Mass. House gets behind statewide ticket for blocking bike lanes

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STATE HOUSE — A quilt-work of penalties for parking in bike lanes would be replaced with a blanket statewide ticket of up to $100 under a bill that passed the House on Monday.

The bill (H 3072) filed by Rep. David Rogers, a Cambridge Democrat, would bar drivers from parking or standing in marked bicycle lanes or lanes designated to be shared by bikes and cars.

The legislation allows exceptions for emergencies, a provision that Rogers said was added at the suggestion of House Minority Leader Brad Jones. The change was adopted in an amendment filed by Rep. Ted Speliotis, a Danvers Democrat who is chairman of the House Committee on Bills in the Third Reading.

“Bikes have become a major form of transportation in the Commonwealth,” Rogers told the News Service. He said, “There are 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth and municipalities have been passing local ordinances in patchwork fashion.”

Cyclists generally ride to the right of cars and trucks, which is where municipalities tend to mark special bike lanes. When a car parks in a bike lane, cyclists will merge left into the lane where cars and trucks travel. Some roads have markings known as “sharrows” to indicate they are shared by bikes and cars.

Local Cambridge ordinance bars drivers from parking or stopping in any way that obstructs bicycle facilities and requires people to make sure it is safe before opening a car door.

Rogers said he doesn’t believe his law includes a specific prohibition on drivers opening their doors into the oncoming path of a bicyclist – a maneuver blamed for cyclist deaths over the years.

The bill prohibits drivers from placing “the vehicle in such a manner as to interfere with the safety” of bikers on roadways for bicycles.

Cyclists, pedestrians and drivers routinely flout traffic rules. Rogers said his legislation would change behavior if police write tickets. In congested areas delivery drivers have few options for legal parking. Asked about that dynamic, Rogers noted police would have discretion about when to ticket.

“If there are extenuating circumstances, I would expect that law enforcement will exercise discretion,” Rogers said.

Rogers, who praised House Speaker Robert DeLeo for discussing the issue with him and said he is “cautiously optimistic” the bill will become law, noted he has a “companion bill” about road safety for cyclists and other “vulnerable” road users.

Rogers’ other bill (H 3073), which has received initial approval in the House, would specify the distance motorists must put between themselves and cyclists, skateboarders and wheelchairs when passing. Drivers traveling 30 miles per hour would need to leave three feet between themselves and a “vulnerable user” of roads, and add an additional foot of clearance for every 10 miles per hour over 30.

Sen. William Brownsberger, a Belmont Democrat known to commute to the State House by bicycle, has sponsored similar bills in the Senate.

— Written by Andy Metzger

Copyright State House News Service