Slim Down AND Save the Planet, but ride by the rules

Slim Down AND Save the Planet, but ride by the rules

Did you know that 25% of Cambridge residents walk to work -- the highest percentage of walk-to-workers in the country! Since 2002, our bike traffic has increased 70%. Cambridge is known for being a bike-friendly city – bike paths, bike racks, and bike lanes are being added and the MBTA has installed bike racks on over 35% of its buses.

Bikes are allowed on all buses equipped with bike racks and all boats at any time. Riders may also bring bikes on most subway lines and all commuter rail trains during non-peak hours (except to Park St, Downtown Crossing, and Government Center). A few rules to ride by:

  • Enter subway stations through the accessible fare gate/entrance.
  • Don't try to take your bike on an escalator.
  • Get off your bike while inside the station area.
  • Do not interfere with passengers.
  • Stand well away from platform edge.
  • Seniors and people with disabilities have priority over bikes.
  • No additional charge for bikes.

On weekdays, bikes are allowed on the T before 7 a.m., between 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., and after 7 p.m. and all day on weekends, except for substitute bus shuttle service.

For more info see the MBTA site.

Bikes Rule

So if you’re one of Cambridge’s intrepid pedalers, you should know that bikers must follow the same traffic rules as cars: ride with traffic, don't go the wrong way on a one-way street; stop for red lights, stop signs, and pedestrians in crosswalks; don’t talk on your cell phone while riding; and never merge left without first looking behind you.

As a matter of fact I do own the whole darn lane…

Take the whole lane when appropriate, or at least ride far enough to the left of the bike lane that cars can see you. Remember they're looking for traffic in the middle of the road, not on the extreme edge of the road.

If you ride too far right, you may get “doored”— as in bashed by an opening car door. This is a common problem in urban areas with parallel parking on the street. A Cambridge woman was killed that way a few years ago.

Drivers, please check for bikers before opening your door into a bike lane and bikers riding in a bike lane in the “door zone”, please keep an eye out for bodies in the drivers seat, possibly about to exit their cars into… the “Door-Zone Death Trap.”

Stealing the Sidewalk

Except in Hollywood chase scenes, cars don’t drive on sidewalks, and generally neither should bikes, but sometimes it can't be helped – escorting small children, avoiding traffic, getting around road work zones.

Note that riding on the sidewalk is verboten in Harvard Square, Central Square, Inman Square, Porter Square, Huron Village, and along Mass Ave between Harvard Square and Beech Street – just north of Porter Square. (If you do ride on the sidewalk with young children, Cambridge traffic regulations require you ride at walking speed and yield to pedestrians.)

Helmets=Good     Brain Damage=Bad

Massachusetts law requires that all cyclers 16 or younger wear a helmet. Helmets are the single most effective way to lower the risk of traumatic brain injury and death on a bike.

But, wearing a helmet won’t prevent you from getting hit by a car. Did you know that nearly half of all cycling deaths result from riding at night without a light, even though only 3% of bike riding occurs after dark?

Knight Riding

Ride with a headlight, rear light, and reflective clothing at night.

State law requires bicyclists to use a white front light from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise.

Reflectors alone do not make you visible at night. Light from a reflector bounces directly back to its origin, so reflectors don’t light up unless car headlights are pointed directly at them. Only a front light makes the bicycle visible to pedestrians and drivers. (Bike lights with LEDs last ten times longer than old-style lights.)

Pahkin' ya Bike in Haavahd Yaahd

It’s much easier to find parking for your bike than for your car in the People’s Republik of Cambridge, although there are some places you are not allowed to park a bike.

Ironically, you are not allowed to park your bike on a parking meter, although I do it all the time. Or on a fire hydrant, hand railing, bench, tree, or trash can. You ARE allowed to park on bike racks, street sign poles, or other facilities specifically intended for bike parking.

Be sure your bike doesn’t block pedestrian paths or handicap access ramps – actually, a parked bicycle is supposed to leave at least a 36-inch obstruction-free path.

And… bicycles are only allowed to be parked for 72 hours (3 days), after that, they can be tagged.

If your bike goes missing

If you think it may have been taken by DPW because it was parked illegally (chained to a tree or locked to a trashcan) or left longer than 72 hours, try Department of Public Works (DPW) at 617/349-4800.

If you think it was bikenapped, call the Police 617/349-3204.

Either way, getting it back will be much easier if it is registered.


Nice article, seems like you were in the same frame of mind as this guy...

Wow, that guy looks familiar! I should have mentioned that in addition to NOT talking on your cell phone while riding, not to try to shoot video of self while riding -- how did you do that?
I bike everywhere too, year round, so I'm particularly attuned to the Door-Zone Death Trap and other pitfalls of biking. I saw that when Mayor Menino took to his bike to get around Boston he was shocked to see how un-bike-friendly Boston is.
Margaret Desjardins
NeighborMedia 02138

As someone who rides around Cambridge from time to time, I found this very helpful, thanks!


Hello CK
Thank you for reading and commenting, glad it was helpful. Actually researching it was helpful for ME because even though I ride a lot, I did not know it was forbidden to ride on sidewalks or lock up to a meter (everyone seems to do it though)...or that buses can carry up to 2 bikes...
Margaret Desjardins
NeighborMedia 02138

I love the idea of riding bikes, but would never want to have my loved ones ride on the street. I don't understand why it is the law to have bikes sandwiched between moving vehicles weighing a half ton, and parked cars that can open a door quickly. Each year in Cambridge seems to see another bike fatality.

On the other hand, on less crowded sidewalks, I'd like to see bikes and pedestrians sharing the space respectfully and carefully.

When I'm in a car, bikes seem too close and are a stressor and annoyance to me as a driver.

Yes, the bike laws are contradictory... "ride on the right but DON'T ride on the right..." For local distances anyway, it's better to bike than drive (not to mention parking) so I wish they'd make it safer for all of us! Thanks Sharon!
Margaret Desjardins
NeighborMedia 02138

Sometimes the legal thing to do with a bike is the least safe thing. Mass Ave comes into Harvard Square from the south and merges with JFK and immediately both splits into Broadway and enters a rotary. You can either ride with traffic and dodge four lanes of interchanging cars or take your changes on the sidewalk with the foreign tourists. And if you break the law on a bike you get the same fine, license points, and penalties as if you were in a car.

I notice a lot of jerk bikers out there that don't help the reputation either. I'm not sure if cities will respond with positive changes to bike law until bikers actually obey the law.

I confess I ride with traffic as far as the Out of Town News, but then dodge across 4 lanes to Church Street...verrrrry carefully...if there was a divider in the middle it would be safer....
Margaret Desjardins
NeighborMedia 02138