Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Somerville Police Announce Bicycle Safety and Enforcement Campaign

Yesterday, Somerville Police Chief Thomas Pasquarello announced that starting today, April 11, the Somerville Police will increase enforcement of bicycle traffic regulations under Massachusetts General Law Chapter 85, which was recently revised and updated.

What Does this Mean for Cyclists?
In short, like motor vehicle operators, cyclists can and will be ticketed for violating traffic rules. Since bicyclists are not licensed, however, and bicycles need not be registered, the revised law provides special provisions for enforcement: Section 11E states that “a police officer who observes a traffic law violation committed by a bicyclist, may request the offender to state his true name and address”. If the offender refuses, provides false information, or information not ordinarily used, he or she is subject to arrest and a criminal fine of not more than $50.00. Civil infractions are subject to a $20 fine. 

Chief Pasquarello urged bicyclists to familiarize themselves with the Traffic Compliance Law. Key rules are summarized HERE. MassBike's "Same Roads, Same Rules" webpage on traffic safety in Massachusetts for all participants offers a useful refresher as well HERE. Somerville Traffic Regulations can be reviewed in detail HERE.  

“Bicyclists have a right to share the road and they should command respect from other drivers,” said Chief Pasquarello.  “At the same time, they need to show respect for the rights of pedestrians and vehicle drivers. We’re all in this together, which is why we expect full cooperation from everyone on our roads and sidewalks as we work to reduce accidents and improve safety.”

Bicycle Safety Campaign Launching Soon
As part of the City's increasing efforts to promote bicycle safety, a new citywide Bicycle Safety Campaign will also be launching soon. Watch for posters, brochures, and public awareness efforts designed to help all traffic participants--drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists--learn to more safely share our roads.


  1. "they should command respect from other drivers"

    Respect is earned. Drivers can't cross any red light willy nilly, nor are there legitimate negatives for bike riders at any time.

    It may feel good to read this, but there is no legitimacy to this "plan." It takes time to arrest a biker for no ID, then the bike has to be handled, this won't do anything.

    I wish it would, but it won't.

  2. Well this explains why I got a ticket on my way to work this morning

  3. Bicyclists should command respect by biking responsibly... but many don't. Likewise, all bicyclists have bad experiences with drivers who don't know or respect their rights. Fortunately for everyone, the rest of us can still respect the law and the rights of others even while some of us behave like impatient children.

  4. We all agree that bicyclist should operate with respect for the law, and also that motorist should respect bicyclist on the road. We all have a story about someone on a bike doing something reckless.
    We live in a town where a street cleaning ticket is $50.00 and a permit sticker cost $30.00. Somerville charges some of the highest fees around. This sounds to me as another desperate way for the city to raise revenue. That's all it is. What will be the next thing the city decides to enforce?

  5. A law abiding cyclist and motoristApril 11, 2012 at 10:48 PM

    Considering how many cars run red lights in Somerville every day, they should have a Automobile Safety and Enforcement Campaign, too.

  6. Unfortunately not just cyclists are in danger on our streets. We're all in danger because of drunk ans speeding drivers that can cause a car accident any time.
    Local authorities tried to increase the penalties for speeding tickets Toronto but the result was not very good....they continued to speed like crazy so that's why I think the only solution would be a license suspension....The same thing should be done to drivers that don't respect cyclists in traffic, and this way maybe our streets would be safer.

  7. Thank you for all the thoughtful comments. As a follow-up, here are a few words from Dept. Police Chief Paul Upton, “This has never been and will never be a revenue program. Our priority is accident reduction. There are three major components to traffic collisions. Vehicles (cars, truck and motor cycles), bicycles and pedestrians. All three play a role in the cause and effect of traffic crashes.
    Accident reduction has three elements: engineering, education and enforcement.
    The Police Department makes road re-engineering recommendations when appropriate. We have been doing some limited education through Cycle Kids and the annual Kiwanis Bike Safety day and hope to do more in the future. Police recruits now receive training in bicycle laws as part of their Academy program. We will be providing some additional information and training to our officers in the coming weeks.
    Until yesterday, our enforcement was focused solely on vehicles and their drivers. Now, we are diverting some attention to bicycle operators. We are trying to make the city safer. It is never about revenue for us, but many people will not change their ways if there isn't some type of penalty. In the case of bike riders, nearly all penalties are $20.00, which is set by the State, not the City.
    We know that most drivers, bike riders and pedestrians act responsibly. We have several hundred thousand cars and hundreds of bicycles a day travelling to or through our city. It's only a small percentage that disregard the safety of others. Those individuals are the target of this campaign.”

  8. Also, just updated the post with this useful link to the MassBike "Same Roads, Same Rules" website, which offers traffic safety information for all traffic participants:

  9. As a regular cyclists, I'm glad to see the Police enforce against bad behavior no matter whether it's a car or a bike.

    Cambridge has been enforcing bike laws for years (sometimes more than others) and it definitely has an effect on behavior. SPD should consult with Cambridge PD to get some tips on how to handle cyclists.

    As for generating revenue... I think ticketing bad behavior is a great way to raise money. In fact, I wish we'd dump all of our income/ property taxes and just penalize bad behavior to raise our money, we'd be a lot better off.

  10. Kudos to the police chief. I see lots of unsafe riding around South Station (walking to and from wormk) and more on weekends (riding through Watertown, Cambridge and Boston.) No one seems to reign those riders in.

    Motorists are a greater threat, but cyclists have unfortunately become a menace too.

  11. Cambridge enforcement of bike laws is sporadic; enforcement there has NOT been going on for years.

    It only happens there when enough residents complain about it. Then it falls off.

  12. What took Somerville so long to enforce an ordinance (prohibiting sidewalk cycling in business districts) that'd been on the books for over three years?

    Maybe a pro-cycling bias at City Hall?

    Why, I'm shocked! Truly shocked!

  13. I think the reason there are bicyclists on the sidewalks in our squares is that they are scared for their lives on the roads, with so many car doors flying open and motorists in 2-ton metal boxes buzzing by at unsafely close distances. I feel like the education component should have been launched before the enforcement blitz, or at least that warnings should be given out at first instead of full tickets.

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  15. Traffic laws should also be enforced against pedestrians. I frequently see them jaywalking or walking (and especialy jogging) on the street rather than the sidewalk. Jaywalking is not a problem most of the time when people take care to cross only when there is no car traffic, but sometimes people jaywalk right in front of cars and cause a hazard and/or slow down the flow of traffic. This routinely happens in downtown Boston and the total lack of enforcement is unbeievable to most people from other areas. In NYC the jaywalking enforcement is also lax but the pedestrians get out of the way when cars are coming--in Boston they just saunter across the street and force the cars to stop, exacerbating the already horrendous traffic conditions. Like jaywalking, bike violations should only be enforced against those that create a hazard or impede the flow of traffic.

  16. So where's this vaunted enforcement NOW (August)?

    Looks like it's sputtered out, along with the ballyhooed Bicycle Safety Campaign...

    Looks like booth were just PR gambits, eh?

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