Hi Josh, I had an incident with a motorist today: she beeped, swore, and drove really aggressively around me- all the while texting! I wrote down her license plate. Is this something I can or should report to the Cambridge police? Thank you for your help.

Asked by
Anonymous

Hell yeah you should report that shit!  Not sure how much they’ll do about it, but I’d say it’s worth your time to find out.  Good luck!

-JZ

Do you know if a driver's license would be required to use something like the upcoming FlyKly Smart Wheel in MA?

Asked by
Anonymous

Yup.  According to Massachusetts General Law Ch. 90 §1, that thing makes your bike into a “motorized bicycle.” That means that under Ch. 90 §1B, you need a valid driver’s license (or learner’s permit) to operate one.  Other regulations:

  • You have to be 16 or older
  • You can’t go faster than 25MPH
  • You have to wear a helmet
  • You can’t ride on the sidewalk or on bike paths
  • Hand signals are mandatory

The same rules apply to all ebikes, not just smart wheels.  Bummer, I know.  Still, that thing seems like a cool idea, especially for the weak and/or lazy. (jk)

-JZ

Hi Josh, I think what you're doing is fantastic. I recently had my bike stolen and I'm trying to cover ALL my bases to recover it. Only thing I'm missing is access to some distribution lists for bike groups in the city where I can ask people to keep their eyes peeled for my bike. Any ideas on this? I'm obviously not expecting to recover it, but I have to try.

Asked by
Anonymous

Aww, thanks friend.  Sorry to hear about your bike, that’s the worst.  Do you have renter’s/homeowner’s insurance?  If so, that should cover the loss.  If not, you should get some, it’s stupid cheap ($150 a year!).

Boston Fixed has a stolen bikes thread, so you can give that a try.  Not sure about other lists for bike groups.  Send me and email with a pic of your bike and the other relevant details (make, model, where/when it was stolen), and I’ll add it to this post.

Good luck!

JZ

I realize you're Boston-based, but why are NYC's bike lanes on the left side of one-way streets?

Asked by
Anonymous

Hmmm, I actually have no idea.  We have some like that on Comm Ave in Back Bay, and I have wondered about them.  Maybe because there’s no parking on the left side, and it keeps bikers out of the door zone?  Maybe?

Does anyone know definitively?  Leave a comment if you do.

The Right Hook

image

(Note: An edited version of this post was originally published in last month’s issue of Momentum Magazine, where I am currently writing their “Legal Brief” column. Below, for your enjoyment, is the original manuscript, uncut and completely uncensored.)

                                                               ⬣ ⬣ ⬣

One of the scariest types of crashes, the right hook can happen with almost no warning.  It occurs when a car is traveling in the same direction as a bicyclist, and then suddenly turns right into a driveway, private road, or parking space. The biker is either struck from the side as the car turns, or gets cut off and collides head on with the side of the car.

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What is the story with the helmet signs now painted on roads? They are basically putting them at any bike lane or bike marker on the inside of a driving lane. I don't understand how more paint on the road will help drivers or cyclists. Why isnt there seat-belt signs too if this is such a concern? It seems like they want to put the responsibility on the cyclist and take it off the drivers. I am a heavy advocate for helmets, but this seems backwards to me.

Asked by
Anonymous

image

They’re part of last year’s ill-conceived “safety campaign” by the Boston Public Health Commission.  I wrote about it here.  As far as I’m concerned, they can’t fade away fast enough.  

You’re absolutely right, adding graphics like those to the road doesn’t help anyone.  Everyone knows about helmets, there’s no need to “raise awareness” of their existence.  And people will either use them or they won’t—a sign intended to shame helmet-less bikers isn’t going to change that.  They’re a waste of paint at best, and a dangerous distraction at worst.

Also, speaking of backwards, it looks like the guy’s helmet is on backwards.  The campaign cost $40k, you’d think they’d at least be able to hire a competent graphic designer.

So yeah, feel free to paint over them in the middle of the night.  Just kidding.  That would be illegal.

JZ

Lately I've seen these neato graphics that say: "3 FEET, ITS THE LAW" with regard to a motorist passing a cyclist. Is that true here in Massachusetts?

Asked by
jontramos

Hi Jon,

Nope!  Contrary to popular belief, Massachusetts does not have a 3-foot passing law.  Instead, our law says the following on the subject:

In approaching or passing a person on a bicycle the operator of a motor vehicle shall slow down and pass at a safe distance and at a reasonable and proper speed.

I know it sounds like weak sauce, but in my opinion our law is actually preferable to one with a fixed passing distance, such as three feet.  That’s because “a safe distance” allows for some all-important variability. 

For example, three feet may be a healthy margin when a car is passing you at 25 MPH, but what about when they pass you doing 50?  Though technically “legal,” that can be terrifying, and more than enough to cause a crash.

One interesting solution to this problem comes from New Hampshire.  Their safe passing law is a lot like ours, except it goes on to specify the following:

The distance shall be presumed to be reasonable and prudent if it is at least 3 feet when the vehicle is traveling at 30 miles per hour or less, with one additional foot of clearance required for every 10 miles per hour above 30 miles per hour.

Of course, safe passing laws are not actually about enforcement.  You won’t see state troopers out with yard sticks, ticketing drivers for passing bikers too closely. 

As with so much of bike law, this law is really about determining who was at fault after a crash.  If a driver is passing a biker and hits them, he surely wasn’t passing at a “safe distance”—boom, negligence proven.  So from my perspective, the MA law works just fine.

Still, there’s an added benefit to fixed distance passing laws that ours doesn’t have: mindshare.  A road sign that says “must give 3’ when passing” is much easier for drivers to understand than one saying “must pass at a safe distance and reasonable speed.”

I don’t think we need to change our law (we have more important changes to make first), but I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing signs like this posted around these parts.

JZ

The Invisible Zebra

imageImage via flickr

Imagine a world where crosswalks don’t exist.  Every crosswalk you know and love has been erased from the pavement.

That’s what it’s like for bicyclists in Massachusetts.

Although we have some of the nation’s best bike laws here in the Bay State, there are still a couple of major holes in our legislative structure.  The crosswalk is one of them.

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A reply to a comment on my response to a question

imageThis picture is hanging in a lawyer’s waiting room in my building, and I’m kind of obsessed with it.

Someone just commented on a post I wrote a few months back in response to someone’s question, and I’ve decided to reply with a proper post instead of just as a comment. Hopefully this will help to clarify things for the commenter, and perhaps a few others.

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