Somerville Bicycle Accident Attorneys
Bicycling is a popular mode of transportation in Somerville. Beacon Street, for example, averages around 500 bicycles each hour at peak commuting times.
Somerville's efforts to support and encourage bicycling within the city have paid off in recent years. In 2017, the League of American Bicyclists named Somerville a Gold Level Bicycle Friendly Community. At the time, there were fewer than 30 such communities across the entire country. The award recognized Somerville's commitment to improving conditions for bicyclists through bicycling infrastructure, educational programs, and pro-bicycle policies.
Even though Somerville is considered a bicycle-friendly community, that does not mean that bicycle riders can travel through the city's streets without risk of injury. Aggressive and distracted drivers pose a danger to everyone else using the roads, especially vulnerable bicyclists and pedestrians. In addition, roadway hazards can cause serious and debilitating injuries to those traveling on two wheels.Traffic Laws and Regulations for Bicycling in Somerville
The Somerville Bicycle Committee is a citizens advisory group that works with city staff to improve conditions for people riding bicycles. Since 2001, the Committee has worked to promote cycling as a form of transportation, helping to implement bicycle safety policies and programs for cyclists of all ages and abilities. These promotional efforts include reviewing plans for road construction, writing and reviewing bicycle ordinances, and creating materials to encourage bicycling.
People riding bicycles have the same right to the road, and the same responsibilities, as motorists when traversing public roads in Somerville and throughout Massachusetts. Therefore, bicyclists must abide by all traffic laws and can travel on all roads in the state except for limited access highways such as I-93. However, in Somerville, cyclists can ride on sidewalks outside the seven business districts of Davis Square, Porter Square, Union Square, Inman Square, Teele Square, Ball Square, and Maquon Square.
Cyclists pedaling through the city are allowed to use either hand to signal stops and turns or have the option of not signaling if they need both hands on the handlebars for safety reasons. In addition, they are allowed to ride side by side but must allow faster motor vehicle traffic to pass when safe to do so. In Somerville, and throughout Massachusetts, bicyclists can pass cars on the right, ride outside of bicycle lanes when preparing for turns and equip their bicycles with as many lights and reflectors as desired.
If you are riding a bicycle in Somerville, you will spot bicycle lanes, protected bicycle lanes, contra-flow bicycle lanes, and shared-use paths. Bicycle lanes not only keep roadways safe for everyone by separating traffic, but they encourage bicyclists to follow the rules of the road. Bicycle riders should always follow on-street markings to stop and yield. Markings called "sharrows," a combination of "share" and "arrow," are markings that indicate that bicyclists and motorists share the current lane. A bicycle box is a marking at an intersection designated for cyclists. Motorists must stop at the white line before the box to allow bicycles to ride to the front of the traffic queue. Studies show that bicycle boxes reduce turning-related collisions, permitting cyclists to travel straight and clear the intersection before right-turning traffic.
On your bicycle ride, you will no doubt spot those ubiquitous bright blue ride-sharing bicycles. Somerville has more than 20 Bluebikes stations running from Clarendon Hill to East Somerville. Although Somerville and other Massachusetts municipalities own Bluebikes, the company's operator is responsible for maintaining and servicing the bicycles.
You can access a Somerville bicycle map here.Negligent Drivers Cause Most Bicycle Crashes in Somerville
Motorists who are not paying attention to the road ahead, trying to rush through busy traffic to their destination are responsible for most bicycle crashes and collisions. (We avoid using the word "accident" because it implies that the crash happened by chance and without fault. It is a plane crash, not a plane “accident”!) Here's a look at some of the more common types of bicycle crashes and collisions that occur in Somerville:
Right hooks: A right hook happens when a vehicle makes a right turn in front of a cyclist traveling straight. These incidents can be especially dangerous when a curb traps the cyclist and closes off a possible escape route. Cyclists should never rely on a vehicle's turn signal and always assume that motorists turning right do not see them.
Dooring incidents: Drivers and their passengers often open car doors suddenly and without looking, causing the doors to protrude into bicycle lanes and the path of oncoming bicycles. Allowing passengers to open vehicle doors while still in the travel lane gives no warning to cyclists before a dooring. Avoid riding in the "door zone," even if that means riding outside the bicycle lane and in the travel lane with motor vehicles.
Large vehicle incidents: Oversized vehicles such as semi-trailers, buses, and construction equipment have large blind spots, which means drivers often have trouble seeing around, behind, or in front. Steer clear of these vehicles whenever possible and watch out for their wider turn radius. Bus passengers exit on the right, so pass stopped or stopping buses on the left to avoid passengers exiting or waiting behind a bus until it moves again.
Night-time incidents: The majority of bicyclist fatalities occur between 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. when traffic volume is high and light conditions are low. Stay visible at night by equipping your bicycle with a bright white front light (bicycle safety experts recommend 100 lumens or more) and a bright rear red light to comply with Massachusetts traffic laws. In addition, reflective clothing and gear can help motorists see you.
Bicyclists hit by cars are at risk of suffering severe and permanent injuries such as:
- Broken bones
- Lacerations and road rash
- Head and face injuries
- Concussions and traumatic brain injuries
- Internal injuries
- Wrongful death
More than one thousand bicyclists die in crashes every year in the United States. Massachusetts averages ten bicyclist fatalities per year.
You can report traffic-related problems that endanger bicyclists by calling the Somerville Police Department. These issues include dooring incidents, double-parked vehicles, and vehicles parked more than one foot from curbs.
In addition, you can report aggressive drivers or potholes, raised drain gratings, and other road hazards by using the Commonwealth Connect mobile app.Tips for Staying Safe While Bicycling in Somerville
The Somerville Bicycle Committee says bicycle riders can stay safe by:
- Always wearing a properly fitting bicycle helmet to protect against brain, head, and face injuries. Cyclists who wear helmets reduce their chances of suffering a fatal head injury by 65%.
- Obeying traffic laws. It is important to note that cyclists have the right to ride in the center of a traffic lane on any street at any time of the day when required for safety. "Taking a lane" is one way a cyclist can stay safe when traveling through a rotary, executing a left turn, or traveling through an intersection where cars may be turning right.
- Using hand signals to point in the direction of a turn if you feel safe doing so. Audible cues such as ringing a bell or proclaiming "on your left" are required when passing other cyclists or pedestrians on trails or roads.
- Signaling and pulling over when you hear sirens or see emergency vehicles. Be careful because motorists may respond unexpectedly.
- Ensuring that motorists can see you. If you cannot spot the driver's head in a car's mirrors, the driver cannot see you. Keep lights on every time you ride and wear bright clothing to make yourself eye-catching to motorists.
If you are involved in a bicycle crash or collision, seek medical treatment as soon as possible. If possible, collect the license plate information and description of all involved vehicles and obtain contact information from any witnesses. Then, file a police report, even if you think you are fine and have not sustained any serious injuries.
If you have been injured in a bicycle crash in Somerville, contact the bicycle attorneys at The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, LLC for a free legal consultation at (617) 777-7777 or complete our electronic form.