Below are some of the most commonly asked questions regarding bicycling in Cambridge. If you do not find your question answered here or elsewhere on the website, and for more information, please contact Cara Seiderman, firstname.lastname@example.org, at 617/349-4629.
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In general, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists when traveling on the public ways in Massachusetts. There are a few differences, such as those surrounding bicycling on sidewalks; using lights at night; and wearing helmets (see below for links). Bicyclists have the right to travel on all public ways except limited access highways.
Go to Massachusetts State Laws
Go to Cambridge Traffic Regulations
State law permits bicyclists to travel on sidewalks in the interest of safety except as directed by local ordinance. In general, it is more appropriate and prudent to bicycle in the street, and Cambridge is making every effort to making the city streets safe and comfortable for bicycling. However, it is recognized that there are times when sidewalk riding will be used, for example, with young children. Cambridge traffic regulations require that bicyclists on sidewalks travel at a walking speed and yield to pedestrians.
Sidewalk riding is not permitted in the business districts of Harvard Square, Central Square, Porter Square, Inman Square, Huron Avenue, and sections of Mass. Ave. north of Harvard Square.
Go to Maps of Districts.
Massachusetts law requires bicyclists to use a white front light from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise. Visibility is a critical matter for bicyclists. Nearly half of all cycling deaths nationally involve cyclists riding at night without lights, although only 3% of biking occurs after dark. It is important for cyclists to understand that front lights are important primarily so that other travelers can see them. Reflectors alone do not make a bicycle visible at night. Light from a reflector bounces directly back to where it came from, so reflectors are of no use when car headlights are not pointed directly at the bike. Only a front light makes the bicycle visible to pedestrians, to drivers about to open a car door into the street, and to drivers who are backing up.
The law also requires a red rear light or reflector and reflectors on the pedals or reflective material on the rider’s ankles. Lights are strongly encouraged on the back of the bicycle, as these provide stronger visibility.
Go Full Text of the Law
Massachusetts law requires any person 16 years old or younger riding a bicycle to wear a helmet.
Bicycle registration is free and is done through the Cambridge Police Department. It is very important to register your bike; should it ever be taken, it is through the registration that the bicycle can be returned to you.
Go to Information on How to Register a Bike.
The City of Cambridge distributes “Watch for Bikes” decals to put on the side and/or rear view mirrors of cars, to remind drivers to Watch for Bikes when turning and opening car doors. You can get one by sending an email to email@example.com or calling 617/349-4604.
Bicycles are permitted to park on a bicycle rack or street sign pole, against a building, or on another facility specifically intended for that purpose. Under no circumstances shall a bicycle obstruct the pedestrian path of travel or handicap access ramps. A parked bicycle must leave at least a 36-inch obstruction-free path of travel. Bicycles are not permitted to be parked to: fire hydrants, hand railings, benches, trees, trash receptacles, disability sign poles, and parking meters.
Go to complete Traffic, Parking and Transporation Regulations.
Time limits for bicycle parking apply in the city’s designated business districts: Harvard and Central Squares. In these districts, bicycles are permitted to be parked for 72 hours (3 days), after which they may be tagged. See maps of the districts for exact streets that are included:
Once a bicycle is tagged, an owner will have 72 hours (3 days) to remove it, or it may be taken by DPW and stored for a minimum of 30 days prior to disposal. There is no time limit in other parts of the city.
If you see a bicycle on public property that appears to be abandoned – not used, in dysfunctional condition – you can report it to the DPW at 617/349-4800 or firstname.lastname@example.org at DPW. In order to be removed, the bicycle must meet the legal definition of being abandoned. (see below) DPW will tag it and remove it, after which it will be held at DPW for a minimum of 30 days prior to disposal.
Section 12.9: Bicycle Parking on the Public Way
A bicycle with one or more of the following defects that can be removed by the City of Cambridge Public Works Department for public safety and maintenance purposes:
(a) No tires or wheels
(b) Have warped wheels or frame
(c) Missing, rusted or broken chain in such a state that renders the bicycle inoperative.
(d) Missing or warped handle bars
The Traffic Engineering Division maintains most bike racks on public property, including public sidewalks and parks. If you have seen a bike rack that is damaged, bent, loose, missing, twisted or has been vandalized, please report it to email@example.com or call 617/349-4700 or report on line.
You can call two places: the Department of Public Works (DPW), 617/349-4800 or the Police Department, 617/349-3204. If you think your bicycle may have been taken by DPW because you left it parked illegally (e. g., attached to a bench or tree) or because it was left in a business district for a long time, try DPW first. If you think it more likely that it was stolen, and that none of the above apply, contact the Police Department. Retrieving your bicycle in either case will be much easier if registered.
Go to Registration Information
The following web sites have maps and route information that may help you identify good travel routes by bicycle in the Boston/Cambridge area:
Go to MassBike
Go to Bikemaps.com
The Department of Public Works is responsible for the repair or reconstruction of streets and sidewalks in order to ensure that all public right if ways are safe and accessible at all times.
If you would like to report a street or sidewalk defect, please call the Operations Center at 617/349-4800, 617/349-4846 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please leave your name, phone number and the address of the defect. To report potholes, please call the pothole hotline at 617/349-4854 or email email@example.com. Please provide the street address closest to where the pothole is located.
You may also use the new iReport app to report issues on the spot!
Information about major projects that are under development or construction can be found at:
Go to Construction Updates
For construction information you may also call: 617/349-4863
According to City policy, bicycle movement must be maintained during construction and other projects that disrupt travel. Guidelines for accommodating bicyclists are included in construction contracts and contractors are briefed about the best techniques for accommodating bicycles during construction.
Bicycle Accommodations During Construction Projects
To report a sign that is missing, vandalized, faded, illegible, twisted, damaged, pointing or facing in wrong direction, call the Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department at 617/349-4700.
To complain about a driver who drove so as to endanger you, whether through extreme carelessness or malevolence, send a letter describing the incident with the license plate number to the Registry of Motor Vehicles, Office of Driver Control, PO Box 199150, Boston, MA 02119-9150.
If you would like to report a specific or general problem, you can contact the following divisions. It is helpful if you can identify the exact location(s), such as with nearby street addresses:
Traffic, Parking and Transportation Department Enforcement Division 617/349-4731
Cambridge Police Department Traffic Unit 617/349-3307