Bike Regulations

Regulations for bicycles are found in the City of Cambridge Traffic, Parking and Transportation Regulations. Below are excerpts related to bicycles.

The full regulations can be found at this link.

DISCLAIMER The Web version of the City of Cambridge, Massachusetts Traffic Regulations is provided for reference and the convenience of having the Ordinance in a computer-readable format. The print version of the Traffic Regulations, together with any amendments adopted by the City Council subsequent to the most recent update to the print version, remain the official version of the Ordinance. If any discrepancies exist between the print and web versions of the Traffic Regulations, the print version, together with any City Council amendments, shall be considered correct. Recent amendments to the Traffic Regulations may appear on the Web prior to being incorporated into the print version of the Regulations.

Article I: Definitions

Section 1.4

(a) Bicycle Every device propelled by human power upon which any person may ride, having no more than two tandem wheels either of which is 18" or more in diameter.

(b) Bike path A route for the exclusive use of bicycles separated by grade or other physical barrier from motor vehicles.

(c) Bike lane A lane on a street restricted to bicycles separated by grade or other physical barrier from motor vehicles.

(d) Bike route A roadway shared by both bicycles and other forms of transportation may be designated by means of signs and/or pavement markings.

(e) Bicycle parking facility Any facility for the temporary storage of bicycles which allows the frame and one or both wheels to be locked so as to minimize the risk of theft and vandalism.

Section 1.13: Crosswalk

That portion of a roadway ordinarily included within the prolongation or continuation of curb lines and property lines at intersections, or at any portion of the roadway clearly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines on the road surface or by other markings or signs.

Section 1.28: Pedestrians

Any person afoot or riding on a conveyance moved by human power, except bicycles and inline skates. Section 1.50: Vehicle Every device in, upon or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a highway, including bicycles and inline skates when the provisions of these rules are applicable to them, except other devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks.

Section 1.52: Inline Skates

Any shoe with an attachment of 4 or more wheels aligned in a linear fashion.

Section 1.8: Central Square Business District

The Central Square Business District for the purposes of these regulations shall be defined as that part of the City of Cambridge included by the following streets or parts thereof:

  • Bishop Allen Drive.- Main St. to Inman St.
  • Bigelow St. - Mass. Ave. to the North Curb line of City Hall drive
  • Brookline St. - Green St. to Mass. Ave.
  • Central Square
  • Columbia St. - Bishop Allen Drive to Mass. Ave.
  • Douglas St. - Bishop Allen Drive to Mass. Ave.
  • Essex St. - Bishop Allen Drive to Mass. Ave.
  • Franklin St. - Pearl St. to Pleasant St.
  • Green St. - Sidney St. to Sellers St.
  • Inman St. - north curb line of Bishop Allen Drive to Mass. Ave.
  • Magazine St. - Franklin St. to Green St.
  • Main St. - Mass. Ave. to east curb line of Cherry St.
  • Mass. Ave. - west curb line of Sellers St. to the east curb line of Sidney St.
  • Norfolk St. - Bishop Allen Drive to Mass. Ave.
  • Pearl St. - Franklin St. to Mass. Ave.
  • Pleasant St. - Franklin St. to Mass. Ave.
  • Prospect St. - Bishop Allen Drive to Mass. Ave.
  • River St. - Franklin St. to Mass. Ave.
  • Sellers St. - Green St. to Mass. Ave.
  • Sidney St. - Green St. to Mass. Ave.
  • Temple St. - Mass. Ave. to Bishop Allen Drive
  • Western Ave. - Franklin St. to Mass. Ave.

Section 1.20 Harvard Square Business District

The Harvard Square Business District for the purposes of these regulations shall be defined as that part of the City of Cambridge included by the following streets or parts thereof:

  • Appian Way - Brattle St. to Garden St.
  • Bow St. - Mass. Ave. to Mt. Auburn St.
  • Brattle Square
  • Brattle St. - Appian Way to Mass. Ave.
  • Cambridge St. - Broadway to Mass. Ave.
  • Church St. - Brattle St. to Mass. Ave.
  • DeWolfe St. - Bow St. to Memorial Drive
  • Dunster St. - Mass. Ave. to South St.
  • Farwell Place - Brattle St. to end of street
  • Garden St. - west curb line of Appian Way to Mass. Ave.
  • Harvard St. - Quincy St. to Mass. Ave.
  • Holyoke St. - Mass. Ave. to Memorial Drive
  • John F. Kennedy St. - Mass. Ave. to Memorial Drive
  • Linden St. - Mass. Ave. to Bow St.
  • Mass. Ave. - north curb line of Cambridge St. to east curb line of Quincy St.
  • Mt. Auburn St. - west curb line of Story St. to DeWolfe St.
  • Palmer St. - Church St. to Brattle St.
  • Peabody St. - Mass. Ave. to Cambridge St.
  • Plympton St. - Mass. Ave. to Memorial Drive
  • Quincy St. - Broadway to Harvard St.
  • South St. - John F. Kennedy St. to Dunster St.
  • Story St. - Mt. Auburn St. to Brattle St.

Article XII: Regulations for Bicycles

Section 12.1: Traffic Laws Apply to Persons Riding Bicycles

Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by the laws of this state declaring rules of the road applicable to vehicles or by the traffic regulations of this city applicable to the driver of a vehicle, except as to special regulations in this article and except as to those provisions of laws and regulations which by their nature can have no application.

Section 12.2: Obedience to Traffic Control Devices

(a) Any person operating a bicycle shall obey the instructions of official traffic control signals, signs and other control devices applicable to vehicles, unless otherwise directed by a police officer.

(b) Whenever authorized signs are erected indicating that no right or left or U turn is permitted, no person operating a bicycle shall disobey the direction of any such sign, except where such person dismounts from the bicycle to make any such turn, in which event such person shall then obey the regulations applicable to pedestrians.

Section 12.3: Required Equipment

(a) Every bicycle operated upon a way shall be equipped with a braking system to enable the operator to bring the bicycle traveling at a speed of fifteen miles per hour to a smooth safe stop within thirty feet on a dry, clean, hard, level surface.

(b) Every bicycle when in use during the period from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise, shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least 500’ to the front. To the rear, either a red lamp or a red reflector visible for not less than 600’ when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle.

(c) The operator shall not carry any package, bundle or article except in a basket, rack, trailer or other device designated for such purpose. The operator shall keep at least one hand upon the handlebars at all times.

Section 12.4: Riding on Bicycles

(a) A bicycle operator shall give an audible warning whenever necessary to insure the safe operation of the bicycle; however, the use of a siren or whistle is prohibited.

(b) The operator shall ride only upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached to the bicycle. A passenger shall ride only upon or astride a permanent and regular seat attached to the bicycle or to a trailer towed by the bicycle.

(c) Any person twelve years of age or younger operating a bicycle or being carried as a passenger on a bicycle shall wear a helmet which meets the latest standards established by the American National Standards Institute or the Snell Memorial Foundation.

(d) During the period from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise, the operator shall display either on each pedal of their bicycle a reflector or on each ankle reflective material which is visible from all angles for a distance of 600' when directly in front of lawful low beams of headlamps of a motor vehicle.

(e) In the event of a collision between the operator of a bicycle and a pedestrian both parties shall stop and exchange the following information: name, address and location.

Section 12.5: Riding in Roadways

(a) The bicycle operator shall ride single file on any way except when passing. The bicycle operator may keep to the right when passing a motor vehicle which is moving in the travel lane or the way. The bicycle operator shall not pass to the right of a bus or minibus stopped at a designated bus stop.

(b) Bicycle operators shall signal by either hand their intention to stop or turn. (c) Bicycle operators shall not permit their bicycle to be drawn by any other moving vehicle.

Section 12.6: Emerging from Alley or Driveway

The driver of a bicycle emerging from an alley, driveway or building shall upon approaching a sidewalk or the sidewalk area extending across any alleyway, yield the right of way to all pedestrians approaching on said sidewalk or sidewalk area, and upon entering the roadway shall yield the right of way to all vehicles approaching on said roadway.

Section 12.7: Riding on Sidewalks

(a) Pedestrians have the right of way on all sidewalks. The operator of a bicycle shall yield to pedestrians in all traffic situations.

(b) The operator of a bicycle shall ride at a speed no greater than an ordinary walk when on a sidewalk or when entering or leaving a sidewalk.

(c) The operator of a bicycle shall give an audible warming before passing a pedestrian far enough in advance to allow the pedestrian time to react.

(d) No one shall operate a bicycle on a sidewalk in a manner that endangers or would be likely to endanger any person or property. (e) The operator of a bicycle shall comply with all Federal, State and local regulations concerning lighting and helmet use as they apply to roadways when riding on a sidewalk.

Section 12.8: Sidewalk Cycling Banned on Certain Streets and Districts

(a) No person shall ride a bicycle on any sidewalk within a business district as defined in Article I.

(b) No person shall ride a bicycle on any sidewalk described in schedule 4B attached to and made part of these regulations and which has been posted with appropriate signs.

(c) No person thirteen years of age or older shall ride a bicycle on any sidewalk described in schedule 4B attached to and made part of these regulations and which has been posted with appropriate signs.

Schedule 4B

All bicycle riding prohibited on sidewalks along certain sides of certain streets

Click here for Maps of Sidewalk Bicycling Banned Areas.

Section 12.9: Bicycle Parking on the Public Way

(a) Bicycles are permitted to park against a building, street sign pole, or on a bicycle rack or other facility specifically intended for that purpose.

(b) Under no circumstances shall a bicycle obstruct the pedestrian path of travel or handicap access ramps. A parked bicycle must leave at least 36 inches of an obstruction free path of travel.

(c) Bicycles are not permitted to be parked to: fire hydrants, hand railings, benches, trees, trash receptacles and parking meters.

(d) Bicycles shall not be parked longer than 72 consecutive hours at the same location in any business district as defined in section 12.8.

(e) Bicycles in violation of the above regulations shall be tagged and removed immediately if presenting a public safety hazard as noted in section 12.9 (b) and given a 72-hour notice to remove for violations in section 12.9 (c) and (d). Removed bicycles shall be held by the City of Cambridge Department of Public Works for a minimum of 30 days.

(f) No motorized vehicles shall be parked on a bicycle rack or other facility specifically designed and intended for bicycle parking. Violators are subject to immediate removal from the City of Cambridge Department of Public Works or Police Department.

Abandoned Bicycle

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

For More Information

For more information about bicycling in Cambridge, please contact Cara Seiderman, cseiderman@cambridgema.gov, at 617/349-4629