Cambridge Bicycle Accident Attorneys

Bicycling is the fastest-growing mode of transportation in Cambridge. More and more people in the Boston metropolitan area are hopping on bicycles to commute to work and school, as it is the best way to get around town.

Bicycling magazine named Cambridge the eighth best city in the United States for bicycling a few years back. Cambridge scored points for its availability of bicycle lanes, delayed green lights that allow cyclists to clear intersections before motor vehicles can turn and ample bicycle parking. Bicycling noted a high percentage of female bicycle commuters, which the magazine said indicated how safe riders feel tooling around the city.

In 2019, Cambridge became the first city in the nation with a municipal law mandating construction of a system of permanent and protected bicycle lanes.

Certainly, Cambridge bicyclists are not immune to injuries caused by negligent motorists, roadway hazards and even other cyclists. In 2020, a tractor-trailer struck and killed a bicyclist in Harvard Square. The incident occurred in almost the exact same spot where a pedestrian had been hit and killed the previous year.

Nearly 20% of Cambridge motor vehicle crashes reported by the police involve bicyclists and pedestrians.

Traffic Laws and Regulations for Bicycling in Cambridge

People on bicycles have the same right to the road as motorists. While most vehicle operation rules apply, there are some differences. Cyclists are permitted to pass on the right. Massachusetts cyclists can ride on sidewalks except when a local ordinance prohibits sidewalk riding. In most cases, it is safer to bicycle in the street.

In Cambridge, cyclists using sidewalks must travel at walking speed and yield to pedestrians. Sidewalk riding is not allowed in the business districts of Harvard Square, Central Square, Porter Square, Inman Square, Huron Avenue and parts of Massachusetts Avenue north of Harvard Square. In these areas, cyclists must walk their bicycles or ride on the street.

In Cambridge and all other Massachusetts cities, bicycle riders 16 years of age and younger must wear a helmet.

Massachusetts law also requires cyclists to use a white front light beginning 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes after sunrise. Almost half of all bicycle rider deaths involve bicyclists who are riding at night without lights (even though only a small percentage of bicycling occurs after dark). In addition, bicycles must be outfitted with a red rear light beginning 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes after sunrise.

You can read about Massachusetts laws pertaining to bicyclists here and Cambridge bicycling policies here.

Nearly One-Fifth of All Car Crashes in Cambridge Involve Bicycles

Although the number of bicycle crashes in Cambridge have been on the rise by nearly 30% in recent years, more cyclists on the road mean that the crash rate has been on the decline since 2010.

The most common types of bicycle versus motor vehicle crashes in Cambridge are:

  • Motorists entering a main street from a side street and striking a bicyclist (32%)
  • Dooring incidents caused by motorists opening a vehicle door in front of a cyclist (20%)
  • Motorists turning left in front of a cyclist, also known as a left hook (19%)
  • Motorists sideswiping cyclists (12%)

Less common types of incidents include right hook, rear-end and head-on collisions.

The Cambridge Police Department receives about 3,000 calls related to motor vehicle crashes each year and writes about 1,500 police reports related to those crashes. A police officer takes a crash report when there is an injury or more than $1,000 in property damage.

Here is some other statistics about motor vehicle crashes in Cambridge:

  • One in five reported crashes result in an injury serious enough to require emergency medical transport to a hospital.
  • About 17% of reported crashes involve bicyclists and pedestrians.
  • About 28% of bicycle crashes and 38% of pedestrian crashes require emergency transport.

CPD has identified these locations as traffic crash “hotspots”:

  • Massachusetts Avenue from Massachusetts Institute of Technology to Central Square
  • Harvard Square
  • Massachusetts Avenue near Porter Square
  • Inman Square

CPD says 22% of crashes requiring emergency medical transport occur at:

  • Hampshire Street from Inman Square to Tremont Street
  • Massachusetts Avenue from Vassar Street to Bigelow Street

These areas are known for heavy bicycle and pedestrian traffic, two groups of road users most vulnerable to speeding and inattentive motorists.

Potholes and Other Roadway Hazards Pose a Danger to Cambridge Bicyclists

Cyclists also face injury risks from potholes and other roadway defects.

In Cambridge, the Department of Public Works is responsible for repairing streets and sidewalks and making sure that all public right of ways are safe and accessible for bicyclists and pedestrians.

If you come across a pothole or other roadway hazard in your travels, you can submit a report through Commonwealth Connect by clicking here. You can also report a pavement marking issue, bicycle lane obstruction or malfunctioning traffic light or request a bicycle rack. You will need to provide the street address closest to the problem.

Road defects can cause serious injury to vulnerable bicycle riders. When a bicyclist runs over a pothole, they may find themselves sailing over the handlebars and into the unforgiving pavement or even into traffic. Possible injuries include head and neck injuries, brain injuries and broken bones. A broken traffic light can cause a car to crash into bicyclist and result in serious or even fatal injuries.

Bicycle Lanes and Shared Lane Markings in Cambridge

As of early 2021, Cambridge had a total of 97.62 miles of bicycle facilities and markings. This includes 35.38 miles of bicycle path, 35.34 miles of bicycle lane, 5.75 miles of separated bicycle lane, 4.53 miles of grade-separated bicycle lane and 11.49 miles of shared lane markings.

In Cambridge, bicycle lanes are emblazoned with bicycle symbols and arrows indicating the correct direction of travel. Motorists are not allowed to travel in these lanes and face a $100 fine if they do. However, they are permitted to cross bicycle lanes to turn or park. Cyclists are allowed to travel in regular vehicle travel lanes, even when a bicycle lane is available. Cyclists should signal and make sure they have the attention of any motorists behind them before transitioning from a bicycle lane to a vehicle lane.

If you are bicycling around Cambridge, you will notice shared lane pavement markings. These markings, which are sometimes called “sharrows,” let motorists and bicyclists know that they must share the travel lane. These markings help cyclists by indicating where they should ride and letting motorists know that they should expect cyclists on the road.

Cyclists should stay in the middle or to the left of shared lane markings. Drivers should slow down and wait for the cyclist to turn off the road or wait until they can move into an adjacent travel lane.

Without these markings, drivers are more likely to refuse to share the lane, which forces cyclists to travel closer to parked cars and places them at risk of dooring incidents and other crash hazards. When cyclists stay to the far right of travel lanes, motorists might try to pass the cyclists and end up sideswiping them.

If you are wondering if shared lane markings work, studies show that they do. While these markings are not meant to replace bicycle lanes, they are a good option in cities like Cambridge that has its share of narrow and busy streets.

It is important to note that bicycle lanes reduce crash rates for everyone—bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists—and encourage safer bicyclist behavior. When bicycle lanes are present, bicycle riders are less likely to ride on sidewalks or the wrong way on a street. Bicycle lanes also encourage more people to ride bicycles. One major study by the Federal Highway Administration found that bicycle use in urban areas is proportional to the percentage of arterial roads with bicycle lanes. Arterial roads are freeways and highways that connect cities and other urban areas. Cities like Cambridge and Boston with large numbers of bicyclers typically have 70% more bicycle infrastructure per roadway mile than cities with low bicycling populations.

Bicycle Sharing in Cambridge

You can access Bluebikes, metro Boston’s bicycle share system, in Cambridge. Bluebikes users have taken more than 12 million trips since the program started in 2011. At the end of 2020, Bluebikes had a total of 378 bicycle share stations with 68 located throughout Cambridge.

Riders have the option of becoming Bluebikes members or paying for each trip that they take. The four most popular Bluebikes stations are all in Cambridge, and eight of the ten most popular Bluebikes stations are in Cambridge. Just remember to bring your own helmet, as they are not provided by Bluebikes.

If you have been injured in a bicycle crash in Cambridge, contact the bicycle attorneys at Jeffrey Glassman Injury Lawyers today at (617) 777-7777 or by using our electronic form.

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