Rules of the bike lane

Know how to bike without breaking the law.

by Anna Ewart

Bicycling is a popular pastime and mode of transportation for many in the Twin Cities. Roughly 4,600 Minneapolitans commute regularly by bicycle, according to 2005 U.S. Census data. But while most people are familiar with motor vehicle laws, some are woefully ignorant of bicycle laws.


Must follow all normal traffic laws. State law requires cyclists to signal turns, obey traffic signals and right-of-way rules, yield to pedestrians in crosswalks and ride with the flow of traffic.

May not go on freeways or on certain prohibited streets, such as Nicollet Mall on weekdays.

Are required to stay to the right. They should stay as close to the curb as possible, except when preparing to turn left, in very narrow lanes and to avoid hazards and parked cars.

May not ride more than two side by side on roads or shoulders.

Have the same rights and responsibilities as pedestrians on sidewalks. Bikes, however, are not allowed on sidewalks in business districts – a city block where more than half of the buildings are occupied by businesses, according Minnesota law.

Are not legally required to wear helmets. But Boynton Health Service recommends students wear them, and offers a $20 helmet and headlight set.

Can get parking tickets. Bicycles at the University are ticketed if they are locked to handrails near building entrances or to trees and shrubs. The same is true if they block walkways. Ben Schnabel, program manager for the security monitor program, said the University’s bike patrol will impound bicycles if they block disability access ramps or entrances.


Should have brakes that work on dry, level and clean pavement. Cyclists shouldn’t carry items that prevent them from properly operating the brakes.

Should only carry the number of people they are designed to carry. Baby seats with harnesses are allowed if the child’s feet are protected from the wheels’ spokes. Bicyclists may not attach themselves to any other vehicle on the road.

Must be equipped with headlights and rear reflectors at night.


“You can be totally intoxicated on a bike and not get arrested for a DWI.” Sgt. Marv Schumer, in the Minneapolis Police Department’s traffic unit, said bicyclists can’t get DWIs, but can be cited for reckless driving.