Ask MassBike: Business Districts And Sidewalk Bicycle Riding

42-21548197We get a lot of questions here at MassBike, and we like to think we also give some pretty good answers. We realized that sharing these questions and answers on our website would be a valuable resource to others looking for the same information.

We got this question from John about riding on the sidewalk in Boston.

I enjoyed listening to you today on NPR, however there was one question which I don’t think was adequately answered, the question was whether it’s legal to ride on sidewalks, the answer was that it was not legal in certain “commercial areas,” but I’m not sure what that means. Is it legal to ride on sidewalks in the Back Bay, such as Commonwealth Ave? Thanks, John

Hello John

Each town in Massachusetts gets to choose where its “business districts” are, so you will need to check with each town to figure out where it is OK to ride, and where it isn’t. Almost every place in Boston and Cambridge is considered a “business district” and as such it is not OK to ride your bike on the sidewalk, If you had a specific question about a specific road you should contact the city.

If you have a question for MassBike, contact us.

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2 Responses to Ask MassBike: Business Districts And Sidewalk Bicycle Riding

  1. Charlie December 29, 2009 at 2:51 pm #

    Cambridge and Somerville both clearly define where the business districts are in which sidewalk bicycling is prohibited.

    Cambridge has a map of each district:
    http://www.cambridgema.gov/CDD/et/bike/bike_ban.html

    Somerville outlines the districts on the Somerville By Bike map:
    http://www.somervillema.gov/CoS_Content/documents/2009-04-13SomervilleByBicycle.pdf

    Both cities also usually have signage and/or pavement markings that denote where sidewalk bicycling is prohibited.

    I think technically sidewalk bicycling is prohibited in the entire City of Boston, however it seems to be only enforced when bicyclists are causing a danger to pedestrians, it at all. I think the key is to use good judgment. On some of the wide sidewalks near BU, there is enough room to bicycle slowly while still being courteous to pedestrians. However, in much of the city, the sidewalks are too narrow and number of pedestrians too high to do it safely.

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