The best way to ensure your ride is safe and fun is to follow the law and a few best practices. Below is a select list of bicycling laws in Minnesota and best practices for riding in the Twin Cities area. Failure to follow the law can result in a citation that may go on your driving record.
Bikes, like cars, are vehicles and people riding bikes must follow the same traffic laws as people driving other vehicles with some exceptions.
Traffic laws that apply to people riding bikes
Same road, same rules: People on bikes must follow all normal traffic laws with some exceptions (see below).
Right to the road: People on bikes may use any lane on any street (except prohibited highways and freeways) and are not required to use bike lanes. You may use an entire lane at anytime if needed.
Go with the flow: People on bikes must travel in the same direction as traffic.
Obey stop signs and lights: Like all road users, people on bikes must stop at stop signs and obey traffic lights.
Signal your turns: Signal lane changes and turns with your arm unless you need both arms to control your bike.
Exceptions for people riding bikes
Stay to the right: Ride as far to the right as is safe and comfortable except when passing, turning, avoiding hazards, riding in a bike lane.
Use lights: A front light and rear light or rear reflector are required at night.
Riding side by side: People on bikes may ride two abreast in a single lane if they do not impede normal traffic flow.
Sidewalk riding: Sidewalk riding is not allowed in business districts or where prohibited by local ordinances. When riding on sidewalks, yield to people walking and using mobility devices, and follow all rules pertaining to sidewalk users.
One person per bike: Only one person is allowed on a bike unless the bike is specifically equipped for more (e.g. tandem or child seat).
Traffic lights with detectors: If you believe you are at an intersection that uses a sensor to detect traffic, wait for a green light. After waiting an unreasonable amount of time, a person riding a bike may proceed through the light after yielding to all cross traffic.
Laws for motor vehicle drivers
Pass bikes at a safe distance: Motor vehicle drivers must pass people riding bikes at a safe distance, no less than three feet.
Don’t stop in bike lanes: Motor vehicles cannot stop or park in bike lanes.
Don’t drive in bike lanes: Motor vehicles cannot drive in bikes lanes except when turning or parking and after yielding to people on bikes.
Open doors carefully: Opening motor vehicle doors must not interfere with people on bikes or other traffic.
In addition to following the law, following these best practices will make your ride more enjoyable.
Ride predictably: When possible, ride in a straight line at consistent speed so other road users know where you are going. Remain stationary while waiting at a stop sign or light. If you are comfortable doing so, signal turns and lane changes with your arms.
Don’t ride on sidewalks: While it is legal to ride on the sidewalk in some places, riding on sidewalks can be dangerous. Sidewalks are designed for people walking, not people biking. With the exception of young children, people on bikes should generally walk bikes when on sidewalks.
Warn before passing: Wherever you are riding, give an audible signal (ring a bell or say “passing on your left”) before passing bikers or walkers.
Respect other trail users: Be mindful of other users when biking on off-street trails or paths. Always yield to people walking and using mobility devices, and give an audible signal before passing other trail users. Adjust your speed to trail traffic conditions.
Pull over and walk if needed: Remember you can always pull over and walk your bike on the sidewalk if you find yourself biking on an uncomfortable or unsafe stretch of roadway.
Stop behind the crosswalk: Do not stop in the crosswalk, just like any other vehicle on the road.
Enjoy the ride: Riding a bike should be comfortable and enjoyable. Experiment to find the right bike, route, speed and outfit for you. Only you can determine what works best for you.
For more information about riding in the street—including where you should position yourself in lanes and intersections in common scenarios—check out the Rules of the Road section of the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota’s Minnesota Bicycling Handbook.