Passing laws: Minnesota requires that in the event a motor vehicle passes a bicycle it shall leave a safe distance, not less than 3 feet, when passing the bicycle.
Helmet law: There is no state law in Minnesota that requires the operator of a bicycle to wear a helmet. However, although not required by law it is strongly recommended.
Laws to Protect the Bicyclist: There are certain laws entitled “vulnerable user laws.” These laws in essence require the vehicle least at risk to yield to the vehicle most at risk. Minnesota does not have any specific vulnerable laws.
Distracted Driving Laws: As almost every bicyclist knows, distracted driving creates one of the most dangerous risks to a bicycle on a public road way. Every state has varying laws to attempt to reduce the amount of distracted driving that exists. Nonetheless, it still presents a serious problem.
In Minnesota there have been laws passed to attempt to reduce distracted driving by punishing violators. Here is a summary of the present laws. There will be links at the end of this article to the specific laws in full detail.
- A person who holds a provisional permit may not drive a vehicle on a roadway while using a wireless phone, hands-free or hand held;
- A person may not operate a motor vehicle on a roadway while using a wireless communication device to compose, read or send an electronic message;
- A school bus driver may never operate a school bus while using his/her cell phone for personal reasons, regardless if it is hand held or hands free.
Lane Position Laws for a Bicyclist: Generally speaking Minnesota law requires the bicyclist to be as close to the right hand edge of the road as possible. However there are some important exceptions that I will outline below:
- When passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction;
- When preparing to take a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway; or
- When reasonably necessary to avoid unsafe conditions such as riding in a lane that is too narrow.
Sidewalk Riding: The general rule in Minnesota is that you are permitted to ride on sidewalks. However, there are certain rules and exceptions that must be followed. So you may ride on a sidewalk subject to the following:
- You must yield the right of way to any pedestrian and shall give audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian;
- You are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk within a business district, unless permitted by local ordinance; and
- You have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same It is important to note that Minnesota does not require that bicyclists use any lane or path other than a normal vehicular traffic lane. So if there is a sidewalk, the choice or road or sidewalk is yours to make.
Riding a Bike under the Influence: Obviously, it is never a good idea to drive any vehicle under the influence of alcohol. However, Minnesota’s law prohibiting driving while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances is written so that it applies to motor vehicles and therefore does not directly apply to bicyclists.
Stop Sign Laws: Minnesota law provides an affirmative defense to the charge of entering or crossing an intersection controlled by a traffic-control signal against a red light if a person establishes all of the following conditions:
- The bicycle was brought to a full stop;
- The traffic control signal continues to show a red light for an unreasonable time;
- The traffic control signal is apparently malfunctioning or, if programmed or engineered to change to a green light only after detecting the approach of a motor vehicle, the signal has apparently failed to detect the arrival of the bicycle; and
- No motor vehicle or person is approaching on the street or highway to be crossed or entered or is so far away from the intersection that it does not constitute an immediate hazard.
Important Resources and Links