Ask a Trooper: Keep bicycle safety in mind on the open road

Published 7:46 pm Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Ask a Trooper by Troy Christianson

Question: Can you drive in a bike lane? For instance, use it for a right turn lane? 

Answer: No, motorists are not allowed to drive in the bike lanes. The solid white lines on any road mean do not cross. There are designated areas where the solid white line is converted to dashed lines and this is where motor vehicles are allowed to enter a bike lane to make a turn.

Troy Christianson

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Before crossing a bicycle lane, make sure it is safe to do so. Yield the right-of-way to approaching bicyclists.

When the bicycle lane is clear, signal your intention to turn and then move into the bicycle lane before making the turn.

Bicycles are legal vehicles on Minnesota roads and they share the same rights and responsibilities as other vehicles.

Bicycle lanes are designed to separate bicycle traffic from normal vehicle traffic. It is illegal to drive in these lanes except to park — when permitted, to enter or leave the road, or to prepare for a turn.

Each year in Minnesota, approximately 35 pedestrians and seven bicyclists are killed as a result of collisions with motor vehicles.

The following information is using the five-year average from 2011-2015:

• As a group, pedestrians and bicyclists comprise nearly 11 percent of all traffic fatalities each year — 72 percent of these fatal crashes occur in urban areas.

• 35 percent of pedestrians and 27 percent of bicyclists killed had consumed alcohol.

• 16 percent of pedestrians killed were not crossing properly.

Bicyclists and motorists are equally responsible for bicycle safety. The No. 1 factor contributing to bicycle-vehicle collisions is failure to yield the right-of-way — by bicyclists and drivers alike.

About one-half of all bicycle-vehicle collisions are due to a variety of bicyclist behaviors, such as disregarding a traffic sign or signal. The other half are caused by vehicle driver behaviors, such as inattention and distraction.

Rules of the road and safety tips

• Bicyclists may ride on all Minnesota roads, except where restricted.

• Bicyclists should ride on the road, and must ride in the same direction as traffic.

• Motorists must at all times maintain a 3-foot clearance when passing a bicyclist.

• Bicyclists must obey all traffic control signs and signals, just as motorists.

• Bicyclists must signal their turns and should ride in a predictable manner.

• Bicyclists must use a headlight and rear reflectors when it’s dark. To increase visibility, add a rear flashing light.

• Drivers must drive at safe speeds and be attentive — look for bicyclists, check blind spots.

• Drivers should use caution and look twice for riders when turning.

• Drivers should use caution when opening doors upon parking on the side of a road.

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and — of course — drive sober. Help us drive Minnesota toward zero deaths.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson, Minnesota State Patrol, at 2900 48th St. NW, Rochester MN 55901-5848; or reach him at

Troy Christianson is a sergeant with the Minnesota State Patrol.