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Old 12-14-10, 07:39 PM   #1
Harutz
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Custom Bikes Illegal?

I was doing a little reading on local bike laws in Massachusetts, and I came across this list of restrictions:

"You must ride astride a regular, permanent seat that is attached to your bicycle. You must keep one hand on your handlebars at all times.
...
You may not carry a passenger anywhere on your bike except on a regular seat permanently attached to the bike, or to a trailer towed by the bike. You may not carry any child between the ages of 1 to 4, or weighing 40 pounds or less, anywhere on a single-passenger bike except in a baby seat attached to the bike. The child must be able to sit upright in the seat and must be held in the seat by a harness or seatbelt. Their hands and feet must be out of reach of the wheel spokes. You may not carry any child under the age of 1 on your bike, even in a baby seat. You may not use a siren or whistle on your bike to warn pedestrians. You may not park your bike on a street, road, bikeway or sidewalk where it will be in other people's way. You may not carry anything on your bike unless it is in a basket, rack, bag, or trailer designed for the purpose. You may not modify your bike so that your hands are higher than your shoulders when gripping the handlebars. You may not alter the fork of your bike to extend it."

I haven't yet been able to find the actual text of the law, but this came from the Mass Bike Coalition.

I was amused by the actual legal requirement of a seat, but surprised by there being laws addressing handlebar height and fork length.
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Old 12-14-10, 08:36 PM   #2
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Probably to stop those crazy bikes with ape hanger's and 6 foot long forks ....... which look cool (in my opinion at least) but are NOT safe for road use ... they have the turning circle measured in miles.
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Old 12-14-10, 09:35 PM   #3
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I think the old method of extending forks used to involve chopping up a few forks and brazing the bits together. If the restriction was addressing that issue, I might agree. Forks ought to be stronger than that.
Apehangers shouldn't even be restricted. They are no worse than any set of bars.

The reality is that modifying bicycles is a "who cares" issue, and the chances of being hassled by the law over your customized bike probably aren't worth considering.

The closest analog to this is the enforcement of laws relating to automobile modifications. Back in the '50s-'70s many fix-it tickets were written for loud exhausts, no fenders, lowered suspensions etc. I see street-driven cars and motorcycles flaunting these still-on-the-books laws today, and nobody really gives a damn. This is as it should be, there are bigger problems to solve than whether Johnny has fenders on his bike or car.
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Old 12-14-10, 09:55 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Harutz View Post
You may not modify your bike so that your hands are higher than your shoulders when gripping the handlebars. You may not alter the fork of your bike to extend it.
It doesn't say you can't ride a modified bike; it says you're not supposed to modify the bike in those two ways. So as long as you get someone else to modify your bike, I think you're good to go.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 12-14-10, 09:56 PM   #5
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I think the old method of extending forks used to involve chopping up a few forks and brazing the bits together.
Heck, when we were kids, we just slipped them together. Brazing? Who did that?
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 12-15-10, 10:26 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
It doesn't say you can't ride a modified bike; it says you're not supposed to modify the bike in those two ways. So as long as you get someone else to modify your bike, I think you're good to go.
Yes!
Also, "modify" would imply changing a bike after it was initially manufactured. So if you built the frame yourself it could have as long a fork and/or bars as you wanted. Silly legislators.
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Old 12-17-10, 04:39 PM   #7
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I read that same thing, a few years ago. Made me chuckle, most of my bikes are LAW BREAKERS......My wife married me because I was a BAD boy!
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Old 12-17-10, 10:04 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
Heck, when we were kids, we just slipped them together. Brazing? Who did that?
We took it one step closer to being safe and held the joints together with hose clamps.
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Old 12-18-10, 02:50 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harutz View Post
I was doing a little reading on local bike laws in Massachusetts, and I came across this list of restrictions:

"You may not use a siren or whistle on your bike to warn pedestrians."
But, but, they get angry when I warn them by hurling obscenities!

Okay, they were probably just trying to get people to stick with things like bells. I do have to wonder how they feel about an Air Zound to warn cars.
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Old 12-23-10, 07:22 AM   #10
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"You may not modify your bike"

I can modify yours, and you can modify mine, buy you can't modify your own?
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Old 12-23-10, 09:04 AM   #11
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MA probably wrote that law when they wrote the motorcycle laws, they have pretty strict laws regarding modified motorcycles in regards to the bars and forks, some guy probably just transfered it over to the bicycle laws.
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Old 12-23-10, 09:37 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Harutz View Post
You may not carry anything on your bike unless it is in a basket, rack, bag, or trailer designed for the purpose.
Really? Not carry anything? Really??!? Not in my pocket? Not tied to my waist?

But anything 'in a bag designed for the purpose <of carrying things (as all bags are)>' then it is ok. Doesn't need to be securely fastened or held safely... buy five cartons of smokes at the drugstore, wrap them up in the bag they came in and carry it under your arm and that is OK. But a pack of smokes under your T-shirt sleeve is a no-no.

I would like to read the original text just to see if there is as much ambiguity.
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Old 12-23-10, 02:01 PM   #13
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Got it: MA Bike Law.

Quote:
(6) The operator shall not carry any package, bundle or article except in or on a basket, rack, trailer or other device designed for such purposes. The operator shall keep at least one hand upon the handlebars at all times.
This part is funny, too-
Quote:
(5) The operator shall not permit the bicycle to be drawn by any other moving vehicle. The operator shall not tow any other vehicle or person, except that bicycle trailers properly attached to the bicycle which allow for firm control and braking may be used.
Grabbing onto a car while riding is actually kind of tricky. I tried it once for fun, but the pulling force on my left arm transferred to my right before I could try to compensate, forcing the handlebar to turn hard and ending with about a four inch scar. It was pretty funny because it was so unexpected at the time. We were only going 5-10mph.

Last edited by Harutz; 12-23-10 at 10:57 PM. Reason: spell better!
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Old 12-23-10, 08:50 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greyryder View Post
But, but, they get angry when I warn them by hurling obscenities!

Okay, they were probably just trying to get people to stick with things like bells. I do have to wonder how they feel about an Air Zound to warn cars.
what do you think theyll say when these go off


ive been warned a few times about my bikes ride height but theres no law or ordinance against ride height
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Old 12-25-10, 09:45 AM   #15
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Fromt he statute:
"Violations of any provision of this section except violations of subclause (iii) of clause (2) shall be punished by a fine of not more than twenty dollars."

Twenty dollars? TWENTY DOLLARS!?!??? In Ontario, Canada, there is a $90 fine for riding without a bell. I think there are 'service fees' on top of that so the actual fine is closer to $110.
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Old 12-27-10, 09:32 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by Harutz View Post
I was amused by the actual legal requirement of a seat, but surprised by there being laws addressing handlebar height and fork length.
Most likely a response to a huge trend at a very conservative time.

As always, John Brain has more info on this era.
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Old 12-27-10, 02:13 PM   #17
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There was a Florida (I think) guy on one of the Recumbent forums who had a policeman stop him on his recumbent tadpole trike and warn him that riding it in the street was not legal.
The reason was that the trike had 16-inch front wheels, and there was a law that said that any bicycle with wheels smaller than 20" were sidewalk bikes (presumably toddler bikes) and could not be used on public roads.
There might be a law but I wouldn't worry about getting such a ticket too much, though.

On the other hand, I know a lot of US states have laws saying that you cannot mount sirens on bicycles, even now.
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Old 12-27-10, 02:57 PM   #18
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I recall another recumbent trike rider in, I think, California, who was ticketed because the law required that he be able to put a foot down when stopped. The law doesn't require that you do put a foot down when stopped, and on a trike he had no need to put a foot down to hold up the trike, but the law says you have to be able to put a foot down when stopped.

In effect, faired trikes, Ordinaries, and tall bikes are illegal there.

But again, the probability of enforcement seems low.
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Old 12-27-10, 03:39 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jputnam View Post
I recall another recumbent trike rider in, I think, California, who was ticketed because the law required that he be able to put a foot down when stopped. The law doesn't require that you do put a foot down when stopped, and on a trike he had no need to put a foot down to hold up the trike, but the law says you have to be able to put a foot down when stopped.

In effect, faired trikes, Ordinaries, and tall bikes are illegal there.

But again, the probability of enforcement seems low.
The motor vehicle codes still contain the foot down and
anti-apehanger provisions here in California.

As to the probability of enforcement, here are the stats
from last September's "Ride Safe Month" here in the state
capital:
Quote:
A total of 183 citations (type of violation and number):

21650 CVC Riding of the wrong side of the road 75

10.76.010 SCC Riding on a Sidewalk in a business district 56

21212a CVC Under 18 riding without a helmet 17

21201a CVC non-operable brakes 8

21208a CVC Not riding in a bike lane when one is provided 8

27400 CVC Riding with both ears covered (headset) 8

21453a CVC Red Light 4

22450 CVC Stop Sign 3

21461a CVC Failure to Obey sign 2

21209 CVC Car driving in Bike Lane 1

10.12.090 SCC Loud Music 1



Note that there were a total of 18 reported bicycle involved collision reports, which is less
as compared to the same month in both 2008 (31) and 2009 (19). None of the collisions in
September 2010 involved a fatality.
This was the police response to a string of five
bicycle fatalities over the summer. I really
would love to know how the loud music guy
managed to piss off the constabulary.

But it seems you are correct so far in that
there is only sporadic enforcement here at all,
and the finer points of the code only come
into play if you fail the attitude test.

Respectfully,
Mike Larmer
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Old 12-27-10, 06:16 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 3alarmer View Post
The motor vehicle codes still contain the foot down and
anti-apehanger provisions here in California.

As to the probability of enforcement, here are the stats
from last September's "Ride Safe Month" here in the state
capital:


This was the police response to a string of five
bicycle fatalities over the summer. I really
would love to know how the loud music guy
managed to piss off the constabulary.

But it seems you are correct so far in that
there is only sporadic enforcement here at all,
and the finer points of the code only come
into play if you fail the attitude test.

Respectfully,
Mike Larmer
motorcycle radios can be pretty loud i run a set on my bike and its a much better alternative to headphones
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