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Ask a Trooper: A refresher on bicycle laws and safety issues

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columns Bemidji, 56619
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

Question: Can you please talk about some specific bicycle laws and safety issues? A lot of people I know really have no idea of what the laws are or what the problems are.

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Answer: The number of bicycle fatalities in Minnesota declined in each year from 2008-2011. Nationally, bicyclist fatalities increased 9 percent from 2010-2011, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. In addition, bicyclist deaths also accounted for a growing number of overall traffic deaths — 2.1 percent in 2011, according to the NHTSA. However, traffic safety experts know there is still much work to be done in Minnesota to improve bicycle safety. Preliminary data from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety shows a slight increase in bicycle deaths in 2012 — seven were killed, compared to five in 2011. Injuries were down by about 6 percent in 2012.

Here are some of the basic bicyclist laws for Minnesota, taken from M.S.S. 169.222:

“Every person operating a bicycle has to obey the same rules as those driving a vehicle (unless it cannot reasonably be applied to bicycles). No bicycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed and equipped, except on a baby seat attached to the bicycle (safely and appropriately according to the law requirements).

Persons riding upon any bicycle cannot attach the bike or themselves to any vehicle upon a roadway. Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction, or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway, or when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions, including fixed or moving objects, vehicles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or narrow width lanes, that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge.

If a bicycle is traveling on a shoulder of a roadway, the bicycle shall travel in the same direction as adjacent vehicular traffic. Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway or shoulder shall not ride more than two abreast and shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway and they shall ride within a single lane. A person operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk, or across a roadway or shoulder on a crosswalk, shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal when necessary before overtaking and passing any pedestrian. Also, no person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district unless permitted by local authorities.”

I think that’s enough laws for now. Helmets are not required, but we highly recommend them when riding a bicycle.

— SGT. CURT S. MOWERS is with the Minnesota State Patrol.

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