By Jan Pease
A couple of near misses and a question from a patron inspired this little essay on bicycle safety. I have had more than one close call lately as a bicyclist ignored a stop sign, blithely coasting on by. A motor scooter rider who passed me on the right and swerved around another car also received my mental ire, but that is another story.
A patron called, asking who to call to find the rules for bike safety. We referred the caller to professionals at the police department, but started searching for the answer anyway. We found that that Minnesota has state laws that govern bicycle riding, found in the Minnesota Statutes, Section 169.222.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation website states: “By Minnesota law, bicycles are defined as vehicles, so bicyclists must follow the same laws as motorists. To bike safely you need to know Minnesota laws for operating your bicycle. There are other state laws that pertain to bicycling, check the Minnesota Legislature website for all the state laws.” I tried the Minnesota Legislature website, but got bogged down with the legal language. This abridged information is found on the MN Department of Transportation website, and I think it is very useful.
On roadways, ride in the same direction as traffic.
Ride as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of roadway.
Obey all traffic control signs and signals that motorists must obey.
Ride two abreast only if not impeding normal and reasonable traffic flow.
On trails and bike paths that cross roadways, obey all stop signs and warning devices.
Ride with lamps and deflectors on at night and in dim light.
Only ride a bicycle with working brakes.
Don’t ride a bicycle if its size doesn’t allow the operator to stop, support and restart the bike safely.
Don’t hitch a bicycle to another vehicle for a ride.
Carry only the number of persons on a bicycle for which it is designed and equipped. Exceptions include legal baby seats and seats attached to the bike operator.
Don’t carry anything that prevents the operator from holding the handlebars with at least one hand or from properly operating brakes.
Don’t ride a bicycle with handlebars that are above the shoulder level.
Hold arm signal continuously for 100’ before turning or when stopped waiting to turn, unless arm is needed to control bike.
Use left arm to signal turns. When turning right, holding right arm straight out to right is also ok.
Yield to pedestrians on sidewalks and in crosswalks.
Signal audibly when passing a pedestrian on a sidewalk
Don’t ride on sidewalks in business districts unless locally permitted.
At this time, Minnesota does not require wearing a helmet, but it seems to me to be common sense. An arm or leg that is broken will heal, but a head injury can create problems for a lifetime.
How many of these laws have you broken? How many times have you seen these basic laws ignored? I become extremely upset when I observe an adult riding along with a child as both ignore these basic safety measures. There are books to read with young children to help them learn bicycle safety, but children learn best by watching the adults that they love. Ride those bikes, but do it safely!