‘Vulnerable Road Users’ in Massachusetts Win New Protections
A new class of people has won protections under Massachusetts state law. The so-called "vulnerable road user" has arrived.
In the waning hours of his administration, Governor Charlie Baker signed a stack of bills into law, chief among them (H 5013) mandating new passing rules to protect the lives of vulnerable road users.
What or who is a vulnerable road user?
According to State House News Service (SHNS), vulnerable road users are "bicyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, and anyone else who is not in a vehicle."
The law defines a vulnerable road user as "a pedestrian, including a person engaged in work upon a way or upon utility facilities along a way or engaged in the provision of emergency services within the way" or "a person operating a bicycle, handcycle, tricycle, skateboard, roller skates, in-line skates, non-motorized scooter, wheelchair, electric personal assistive mobility device, or a farm tractor or similar vehicle designed primarily for farm use."
The registrar of motor vehicles is authorized under the law to designate "other categories."
The law states "the operator of a motor vehicle shall pass at a safe distance of not less than 4 feet and at a reasonable and proper speed."
SHNS reported the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) must "erect and maintain signage along public ways necessary to notify operators of motor vehicles of the requirements for passing a vulnerable user from a safe distance."
The law requires "larger vehicles to be equipped with lateral protective devices, additional mirrors, and backup cameras."
The League of American Bicyclists has drafted a model Vulnerable Road User law that has been used as the basis for legislation in several states.
Baker originally returned the legislation with recommendations for changes.