Bicycling Rules of the Road

Cyclists in Cambridge

Traffic Laws in Cambridge

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.

Rules of the road for cyclists are found in state laws and City of Cambridge traffic regulations. You can find the full text of the laws and regulations the following links; highlighted below are a few key sections.

Go to Massachusetts State Laws.

Go to Cambridge Traffic Regulations.

Laws About Bike Lights

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 to Full Text of the Law. 

Laws About Helmets

Massachusetts law requires any person 16 years old or younger riding a bicycle to wear a helmet. It is important that a helmet be properly fitted. 

See here for tips on how to wear a helmet

Sidewalk Bicycling Banned Areas

State law permits bicyclists to travel on sidewalks in the interest of safety except:

Bicycles MAY NOT be ridden on sidewalks in the several areas of the City. You can examine maps of these areas using the list below.  In the banned areas bicyclists must either walk their bike, ride on the street, or take an alternate route.  Banned areas on the maps are indicated either with white shading (Harvard and Central Square Business Districts) or thickened lines (all other locations). Maps of each ban area are below:

For More Information

For more information about bicycling in Cambridge, please contact