Good Question: What Are The Rules Of The Road For Bikes?

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — When the weather gets warmer in Minnesota, the bicyclists come out. And with more bikes on the road, more of us notice the red-light running, wrong-way riding bicyclists. And more of them notice the cars not paying attention to them. So, what are the laws in Minnesota about bicycling?

The key statute is MN 169.222, which lays out the rules for operating a bicycle. The primary rule: “Traffic laws apply.”

• Bicycles should ride in the street.

Many motorists believe that bikes belong on the sidewalk.

“In Minnesota a bicycle is a legal user of the road,” said Julie Kosbab, a certified bicycle instructor who runs

She’s written extensively on bike-car laws.

“I think it’s important to keep in mind that bicycles are vehicles and most of the laws that apply to vehicles, apply to bicycles,” said Kosbab.

In business districts, like downtown Minneapolis, it’s actually illegal to ride on sidewalks. The rule of thumb is that if more than half of the buildings on a block are businesses, it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk.

• Bicycles Must follow all traffic rules.

It is illegal to run a red light on a bike. It’s illegal to run stop signs, too. Bicycles do have to signal their intention to turn for 100 feet prior to doing so. Bicyclists cannot drive the wrong way down a one-way street.

• Bicycles must ride close to the curb.

“Tht doesn’t mean as far to the right as possible, doesn’t mean in the gutter. It does mean they need to respect roadway conditions,” said Kosbab.

The state law requires bicycles to stay to the right, riding “as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway.” Exceptions include when passing, when preparing for a left turn and when necessary to avoid parked cars and surface hazards.

According to the city of Minneapolis guide to bicycle laws, “Typically this translates to cyclists riding just right of center of the lane that serves their destination.”

• Cars must stay 3 feet away from bicycles.

Essentially, drivers should treat cyclists as slow-moving vehicles. Minnesota law is clear that drivers pass with “in no case less than three feet clearance.

Drivers are also prohibited from driving or parking in bike lanes, and they have to yield to bikes before moving into a bike lane to make a right-hand turn.

More from Jason DeRusha
  • Chris

    What’s the rule for bicyclists using the street when there is a bike path? I hate getting behind a slow moving bike on, say West River Pkwy, when there is a perfectly good bike path right next to the road.

    • Beth

      Double check the section of of River Parkway that you are driving on. In some sections, even though there is bike path, there is also specific road signage indicating that bikes are free to use the roadway as well. In my experience, it hasn’t been a problem as the only bicyclists that use the roadway are the serious type and moving almost at the speed of traffic. The tourist/weekend rider types generally stick to the paths.

    • JamieinMN

      There is no “extra rule” for that. Learn how to share the road or DON’T DRIVE at all.

      • Brad

        I see plenty of bicyclists blowing through stop signs and red lights. I can share the road with them as long as they obey their own laws. I’d say learn to follow the rules or DON’T RIDE at all.

        • JamieinMN

          I rarely see it. I see more cars doing that then bicyclists.

      • Chris

        Part of “sharing” the road involves not slowing traffic. If your biking is getting in the way of auto traffic and there is a perfectly good path, why not use it? If there isn’t any path and bikers are being responsible – following the same traffic law as autos, etc that I have NO problems. It’s the bikers who somehow feel entitled to make up their own rules, or that they are more important that those of us who at times choose to (horror of horrors!) drive a car that annoy me.

        • cmonster67

          You must not ride on the path or at least if you do, you are probably only going 8-10 MPH. People who ride more briskly, (over 20 MPH) do not coincide well with pedestrians who share the same path. Maneuvering through pedestrians, skateboarders, rollerbladers, not to mention children walking and on bikes is very dangerous. Why should cyclist to ride in such conditions when there is a perfect road to ride on AND it’s legal to do so?

  • Bill

    Good story on having bikes and cars share the roads. But I was hoping it was also going to go into the rules for bikes and pedestrians sharing trails…

    • JustSayin

      It’s titled “What Are The Rules Of The ROAD (NOT paths) For Bikes?” With a brain like yours….you shouldn’t expect much.

  • Bill Lindeke

    Nice job Jason, tackling a delicate issue w/ humor and good sense.

  • Bill Lindeke

    Many parts of the River Road are just plain too slow and bumpy to ride on the path, and so many cyclists prefer the road. That’s perfectly legal. It depends on what kind of cyclists you are, whether you prefer a more leisurely pace (5-10 mph) or to travel much faster (15+ mph).

  • D

    JustSayin gets a much-needed self-esteem boost by insulting others. Thank Jeebus he has a forum like this do it on, where people just feel that righteous, burning zing directly in their core. “TAKE THAT, JIMMY! STEAL MY LUNCH MONEY WILL YOU”

    • D

      sorry for my off-topic comment. I got excited.

      I commented on the article/blog post posted last night about this too. I hope people just are generally careful and pay attention to each other, and the signs.

  • car driver

    I hate it when bikers hog the entire road in the middle slowing down all traffic, when they can move to the right as they are supposed to. Now i can stop and yell at them when they do this.

    • Power to The Peddle

      Cyclist are allowed to take up the same amount of space as an automobile.

      • K.

        That’s not what the law says. Didn’t you see that in the article?

  • scott

    another good question: why are so many cities, counties, ect allowed to make up their own rules on where a bike is supposed to be? Example: a striped section of road for bike travel, another will have that and a striped section of side walk right next too it. another will widen a road for this right next to a bike path. What a waste of money.

  • smrf

    Two things, first what are the rules about bicycles riding in groups? Can they ride abreast in the traffic lanes or do they need to stay single file?

    What are the rules about riding on sidewalks around the U of Minnesota campus? Bikes ignore lots of rules everywhere but around the U they seem have a tremendous sense of entitlement.

    • dwood

      litte late, but they can ride 2 riders wide

  • t

    Mr. DeRusha,

    When you talk about bikers running red lights are you specifically taliking about those that don’t slow down and run through traffic or those that stop and cross when there is no traffic? If you are talking about both then you should also probably compare the number of pedestrains that cross during red lights to the number of cars that run red lights. I’ll venture a “wild” guess that more pedestrains run red lights also? While I cannot dispute the fact that bikers are not allowed to run red lights, comparing a biker running a red light to a car running a red light is not necessarily an accurate comparison. I follow the rules of the roads when there is traffic. I signal my intentions, use the turn lanes, obey stop lights and signs etc. However, when there is no traffic, I do slow down and go through red lights if the intersection is empty and safe. I speculate that many pedestrains do the same thing too. Also, for anyone says “well if you can do this, why can’t cars?” a drivers field of vision is much more limited than that of a pedestrain or a biker. While a car may have to pull into the intersection to safely see both ways, a biker and pedestrian more often have a clearer view of the intersection. As a result, they can see whether it’s empty and safe to cross which is likely why, they, more often than cars, go through red lights. This, however, does not condone those bicyclists and pedestrians alike who choose to enter busy intersections and not yeild to vehicles that have the right-of-way.

    • NatMc

      Exactly correct.

    • Ryan

      Well put! I see how someone on a bike could yeild and go through the light safely.

    • What

      Just because one person or a group does something you know is wrong does not make it right for you to do something that is wrong. And there is no comparison ruining a red light or stop sign is illegal no matter who it is and it should not be done.

      • t

        What, did you read my entire post? While I personally believe that the law should be changed to make stop lights more similar to stop signs and stop signs similar to yeild signs for bikers (this was proposed by law makers awhile back) I was not advocating whether it was right or wrong. The point of my statement was to point out a potential inaccuracy in the comparison he was trying to draw. Running a red light in a car tends to be riskier proposition than going through a red light on foot or by bike which is why more bikers don’t always wait for green lights and why more bikers tend to run red lights when compared to drivers.

        Also, hypothetically, if a light was red and you were waiting to cross an intersection on your bike and could see a mile down the road in each direction, you still wouldn’t cross even if there wasn’t a car in sight?

        • Jason DeRusha

          I do think the idea of making red lights mean “yield” to people on bicycles is a really interesting idea.

  • nolan

    According to this statute human powered devices are not motor vehicles, while they ‘should’ follow the rules of the road, people should also look at bicyclists running red lights like jaywalking they are not going to kill people like a car will and therefore shouldn’t be looked at as criminals any more than jaywalkers or cars that go over the speed limit. There are safe drivers and safe bicyclists. There are also unsafe drivers and unsafe bikers. The issue I think comes when drivers feel aggression to bikers more then they would a car. When a biker does something wrong it aggravates drivers in turn they act dangerously towards bikers simply because they are bikers creating a unsafe and destructive environment for the future of transportation.

    • Bike

      Nolan you’re referring to the definitions for statutes under 168 which is for vehicle title / registration.

    • Jason DeRusha

      And Nolan- I was even kind enough in the story above to link the exact statute that has the laws for bicycles.

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