Ask MassBike: Pedestrian/Bicyclists Crash In Bike Lane, Legal Options?

We 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 Jim about a crash in a bike lane. While we do our best, we are not lawyers, and the following shouldn't be taken as legal advice, in fact we recommend you talk to a real lawyer, Andrew Fischer is a good one in the Boston Area

Good afternoon,
I was cycling westbound in a bike lane and an inattentive runner entered the bike lane causing me to crash into him. I called the police and filed a report, yet the responding officer stated there are no laws stating people cannot run in the bike lane. There was significant damage to my bike (thankfully both of us are ok physically),though without any law stating the runner was at fault being in the bike lane (which he is arguing), I would essentially have to take this individual to court to get compensation for damages instead of going through insurance or having the police cite him etc. Was hoping you might have some info on this?

Thank you,

Well Jim first let me say I am glad both of you are alright. We asked around to Walk Boston, and some other people and were unable to find out much more about this but we did dig up the following.

I don't think there is a state law that specifically prohibits pedestrians from walking (or running) in the roadway, although most people prefer to walk on the sidewalk for obvious reasons.

State law defines a bike lane in MGL chapter 90E, section 1:
Bike lane, a lane on a street restricted to bicycles and so designated by means of painted lines, pavement coloring or other appropriate markings.

This implies that only bicycles are supposed to be in bike lanes. But I think it is really left to local ordinances. For example, Boston passed an ordinance last fall that prohibits parking in bike lanes.

It may be that the only recourse here is a civil lawsuit. Anyone entering a roadway, regardless of whether they are driving, biking, or on foot, has a duty to exercise reasonable care, and a failure to do so that causes damage or injury to someone else is negligence.

Again I would say that we are not lawyers, and that you should contact one. We hope that this information helps and that you are back out on your bike soon.

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