In Nantucket, bicyclists are fighting for the right to stay on the road and MassBike is standing with them.
A Nantucket bicyclist recently contacted us to report an attempt to change the town’s bylaws to prohibit bicyclists from riding on the road. The prohibition is included on the warrant for Nantucket’s 2010 Annual Town Meeting in April to forbid bicyclists from riding on the road when there is an adjacent bike path. Apparently, some Nantucket motorists are annoyed that they have to share the island’s roads with bicyclists out for morning rides.
MassBike is advising local activists on how to fight this proposal. Even if Nantucket isn’t your community, we cannot let this restriction on bicyclists stand anywhere in Massachusetts. We need to stop this proposed bylaw before it spreads. We need to say with a united voice that “Bicyclists have a right to the road!”
Massachusetts law is very clear on this issue: Bicyclists “have the right to use all public ways in the commonwealth except limited access or express state highways where signs specifically prohibiting bicycles have been posted”. See MGL Chapter 85, Section 11B. Unless the road in question is the Pike, or I-93, or another highway with on/off ramps and no intersections or driveways, bicycles simply cannot be excluded. So, legally, this is a no-brainer: Nantucket cannot limit bicyclist access to roads.
We support building more paths to get more people out on their bikes. Bicyclists also need access to roads, because paths don’t go everywhere we need to go. This is also a safety issue. Bike paths (shared use paths in most cases) are a great place for riding, however not every kind of cycling is appropriate for paths. Bicyclists who want to ride fast cannot be required to stay on shared use paths, where they are forced to dodge slower bicyclists, walkers, runners, skaters, baby strollers, dogs, and more – not to mention cars when the path crosses a road.
We’ve already seen some progress. MassBike has provided information and coaching on how to approach the Finance Committee meeting, and bicyclist Jason Bridges and bike shop owner Harvey Young successfully represented bicyclist interests at the meeting. The Finance Committee voted unanimously to “not recommend” the restriction. The Town Counsel even reiterated that the proposed restriction is illegal.
But the prohibition is not dead yet. MassBike will continue helping Nantucket bicyclists to make sure that the Town Meeting rejects this outrageous restriction, before it spreads to any other parts of Massachusetts. We need your help! MassBike relies on member support to fight for bicyclists across the state, so join MassBike today! It is only by strength of numbers that we are able to put pressure on government bodies to change illegal and discriminatory rules, or to keep them from being passed.