not permitted.

However, more often than not, riding a bicycle on the sidewalk can be more dangerous than you might assume. The following are key reasons why:

  • Pedestrians: Sidewalks are typically for pedestrian usage. If you ride on a sidewalk, you run the risk of colliding with a pedestrian and harming them. They may have grounds to file a claim or lawsuit against you if this happens. You may also harm yourself if you collide with a pedestrian or swerve out into traffic to avoid a collision.
  • Maneuverability: Because sidewalks tend to be reserved for pedestrians, often, they aren’t designed for bicyclists. They tend to be very narrow with little room to maneuver. If you’re riding on a sidewalk and you come across a hazard, you may not have time to get out of the way and avoid it.
  • Expectation: One of the best tips anyone can receive in regard to staying safe as a motorist, bicyclist, or pedestrian is to simply behave in a predictable manner. If everyone uses the roads and general infrastructure in predictable ways, accidents may be less likely to occur. Because drivers might not expect bicyclists to use sidewalks, they might not keep an eye out for them as crosswalks and other spots where people might leave a sidewalk and enter the road. This can put you at risk of being involved in an accident.

You must once again also consider the fact that it may be illegal to ride your bicycle on a sidewalk in a given town or city. Even if you avoid harm, you may nevertheless be subject to a fine or some other form of legal consequence if you were to be caught riding your bicycle on a sidewalk in an area where the law prohibits doing so.

An Attorney Can Help After a Massachusetts Bicycle Accident

You may be a cautious and responsible bicyclist who avoids riding on the sidewalk except in situations where you know for certain that doing so is both legal and safe. That said, even if you make smart and responsible decisions when riding your bicycle, you can’t be completely sure that others will behave responsibly on the road.

It’s possible you’ll one day be harmed in a bicycle accident resulting from the negligence of another party. If this happens to you, consider reviewing your case with a lawyer. At Swartz & Swartz, P.C., a Massachusetts bicycle accident attorney will go over the details of your case and explain whether we believe you have reason to file a claim seeking compensation for medical bills and other such losses. For more information about what we can do for you, contact us online or call us at (617) 742-1900.

Need Help?

If you or someone you know, needs help from a lawyer, contact the law offices of Swartz & Swartz, use our live chat, or send us a message using the form below and we’ll get in touch to assess your case and how we can help.

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About the Author: Elizabeth M Guthrie
Elizabeth M. Guthrie is an associate attorney at Swartz & Swartz, P.C. Elizabeth represents victims of personal injury and medical malpractice.

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