What You Need to Know About Minnesota Bike Laws

Going back as far as the 1890’s, bicyclists have been granted the same rights and duties as other vehicles, including cars, horses, carriages and other modes of transport.  The real battle over bicycle rights took place shortly after the bicycle craze of the 1890’s, which involved riders called “Scorchers” speeding through city streets with complete abandon. Despite a public outcry against the Scorchers, bikes were eventually given the same rights to the road as other vehicles.

Minnesota starts out with the same premise – A bicyclist has the same rights and duties as the driver of any other vehicle. But wait, that’s not the end of the story. There are exceptions written into the law just for bicycles and bicyclists. Here are a few of them.

THE RIGHT HAND SIDE RULE EXCEPTION

The most famous exception is the right-hand side rule, which exists in almost every State, including Minnesota. The rule is crucial to understanding bicycle laws.

The right hand side rule provides that bicyclists must ride as close as practicable to the right hand side of the road, unless: unless:

  • The bicyclist is passing another vehicle.
  • The bicyclist is going to make a left turn
  • Moving away from the right hand side is reasonably necessary for the bicyclist to avoid conditions,vehicles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or narrow width lanes, that would make it unsafe to continue along the right hand side.

Consider this rule for a moment. If there is debris along the right side or the road, or potholes, gravel or other hazards, the bicyclist may move toward the center of the roadway. As we know, it is rare for the right hand side of roadways to be free of debris or hazards. If a bicyclist is cited for not being far enough to the right, evidence should immediately be obtained about the conditions on the right side to show the hazard that existed.

There are several other differences and exceptions to the general rules that bicyclists have the same rights as other vehicles, in Minnesota. For instance:

  • A bike cannot carry more persons at a time, than it is designed for. This rule is self-explanatory and makes sense from a safety standpoint.
  • Bicyclists are permitted ride side by side, or two abreast, as long as they do not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.

This rule is somewhat vague as to what “impeding the normal and reasonable movement of traffic” means. It is meant to be a safety rule similar to slow moving vehicle laws.

Bicycles are permitted to ride on sidewalks, unless banned by local laws or ordinances. Minnesota has no state laws that ban riding on sidewalks, but instead leaves the law to local cities and municipalities to permit or ban riding on sidewalks.\

BICYCLE HELMETS – REQUIRED BY MINNESOTA LAW?

No helmet is required by Minnesota Bike Law. In fact for adults, only the Virgin Islands require a helmet. No other state or territory requires them for adult riders. 21 states do require helmets for various ages, for ages 18 and below.

DWI ON BICYCLES?

In Minnesota, the DUI laws only apply to ‘motor vehicles’. They do not apply to human propelled devices. So unless your bicycle has some type of motor, you cannot get a DUI on your bicycle. Many states do have DUI laws for bicycles however.

CELL PHONES AND TEXTING WHILE BIKING

Minnesota’s cell phone texting laws only apply to motor vehicles. They do not apply to bicycles. It is not illegal for a bicyclist to use their cell phones or text while riding. (Although greatly discouraged for obvious reasons.)

HEADSETS AND EARPHONES WHILE BIKING

Riding with headsets or earphones is legal in Minnesota.

LIGHTS AT NIGHT

Minnesota requires that bicycles have legal lights and reflectors at night.

THE MINNESOTA RED LIGHT EXEMPTION; RUNNING RED LIGHTS

Since many traffic lights are triggered by the large metal of cars and trucks, which set off magnets under the road, bicyclists often come to red lights that will never turn green for them.  So a bicyclist may cross against a red light under these conditions. They must come to a complete stop, AND the light must be red for an unreasonable amount of time, and the traffic signal must be apparently malfunctioning, and finally, there must be no motor vehicle approaching that constitutes an immediate hazard. Minnesota Statute 169.09. If a cyclist meets all of these conditions, they may proceed through the intersection against the red light.

MINNESOTA DOORING LAWS

One hazard faced by bicyclists is getting “doored”.  “Dooring” is caused when a car door opens onto the roadway, and hits or injures a bicyclist. This situation is addressed by Minnesota law, which provides that “no person shall open any door on a motor vehicle unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic.” Minnesota Statute 169.315.

INSURANCE FOR BICYCLE ACCIDENTS

Insurance for bicycle accidents is complicated under Minnesota law, but here is a general summary that goes through some of the usual insurance coverage found in Minnesota.

No Fault Insurance Coverage

In general, if a motor vehicle is involved, there is usually no-fault insurance for the injured bicyclist. No Fault provides up to $20,000 in medical bill coverage and mileage; and another $20,000 for wage loss and lost housekeeping or homemaking.

Liability Insurance

If the motor vehicle is at fault for the accident, that vehicle’s insurance covers bicycle damage, including all property damage. The motor vehicle insurance also provides liability coverage of at least $30,000 for the injured bicyclist, for their injuries.

Uninsured and Under-insured Insurance

If the motor vehicle involved is uninsured, and at fault, the bicyclist can obtain coverage from their own automobile policy, call “Uninsured” coverage. Minnesota’s state minimum coverage for this is $25,000.  Bicyclists are strongly encouraged to obtain better policy limits than this $25,000 minimum. It costs very little to upgrade the Uninsured coverage, and it is well worth it. It is suggested the bicyclists carry at least $100,000 in coverage.

Under-insured coverage applies when the vehicle at fault does not have enough insurance coverage to cover the injuries to the bicyclist. If there is not enough coverage, the bicyclist can then go to their own auto policy to obtain this additional coverage. The state minimum is $25,000. Again, bicyclists are encouraged to obtain at least $100,000 in under-insured coverage.

Homeowner’s Insurance

If a bicyclist has homeowners coverage, it will cover stolen bicycles and will cover the bicyclists who are at fault for an accident, and cause damage to another person’s property.

A SUMMARY OF MINNESOTA BIKE LAWS:

Here are Minnesota Bike Laws, as summarized by the Minnesota bike advocacy group, Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota:

  • Ride on the right with traffic; obey all traffic signs and signals; bicyclists have all rights and duties of any other vehicle driver. M. S. Section 169.222, sub-section
  • Legal lights and reflectors are required at night. Sub-section 6a
  • A continuous arm signal is required during last 100 feet prior to a turn or lane change (unless the arm is needed to control the bike) and while stopped, waiting to turn.
  • On roadways cyclists may ride two abreast but can’t impede normal and reasonable movement of traffic. Cyclists must ride in a single lane.
  • Ride as close as practicable to the right hand curb or the edge of roadway except: when overtaking a vehicle; when preparing for a left turn; when necessary to avoid conditions that make it unsafe such as fixed or moving objects, surface hazards, or narrow-width lanes.
  • Yield to pedestrians on sidewalks and crosswalks; give an audible signal when necessary before overtaking. No riding on sidewalks within business districts unless permitted.
  • No hitching rides on other vehicles.
  • Only one person is allowed on a bike unless equipped for more, or if a legal baby seat is used.
  • Don’t carry anything that prevents keeping one hand on the handlebars or impedes proper operation of brakes.
  • Brakes must allow skidding on dry, level, clean pavement.
  • Handlebars must not be above shoulder level.
  • Bicycle size must allow safe operation.
  • Bicycle parking on sidewalks is allowed, as long as 1) it does not impede normal and reasonable movement of pedestrian or other traffic, and 2) unless it is locally restricted.
  • Legal parking on a roadway that does not obstruct legally parked motor vehicles is allowable.
  • Safe bicycle events approved by local authorities, which do not seriously inconvenience other highway users, are not unlawful. Traffic laws can be waived.
  • When passing a bicycle or pedestrian, motor vehicles shall leave at least 3 feet clearance until safely past the bicycle or pedestrian. M.S. 169.18

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