Minnesota is an interesting place to ride your bicycle! It has many extremely friendly bike-friendly laws, and it’s also very free with letting people decide when it comes to doing things like wearing helmets, or not. It’s actually rather interesting to see just how Minnesota differs from many other states in the country, though as a result, it’s also worth brushing up on your bike laws in Minnesota. What should you know before you ride?
Bikes and Vehicles
In Minnesota, bikes are considered to have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicles and in fact, are considered vehicles for many intents and purposes (though there are a few exceptions of things that cyclists are allowed to do that cars are not). This means that bikes must ride with traffic, not against it, and bikes should be ridden as far to the right side of the road as possible. Exceptions to this are:
- If the bike is passing another vehicle.
- If the cyclist is about to make a left turn.
- If moving away from the right-hand side is necessary to avoid things like other vehicles, pedestrians, animals, conditions (like construction), debris, or narrow lanes that make it too unsafe to ride on the right.
Bikes in Minnesota can also be ridden in a number of places. They can be ridden on the road of course, and even two abreast if there is room, but bikes are also legal to ride on sidewalks, or at least not prohibited, but it may be frowned upon, depending on where you ride. The only exception to this is business districts; it is illegal to ride on the sidewalks in any business district. When one can ride on a sidewalk, one does not have to dismount to cross a crosswalk, but most experts agree that it is a good idea to do so as it’s safer for both rider and pedestrians.
Minnesota is also one of the minorities of states which recognize the Idaho stop law. This means that while cyclists cannot run a red light whenever they feel like it, it is legal to ride through a stale red light-as in, a red light that didn’t turn to green because the sensor didn’t pick up the presence of the bike. This is often put forth because it’s a good way to keep traffic moving along and prevent bikes from blocking the way because the lights are stopping them in their tracks.
Minnesota does not force a separation of facilities between bikes and drivers. This means that cyclists do not have to ride on bike paths when they are provided, though it’s usually not a bad idea to do so as the bike path is usually safer. Minnesota also requires that drivers leave at least three feet of space between themselves and cyclists when passing. Bikes can also be parked on the side of the road as long as they do not impede traffic.
A final slightly weird thing? Minnesota mostly requires cyclists to signal turns or lane changes, but not if the arm is required to control the bike. At that point, the signal doesn’t have to be given until the bike stops to make the turn.
As you can see, most of the laws used to keep bikes safe on the road are similar across borders, but Minnesota has a few differences that are important to keep in mind.
Bike Safety While Riding
Minnesota is fairly loose when it comes to safety while riding. It is perfectly legal to ride without wearing a helmet (even for children), and there are not DUI laws for bikes. Texting laws also don’t apply to cyclists and you can ride while listening to your headset or earphones. Now, we would not recommend riding without a helmet, riding while drunk, or riding and texting, but it’s legal to do all of that.
However, Minnesota does stipulate that bikes be equipped with certain safety gear. These include:
- When riding at night, a bike must have a lamp that can emit a white light visible from at least 500 feet to the front and a red reflector which has been approved by the Department of Public Safety and is visible from all distances from one to six hundred feet to the rear. You don’t need lamps on the sides.
- The bike must have brakes that make the bike skid on a clean, dry, level piece of pavement.
- You cannot have more people than seats on the bike.
- The handlebars cannot be above shoulder level.
- And as usual, you’re not allowed to hitch a ride on a car with your bike.
Even so, that’s all minimal for riding safely. Note again the lack of a push for wearing a bike helmet, though organizations strongly recommend it.
Electric Bikes in Minnesota
Minnesota actually does classify electric bikes (unlike many other states which haven’t bothered, at least not yet). They are classified as a subset of bikes and as such, have many of the same regulations around them. Electric bikes must have a motor that is less than 1000W and the motor must stop when the brake is used. Electric bikes in Minnesota are capped at going 20mp/h, whether powered by a human or not, and it has to be equipped with white and red flashing lamps (white on the front; red on the back).
Electric bikes don’t have to be licensed or registered; however, riders have to be fifteen years of age or older. And all riders must wear a helmet. Electric bikes can be ridden on road shoulders, bike trails, and paths and in lanes, just like regular bikes.
So, there you have it! The bike laws in Minnesota are definitely looser in many ways compared to other states, though in other ways, Minnesota is firmer on things such as electric bikes. It’s important to ensure that you understand the bike laws in Minnesota because there are some things which are quite different compared to other places! Enjoy riding around the state!