Legislative Update: E-Bike Definitions, Vulnerable Road User Protections, and Safe Yielding

On Tuesday, October 17th, 2023, the Joint Committee on Transportation held a hearing that included several bills that MassBike is supporting this session. The three key bills we were seeking to support were: S.2230 An Act relative to class 3 electric bicycles, H.3470 An Act relative to roadway safety, and H.3702 An Act to promote safe bicycle yielding.

MassBike wants to extend our thanks to the Joint Committee on Transportation for all the successes from the past session, including defining electric assist bicycles and codifying protections for vulnerable road users, especially the 4-ft passing law. This session we are seeking that the committee builds off their strong foundational work by including class-3 e-bikes in our definitions, and expands protections for vulnerable users when they are crossing roadways.

In regards to S.2230 An Act relative to class 3 electric bicycles, Mook said that though we have definitions of two classes of e-bikes in state law, we do not define class-3 electric bicycles, leaving Massachusetts out of alignment with federal definitions and in a regulatory grey-area with our own statewide regulations since the Massachusetts Department of Recreation (DCR) has also defined all three e-bike classes. To fix this, S.2230 introduces language that adds class-3, and clears up concerns about jurisdictional ability to regulate e-bike riding on sidewalks, paths, and natural surface trails.

Bill H.3470 An Act relative to roadway safety expands protections in marked crossings, or crosswalks, to all vulnerable road users. Mook noted this fix to the nuanced language in Massachusetts General Laws is about “A change of culture on our roadways to redefine how motorists treat humans out there.” Mook sees this bill as another way to underscore the vulnerability of people on our roads and ensure that anyone walking or rolling can safely cross the street.

View his full testimony

Marblehead advocate Dan Albert shared a concise and compelling testimony in support of H.3702 An Act to prompt safe bicycle yielding. This bill will allow bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs and help bicyclists ride safer on our roadways.

“The language of House Bill 3702 has been adapted from the Delaware Yield law. With passage, Massachusetts will join the eighteen jurisdictions that have enacted this data-driven traffic safety rule. These laws reduce crashes by 20 to 25 percent. The committee members and the public may be puzzled by that finding, so let me explain the science.

First, because of the nature of the driving task, we focus primarily on objects in motion when we’re behind the wheel. We’re vaguely aware of the telephone poles and houses along the route, but it’s the traffic in motion that concerns us. That’s why the yielding cyclist, slowly entering an intersection is safer. Drivers tend not to see or yield the right of way to motionless cyclist.

Second, the Massachusetts Yield will reduce the bicyclist’s time in the kill zone. During COVID, health officials had us keep ourselves six feet apart. This reduced the risk of exposure to the potentially deadly virus. In the same way, the less time the cyclist spends exposed to the cross street at an intersection, the less chance they have of being struck by a motor vehicle.”

View his full testimony


Take Action – Write to the Committee to share your voice!

You have until Friday, October 27, 2023, to provide your written support for these critical bills. 

Send your testimony to:

Below are the bills that need your support and some of our suggested talking points. We would like to thank Senator Sal DiDomenico, Representative Tommy Vitolo, Representative Jennifer Armini, and Representative Lindsay Sabadosa for filing these important bills.

H.2230 An Act relative to class 3 electric bicycles

Filed by: Senator DiDomenico (Middlesex and Suffolk)

What it does

  • Adds a definition for Class-3 e-bikes to state law and allows for full jurisdictional power to regulate for where e-bikers can ride on sidewalks, paths, and natural surface trails

Why we support it 

  • The definition will match federal classifications and DCR regulations
  • Identify them so we can properly regulate them
    • Since class-3 e-bikes are being sold, bought, and ridden throughout the commonwealth – if we know what they are, we can clearly set regulations for their use on roads and paths
  • Identify them as e-bikes in order to be included in programs to incentivize e-bike usage

H.3470 An Act relative to roadway safety

Filed by: Representative Tommy Vitolo (15th Norfolk)

What it does

  • Redefines crosswalks as “marked crossings” and expands protections in marked crossings to “vulnerable users”

Why we support it

  • Builds off the Vulnerable Road Users protections by cleaning up language in Mass General Law
  • How we change the culture of responsibility on our roadways, since motorists should have the responsibility to yield to all vulnerable users
  • We know it’s not just pedestrians crossing our roadways: there are children in cargo bikes, people on scooters, wheelchairs, and other mobility devices who are using "crosswalks"

H.3702 An Act to promote safe bicycle yielding

Filed by: Representative Jennifer Balinsky Armini (8th Essex) and Representative Lindsay N. Sabadosa (1st Hampshire)

What it does

  • Allows bicyclists to legally treat stop signs as a “yield”

Why we support it

  • Though this feels counterintuitive, national studies (including from the The National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration) have shown these laws reduce crashes by 20 to 25 percent
  • This law has been tested, and we would be joining 18 states
  • Delaware conducted a study after passing their “Delaware Yield” that showed how it increased visibility and reduced exposure: https://www.bikede.org/delaware-yield-crash-data

Thanks to the MassBike members who worked with their local legislators to elevate these important issues. MassBike often advocates for bills brought by our members, you can see our priority bills on our Legislation page.

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