A new roadway safety law is now in effect to improve safety for vulnerable road users — anyone other than a vehicle — by establishing new passing requirements, requiring safety equipment on specific state vehicles, clarifying key definitions, and clarifying a process for municipalities to reduce speed limits on roadways.

The law, signed by former Gov. Charlie Baker on Jan. 2, defines “vulnerable road users” as pedestrians, road workers, bicyclists, skateboarders, roller and in-line skaters, wheelchair users, non-motorized scooter users, users of electric assistive mobility devices, horses, horse drawn carriages, micro mobility devices, and operators of farm tractors and similar vehicles — essentially any user of roadways other than vehicles. Under the law, motorists are required to provide at least 4 feet of space when passing any vulnerable road user.

The law requires cyclists to use rear red lights while riding at night. Cyclists lacking red lights, however, may not be stopped by law enforcement as a primary offense.

The law also obligates the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to create and maintain signage informing drivers of vulnerable user safe passage rules on public ways.

Amendments to speed limits on municipal roads approved by local governing bodies will need certification from MassDOT’s Division of Highways that the change is in the public’s interest. Previously, such a change required certification from MassDOT as well as the registrar of motor vehicles.

The law also allows local governing bodies to petition MassDOT to adjust speed limits on state highways within a municipality. MassDOT must approve or respond to a petition within 90 days. If no response is provided, the new speed limit will become effective. MassDOT will be responsible for associated speed limit signage.

MassBike Executive Director Galen Mook and Sen. Will Brownsberger held a webinar discussing the new law on March 13. MassBike offers a number of related resources.

The law took effect 90 days after it was signed.

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