On April 30, 2017 CBS Boston reported that a cyclist was clipped by a car at 3:30 am in the Back Bay area of Boston. We now know that that cyclist was Rick Archer, a 29-year-old bike courier. Mr. Archer was riding with his friend down Commonwealth Ave. when he was struck by a car driver who fled the scene. Sadly, Mr. Archer passed away from his injuries two days after the crash. This CBS report, like many news stories, implies that the cyclists were in the wrong because they were not in the bike lane at the time of the crash. However, according to Massachusetts bicycling laws Mr. Archer and his friend had every right to be in a lane of traffic and not in the bike lane.
In Massachusetts, cyclists can ride anywhere, just like a car, with few exceptions. Mass. Gen. Law. Ch. 85 Section 11B states that cyclist have the right to use a full lane anywhere, anytime, and on any street even if there is a bike lane present. Cyclists riding on the road must follow the same rules of the road just like car drivers. Cyclists must travel in the same direction of traffic and stop at traffic lights and signs, just like cars. Cyclists may ride side-by-side according to Mass. Gen. Law. Ch. 85 Section 11B, as long as they stay in one lane and do not unnecessarily restrict other vehicles from passing them.
A recent Harvard study found an increase in the number of bike crashes in Boston in the last few years due to the increasing number of cyclists. Mayor Walsh and the City of Boston have started a campaign to improve biking safety and awareness through the “Vision Zero Boston Action Plan” which aims to eliminate all fatal crashes by changing the design of the roads and creating more designated bike areas. Unfortunately, there are still far too many bike crashes and injuries happening. To illustrate this point, one has only to look out for the many “Ghost Bikes” around the Boston area. Ghost bikes are white bikes marking crash sites where cyclists have died. A Ghost Bike ceremony was recently held in May for Rick Archer, who was the fourth cyclist to die in Massachusetts in this year alone.