New State Law Promotes Safety for Vulnerable Road Users 

September 20, 2023
Two bikers on a trail covered in fall leaves
Photo/Wayne Braverman

By Sandra Hackman, Transportation Advisory Committee

Have you heard? A new law now requires Massachusetts motorists passing vulnerable road users — cyclists, walkers, and others–to maintain at least four feet of space between their vehicle and those users. That means drivers must give them a wide berth. 

The law–An Act to Reduce Traffic Fatalities–defines vulnerable road users as anyone other than vehicle operators. These include not only walkers and bikers, but also wheelchair users, skateboarders, skaters, scooter users, and roadside workers, as well as farm equipment and horse-drawn carriages. 

The law explicitly allows motorists to cross a double-yellow line to pass vulnerable users — but only when it is safe to do so, and if drivers do not exceed the speed limit. That means slowing down rather than speeding up when approaching a bicyclist or walker and also using a left hand turn signal to ensure passing without colliding with an oncoming vehicle.  

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The new law also requires cyclists to use a front white light and a rear red light while riding at night. However, police cannot stop cyclists lacking those lights for only that reason. 

The law asks the Department of Transportation to post signs on state roads reminding drivers of these new rules. The Bedford Department of Public Works has also ordered signs for use on local roads. 

To learn more about these and other provisions of the new law, see MassBike resources. 

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