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Updates to cycling laws headed to House Floor

Minnesota law requires motorists to provide at least 3 feet of clearance when passing a bicyclist riding on a road but does not mandate a buffer for a cyclist on the road’s shoulder.

A bill sponsored by Rep. Leon Lillie (DFL-North St. Paul) would require vehicles to give the same clearance to cyclists in bike lanes and on shoulders.

That change is one of several proposed in HF1908, which was approved 17-0 by the House Transportation Finance and Policy Committee Thursday and referred to the House Floor. There is no Senate companion, although Lillie said similar legislation would be moving there as well.

“As spring comes, and we’ve seen with COVID that people are out on the roads and definitely wanting to use them, and we want everybody to be safe,” Lillie said. “This will go a long way to helping that.”

Dorian Grilley, the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota’s executive director, said the proposal is the same as a bill passed by House 122-0 in 2019, but did not become law.

It would also allow bicyclists to determine how far away they can safely ride from the right-hand side of the road, rather than as close “as practicable,” and allow cyclists to proceed through an intersection from the left side of a right-turn lane.

Grilley said he frequently rides on a road with a 10-foot shoulder that often becomes a right-turn lane for “quiet” residential streets.

“It just doesn’t make sense to pull out into the driving lane and block the 45-mile-an-hour traffic each time there’s a right-turn lane,” Grilley said. “I’m not going to be ticketed, but the issue is if someone passes me and turns right into me, or someone coming in the other direction turns left and hits me, it would be my fault.” 

Other provisions in the bill would:

  • require audible signaling when passing an individual or another bicycle on a bicycle lane or path;
  • assign the same rights and duties to a bicyclist on a sidewalk or in a crosswalk as pedestrians have;
  • establish that bicycle lanes are part of the roadway – the main traveled portion of a road – and not the shoulder; and
  • eliminate a prohibition on impeding the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.

Should the bill become law, the new regulations would take effect Aug. 1, 2021.

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