MassBike Fights To Keep Bicyclists On The Road In Nantucket

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.

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4 Responses to MassBike Fights To Keep Bicyclists On The Road In Nantucket

  1. John Allen March 15, 2010 at 12:38 am #

    This is good but will Massbike fight to keep bicyclists on the road in Cambridge? Cambridge has a couple of projects underway to narrow roadways and put bicyclists behind the curbs. The Concord Avenue project is particularly alarming because there are 21 driveways and 7 streets entering from an industrial area adjacent to the westbound lane. The appropriate solution here in my opinion would be to leave the footprint of Concord Avenue as it is and to extend the path in Fresh Pond Park along the south side of Concord Avenue. This will provide a suitable option for casual and child cyclists. A “cycle track” that crosses an industrial driveway or street every 100 feet is entirely unsuitable.

    • David March 16, 2010 at 1:42 pm #

      John, thanks for the comment, and I’m sure we’ll take a look at this project. Regardless of what you think about the project, however, this is not a case where a community is attempting to ban bicyclists from using the road.

  2. Paul Schimek March 17, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

    Thanks for working on this issue. Perhaps we can even turn this around, so that the Town issues a directive to its police that bicyclists have a right to use roads, even when there are paths beside them, and posts signs at the beginning of each path intersection indicating to motorists that bicyclists may use either the road or the path.

    Somehow I doubt that this will happen though. When paths are placed along roads (or sidewalks by any name designated as bikeways), bicyclists lose their effective right to the road, even if they continue to have a legal right. Motorists harass them and deliberately drive dangerously (this has happened to me). Police threaten to arrest them for riding in the road (this has happened to me.) City officials can’t understand why the adjacent road should be designed to be bicycle-friendly (I have heard this comment more than once.)

    Then there are the bicyclist prohibition signs that may still be illegally posted on Circuit Ave in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard (where there are no adjacent paths).

  3. russell donnelly July 21, 2010 at 8:18 pm #

    I see multiple problems with the Nantucket proposed bylaw.First,its like looking at the sun and concluding that the sun rises and sets each day as it orbits around the earth.Nantucket is an island,for crying out loud.The problem is not that bicyclists obstruct cars.The problem is that cars are not appropriately disincentivised to arrive on the island in the first place.Second,if those in favor of the bylaw were actually natives and not washashores who want to keep the island convenient for them,they would realize that it is important to keep the roads open for all of the fishermen who no longer have valid driving licenses and must rely on bikes.After all,it was originally a quaint drinking village with a fishing problem.