By Bob Katzen

This law requires anyone age 21 and older to register his or her bicycle biannually with the Registry of Motor Vehicles. The state would establish a fee and issue a license plate that the bicyclist would be required to attach to his or her bike.

Supporters say this would give drivers and pedestrians a way to identify and report a bicyclist who is breaking traffic rules. They note that it will also ensure that bicyclists, by paying fines, will help pay for the maintenance of bike lanes.


Do you know your rights and responsibilities on the road? Here is a summary of Massachusetts’ bike law that covers equipment, riding, safety standards, races, violations, and penalties.
For exact requirements, please read the complete text of the laws pertaining to bicyclists and bicycling in Massachusetts. General Laws of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Chapter 85, Section 11B.
Your rights
•You may ride your bicycle on any public road, street, or bikeway in the Commonwealth, except limited access or express state highways where signs specifically prohibiting bikes have been posted.
•You may ride on sidewalks outside business districts, unless local laws prohibit sidewalk riding.
•You may use either hand to signal stops and turns.
•You may pass cars on the right.
•If you carry children or other passengers inside an enclosed trailer or other device that will adequately restrain them and protect their heads in a crash, they need not wear helmets.
•You may hold a bicycle race on any public road or street in the Commonwealth, if you do so in cooperation with a recognized bicycle organization, and if you get approval from the appropriate police department before the race is held.
•You may establish special bike regulations for races by agreement between your bicycle organization and the police.
•You may have as many lights and reflectors on your bike as you wish.
Your responsibilities: you MUST do these things
•You must obey all traffic laws and regulations of the Commonwealth.
•You should use hand signals to let people know you plan stop or turn, however, signals do not need to be made continuously and you are not required to signal when the use of both hands is necessary for the safe operation of the bicycle.
•You must give pedestrians the right of way.
•You must give pedestrians an audible signal before overtaking or passing them.
•You may ride two abreast, but must facilitate passing traffic. This means riding single file when faster traffic wants to pass, or staying in the right-most lane on a multi-lane road.
•You must ride astride a regular, permanent seat that is attached to your bicycle.
•You must keep one hand on your handlebars at all times.
•If you are 16 years old or younger, you must wear a helmet that meets U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission requirements on any bike, anywhere, at all times. The helmet must fit your head and the chin strap must be fastened.
•You must use a white headlight and red taillight or rear reflector if you are riding anytime from 1/2 hour after sunset until 1/2 hour before sunrise.
•At night, you must wear ankle reflectors if there are no reflectors on your pedals.
•You must notify the police of any accident involving personal injury or property damage over $100.

Your responsibilities: you MAY NOT do these things
•You may not carry a passenger anywhere on your bike except on a regular seat permanently attached to the bike, or to a trailer towed by the bike.
•You may not carry any child between the ages of 1 to 4, or weighing 40 pounds or less, anywhere on a single-passenger bike except in a baby seat attached to the bike. The child must be able to sit upright in the seat and must be held in the seat by a harness or seat belt. Their hands and feet must be out of reach of the wheel spokes.
•You may not carry any child under the age of 1 on your bike, even in a baby seat; this does not preclude carrying them in a trailer.
•You may not use a siren or whistle on your bike to warn pedestrians.
•You may not park your bike on a street, road, bikeway or sidewalk where it will be in other people’s way.
•You may not carry anything on your bike unless it is in a basket, rack, bag, or trailer designed for the purpose.
•You may not modify your bike so that your hands are higher than your shoulders when gripping the handlebars.
•You may not alter the fork of your bike to extend it.


  1. 2019? Shouldn’t someone fix this misinformation?
    MA does NOT require registration of bicycles.
    8.07.020 – Definitions.
    “No operator of a bicycle shall be required to possess a driver’s license and no bicycle is required to be registered with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.”

  2. I am sick of being hit and criticized by bicyclists for walking down a sidewalk, especially when there are no cars in the street. A man recently approached me and berated me for standing on the textured ramp at a corner. According to the bicyclist, I was being disrespectful for not moving out of his way. I thought those ramps were installed to help visually impaired people to find a safe place to cross. There were no people, cars, or other cyclists anywhere near us. I don’t know if his bike was registered with the RMV.
    I have been hit twice by bicyclists this year, as they were coming around a corner. I went to my doctor once.
    I have low vision which is getting worse. I am retired and walk a lot. It’s pointless to have laws if you won’t enforce them. Maybe I should start walking in a safer community. I doubt I’ll ever be able to do that here.

  3. I would just be happy if they were accountable for their actions. When it is their fault they should foot the bill. Not me.

  4. Bikes would be less likely to abuse the rules of the road if they were accountable, also the registration fee could help with bike lane maintenance, etc.

  5. Cash grab for the state. I see no other way to look at this. You’ll spend $50 for your plate and some sort of postage stamp sized sticker. And for what benefit? A bicyclist clips your mirror, and you try and focus on a moving object the size of a credit card to get some of the numbers off of it to report it to the police? Cash grab, because fees and taxes regulates everything into some sort of “compliance”. Right?

  6. There are far too many reckless cyclists on our roads in and around the City of Somerville, including Cambridge and Boston. If cyclists are forced to register their bikes, while providing valid identification and local address, a visible license plate, they would be held accountable to obey traffic laws and possibly save their own lives.

    There have been too many fatalities of cyclists who took great risks while engaging in traffic. The political correctness of our region forbids disclosure of these cases. In many cases, they end up in civil court where cities and towns can also be held negligent. This problem ends up costing the taxpayers millions which could be prevented.

    I would also like to see more education in schools including colleges for those who wish to ride bikes in the city. It’s obvious many haven’t a clue of the dangers on the road. A license to drive a vehicle is required to use the roadways. It should be the same for cyclists.

  7. This would discourage new cyclists during a time that we need to be more conscientious of our impact on the environment. It’s a ridiculous idea. Have police more strongly enforce bicycle traffic.

    There are also motorists who hate cyclists for the mere fact that they need to share the road. There will be an influx of false or misleading reports of bad cyclicts on the road and will waste the time of those in charge of investigating.

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