MN Law Regarding Bicycling

After i had been bicycling for a while. I decided that i would check into the laws for cyclists. Especially when i started doing critical mass, i thought it would be wise to see whether or not we were actually breaking any laws that the police could cite us for. So i did a search on yahoo for Minnesota Bike Laws, eventually i wound up at this website. http://www.ci.minneapolis.mn.us/citywork/public-works/transportation/bicycles/rulesofroad.html It is the city of Minneapolis website, and according to the rules (which i have copied below) critical mass does not break any laws. The rules are as follows:

Rules of the Road

Minnesota law gives cyclists the same rights and privileges as motor vehicle drivers. This means you have every right to ride on the road. It also means that when you are bicycling, you should know the applicable traffic laws and act accordingly. The summary (below) of local statutes will help.

General Rules
The same rules of the road that apply when driving a car should be followed when bicycling. Minnesota laws calls for cyclists to ride with the flow of traffic and as close to the right side of the road as practical, except in the following situations: 1) when overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction; 2) when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway; and 3) when reasonably necessary to avoid roadside conditions (fixed or moving objects, vehicles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, narrow lane widths) which make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge. Minneapolis cyclists are encouraged to use the designated striped bike lanes where provided. No headphones! They're illegal on a bicycle.

  • Right-of-way
    Yield to pedestrians. When entering a roadway from some place other than an intersection, yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching the roadway. Even if you have the right-of-way, be prepared to yield if necessary.
  • Passing
    Pass to the left of a slower vehicle. Give an audible signal when necessary before overtaking and passing pedestrians and vehicles. Listen carefully for vehicles overtaking you. Maintain control of your bicycle and your position on the road.
  • Signs and Signaling
    Obey stop signs and traffic signals. Running a stoplight on a bicycle is a dangerous violation. Signal your intentions to let other drivers on the roadway know what you intend to do. Give a hand signal continuously 100 feet before turning to inform other drivers of your intent, unless both hands are needed to control the bicycle.
  • Biking on Sidewalks
    Bicyclists are prohibited from riding on sidewalks within any business district or upon any sidewalk where prohibited by appropriate signage.
  • Night Riding
    Ride after dark only if your bike has a headlight and red rear reflector, as required by law for night riding. Other good ideas not in the law include wearing light-colored clothing or reflective vests and leg-bands. Allow plenty of time for travel and watch for unlit roads, potholes and other nighttime hazards. The key is that you must be visible. While night riding accounts for only about four percent of all bike riding, over sixty percent of bike fatalities occur at night.
When the last Critical Mass was stopped by the police, and once again they demanded that we ride two abreast in the right lane, i decided to find out for certain what the rules for bicycles were. It took hours of searching. Tucked away in some mysterious archive of minnesota law, among links for every single bicycle organization in the state, i found the actually bicycle statutes from 1999. There i finally found the rule which states that: (c) 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, shall ride within a single lane.

So according to this law we are in fact breaking the law. However, i will by no means say that we should discontinue to break the law. There are also laws which are meant to protect us from motorists which i have never seen or even heard of being enforced. One such law states:(from:http://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/stats/169/18.html )

(3) The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle or individual proceeding in the same direction on the roadway shall leave a safe distance, but in no case less than three feet clearance, when passing the bicycle or individual and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle or individual.
Just a week ago, I was in a bike lane, and a motorist decided that they could feel free to use the lane, even though i was in it. They came so close to me, that i was able to reach my right hand over and rap on their windshield without effort, to let them know i was there. This certainly was less than three feet (and very dangerous to me, since she was running me into a line of parked cars) And this isn't an uncommon occurance. Yet do we see our boys in blue ever come to our rescue? No! But once a month, when we decide to take a nice leisurely ride down our own city streets, in a group large enough to protect us from the otherwise relentless motorists, the police come running to the aid of the motorist! So what they're saying is that automobiles can run around in huge groups, backing up traffic for miles and miles, but when cyclists do it, it becomes criminal?!

Below is the actual text of the bicycle laws, which was found at: http://www.revisor.leg.state.mn.us/stats/169/222.html . If you would like to do your own search of bicycle or automobile laws, you can go to http://search.state.mn.us/query.html which is the only place i have found where you can actually look up MN law, and not just a paraphrased version of it (like on the city of Minneapolis Website.


 169.222 Operation of bicycle. 

Subdivision 1. Traffic laws apply. Every person operating a bicycle shall have all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle by this chapter, except in respect to those provisions in this chapter relating expressly to bicycles and in respect to those provisions of this chapter which by their nature cannot reasonably be applied to bicycles.

Subd. 2. Manner and number riding. No bicycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed and equipped, except (a) on a baby seat attached to the bicycle, provided that the baby seat is equipped with a harness to hold the child securely in the seat and that protection is provided against the child's feet hitting the spokes of the wheel or (b) in a seat attached to the bicycle operator.

Subd. 3. Clinging to vehicle. Persons riding upon any bicycle, coaster, roller skates, toboggan, sled, skateboard, or toy vehicle shall not attach the same or themselves to any street car or vehicle upon a roadway.

Subd. 4. Riding on roadway or shoulder. (a) 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 under any of the following situations:

(i) when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction;

(ii) when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway;

(iii) 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.

(b) If a bicycle is traveling on a shoulder of a roadway, the bicycle shall travel in the same direction as adjacent vehicular traffic.

(c) 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, shall ride within a single lane.

(d) 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. No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district unless permitted by local authorities. Local authorities may prohibit the operation of bicycles on any sidewalk or crosswalk under their jurisdiction.

(e) An individual operating a bicycle or other vehicle on a bikeway shall leave a safe distance when overtaking a bicycle or individual proceeding in the same direction on the bikeway, and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle or individual.

A person lawfully operating a bicycle on a sidewalk, or across a roadway or shoulder on a crosswalk, shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.

Subd. 5. Carrying articles. No person operating a bicycle shall carry any package, bundle, or article which prevents the driver from keeping at least one hand upon the handle bars or from properly operating the brakes of the bicycle.

Subd. 6. Bicycle equipment. (a) No person shall operate a bicycle at nighttime unless the bicycle or its operator is equipped with a lamp which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and with a red reflector of a type approved by the department of public safety which is visible from all distances from 100 feet to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle. No person may operate a bicycle at any time when there is not sufficient light to render persons and vehicles on the highway clearly discernible at a distance of 500 feet ahead unless the bicycle or its operator is equipped with reflective surfaces that shall be visible during the hours of darkness from 600 feet when viewed in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle.

The reflective surfaces shall include reflective materials on each side of each pedal to indicate their presence from the front or the rear and with a minimum of 20 square inches of reflective material on each side of the bicycle or its operator. Any bicycle equipped with side reflectors as required by regulations for new bicycles prescribed by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission shall be considered to meet the requirements for side reflectorization contained in this subdivision.

A bicycle may be equipped with a rear lamp that emits a red flashing signal.

(b) No person shall operate a bicycle unless it is equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.

(c) No person shall operate upon a highway any bicycle equipped with handlebars so raised that the operator must elevate the hands above the level of the shoulders in order to grasp the normal steering grip area.

(d) No person shall operate upon a highway any bicycle which is of such a size as to prevent the operator from stopping the bicycle, supporting it with at least one foot on the highway surface and restarting in a safe manner.

Subd. 7. Sale with reflectors and other equipment. No person shall sell or offer for sale any new bicycle unless it is equipped with reflectors and other equipment as required by subdivision 6, clauses (a) and (b) and by the regulations for new bicycles prescribed by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Subd. 8. Turning, lane change. An arm signal to turn right or left shall be given continuously during the last 100 feet traveled by the bicycle before turning, unless the arm is needed to control the bicycle, and shall be given while the bicycle is stopped waiting to turn.

Subd. 9. Bicycle parking. (a) A person may park a bicycle on a sidewalk unless prohibited or restricted by local authorities. A bicycle parked on a sidewalk shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of pedestrian or other traffic.

(b) A bicycle may be parked on a roadway at any location where parking is allowed if it is parked in such a manner that it does not obstruct the movement of a legally parked motor vehicle.

Subd. 10. Bicycle events. (a) Bicycle events, parades, contests, or racing on a highway shall not be unlawful when approved by state or local authorities having jurisdiction over that highway. Approval shall be granted only under conditions which assure reasonable safety for all participants, spectators and other highway users, and which prevent unreasonable interference with traffic flow which would seriously inconvenience other highway users.

(b) By agreement with the approving authority, participants in an approved bicycle highway event may be exempted from compliance with any traffic laws otherwise applicable thereto, provided that traffic control is adequate to assure the safety of all highway users.

Subd. 11. Peace officer operating bicycle. The provisions of this section governing operation of bicycles do not apply to bicycles operated by peace officers while performing their duties.

HIST: 1978 c 739 s 12; 1986 c 444; 1987 c 255 s 14; 1993 c 326 art 4 s 2; art 7 s 2; 1995 c 72 s 2

Copyright 1999 by the Office of Revisor of Statutes, State of Minnesota.

Bicycle Registration

At the last critical mass (May), I was ticketed for not having my bicycle registered. This is of course just an intimidation tactic. Bicycle registration costs $10, and the ticket will cost you $58. One of the guys who was ticketed with me, registered his bike and was able to talk his way out of the ticket. I haven't been able to find a law that allows confiscating an unregistered bicycle, but just so you know, if they feel like it, they will. Below are the laws i was able to find regarding bicycle registration.

168C.13 Registration by political subdivision.

Subdivision 1. Deputy registrar powers; may require registration; application procedures. After February 28, 1977, no political subdivision may license or register bicycles except as a deputy registrar pursuant to section 168C.11, subdivision 1. However, any political subdivision which had such power prior to March 1, 1977, may thereafter require that any or all bicycles used or ridden upon any highway, street, alley, sidewalk or other public property within the boundaries thereof shall be registered. Applications for new registrations required pursuant to this subdivision shall be made to the commissioner in the same manner and subject to the same rules, fees and penalties as those made voluntarily pursuant to section 168C.03.

Subd. 2. Records of registration; notice of transfers. Any political subdivision of the state which licensed or registered bicycles prior to March 1, 1977, may after such date, continue to maintain its licensing or registration records and may require the owner of record as of March 1, 1977, of any bicycle registered therewith on or prior to that date to notify the political subdivision upon selling or otherwise transferring ownership of the bicycle.

HIST: 1976 c 199 s 13; 1977 c 41 s 7; 1985 c 248 s 70; 1986 c 444

Copyright 1999 by the Office of Revisor of Statutes, State of Minnesota. 168C.01 Policy statement.

The legislature of the state of Minnesota finds that the use of bicycles as a means of travel and recreation embodying physical, environmental and social benefits is already recognized by many people in the state, and will be further encouraged given the opportunity for safe, convenient and pleasant bicycle travel. The legislature further finds that dependence on the private automobile must be reduced, particularly in the light of an energy shortage and encouragement of increased bicycle usage by the provision and maintenance of bikeways and with the addition of some traffic laws designed for the orderly integration of bicycles into traffic systems, is a way of reducing this dependence. However, the growth in popularity of the bicycle as a mode of transportation and as a recreational vehicle has led to an increase in the number of bicycle thefts. To more effectively deal with the problems associated with theft and to aid in the recovery of stolen bicycles, a statewide bicycle registration system is hereby created.

HIST: 1976 c 199 s 1

Copyright 1999 by the Office of Revisor of Statutes, State of Minnesota. 168C.04 Registration requirements, fee, account, appropriation.

Subdivision 1. Three-year registration fee; procedures. The registration fee for bicycles shall be $9 after July 1, 1991. These fees shall be paid at the time of registration. The fees, and any donations in excess of the fees must be deposited in a bicycle transportation account in the special revenue fund. Proof of purchase is required for registration. Bicycles lacking proof of purchase may be registered if there is no evidence that the bicycle is stolen. However, the registration record must be marked to indicate that no proof of purchase was provided. The registration is valid for three calendar years. A person registering a bicycle may add an additional amount to the registration fee, and all amounts so added must be deposited in the same manner as registration fees. A person registering a bicycle must at the time of registration be informed that a registrant may add an additional amount to the fee and that all such additional amounts will be used for the purposes specified in subdivision 2.

Subd. 2. Bicycle transportation account; money allocated. A bicycle transportation account is created in the special revenue fund. All funds in the account, up to a maximum of $160,000 in a fiscal year, are annually appropriated as follows:

(1) one-half to the commissioner of transportation for the development of bicycle transportation and recreational facilities on public highways, including but not limited to bicycle lanes and ways on highways, off-road bicycle trails, and bicycle mapping; and

(2) one-half to the commissioner of public safety for bicycle safety programs, administration of the bicycle registration program, and public information and education designed to encourage participation in the program.

Subd. 3. Considerations before money distributed. An agency of the state expending funds from the bicycle transportation account must, in making expenditures for the purposes of subdivision 2, paragraph (c), give consideration to participation or nonparticipation by a political subdivision in the bicycle registration program as provided in section 168C.13 and the extent of local public participation in the program before approving a project or expenditure in that political subdivision.

Subd. 4. Repealed by amendment, 1991 c 233 s 59

HIST: 1976 c 199 s 4; 1984 c 572 s 1; 1986 c 444; 1991 c 233 s 59

Copyright 1999 by the Office of Revisor of Statutes, State of Minnesota.