Bicycling: Anarchy & the Law

Recently there has been a disturbing trend toward total anarchist attitudes concerning automobile and pedestrian rules.      Brand-spanking new cars for some reason do not come standard with turning signals.      Those that do have them on their cars believe the name of these lights are ‘As-you-turn signals’ not the real name which is ‘turning warning lights’.     

Pedestrians are just as bad.    They are protected by staying inside the lines of crosswalks.    Instead, they apparently feel they have a force field around them – walking into cars, walking willy-nilly off the curb and strolling down streets into oncoming traffic.

But I think the worst are the bikes.      Bill Plante indicated in an editorial recently the total disregard today for the rules of conduct for a bike.      When I was a teenager, bicycle laws were a BIG DEAL with the State House trying to enact heavy fines to motivate bike safety.      As the years have gone by, unfortunately, the penalties have been relaxed just as the number of bikes on the roads have increased.    

But nothing excuses the fact of total disregard for bike safety.

These laws are not burdensome and most of them are absolutely and completely common sense.

These are cleanly outlined here.

But the most important rule is riding your bike WITH the traffic:

  • Vehicles (including bicycles) should travel on the right side of the road and in the right lane except when passing or turning left
  • Vehicles (including bicycles) cannot travel on the left side of the road (i.e., the wrong way)

Some bicyclists don’t do it because they are afraid they will get hit. (10% of accidents may happen this way but the largest occur when bikes are going AGAINST traffic so it is important that bicyclists go in the right direction.)

Some ride helmetless, most ride without lights at night – go against traffic, disregard all the traffic signs or lights.    Many have no reflectors or totally disregard any need to be predictable in their path.    A large number of adults and children disregard completely the bike path lines.

Unfortunately, it is up to educators in schools and mostly parents to stress proper rules.

But the fines have come down to a lousy $20.00 per violation.      Hardly the motivation for bicyclist to obey the law or for local law enforcement agents to enforce them.

That is why I noticed, in the hope of getting people to obey the law for safety sake, the Project Manager and the DPS drew an arrow for proper direction and a bike symbol with a helmet.    Nice touch!

UNLESS WE CAN GET MORE OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW, MANY MORE BICYCLISTS ARE GOING TO BE HURT AND SOME MAY EVEN DIE.     As more bicycling spreads in our area, the danger increases proportionately.

The law is an easy one to obey – but the community has to chip in to make sure every bicyclist is kept safe.

-P. Preservationist

PS. If you would like to see the more legal version of the Bike Law, it is here.


About P. Preservationist

Dedicated to the Enrichment & Preservation of Newburyport
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One Response to Bicycling: Anarchy & the Law

  1. Ari Herzog says:

    You forgot to reference city ordinance 10-1, which states:

    (a) All persons operating bicycles, mopeds, skateboards and roller skates will observe the laws of the road as they pertain to motorists in the state and the city.

    (b) No bicycles, mopeds, skateboards, or roller skates will be allowed to be used on the business district sidewalks which is the area bordered by High Street, State Street, Merrimac Street and Green Street, including the Inn Street Mall and Market Square. A first offense shall result in the confiscation of such item for two (2) weeks by the police department. Each subsequent offense shall be punishable by a fine of twenty dollars ($20.00).

    The frustration (for me as a bicyclist and numerous business owners I’ve talked with) is when police officers ride their bikes on Inn Street, which hardly sets the standard for kids who generally look up to police. Not to mention, I’ve yet to hear of anyone issuing said fine. The ordinance was last updated in 1989 so maybe it’s time for a revision?

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