Minneapolis continues to rank as one of the best biking cities in the U.S. It boasts 16 miles of on-street protected bikeways, 98 miles of bike lanes and 101 miles of off-street bikeways and trails.
But just like in any other bike-friendly city, cyclists often have to face a major frustration: cars in the bike lane. In these situations, is there anything cyclists can do?
When Can Cars Legally Enter Bike Lanes?
Before taking any kind of action against cars in the bike lane, it’s important to understand Minnesota traffic and bike lane laws. There are two major restrictions that forbid Minnesota motor vehicles from entering or crossing bike lanes:
- Motor vehicles are not allowed to stop or park in bike lanes.
- Motor vehicles can’t enter or cross a bike lane in order to pass another vehicle on the right.
Motor vehicles are allowed to be in bike lanes only if:
- They are turning (such as making a right-hand turn onto another street).
- They’re maneuvering to park.
- They’re making room for oncoming cars.
However, before entering or crossing any bike lane, drivers must make sure it’s safe to do so by looking out for cyclists. In fact, failing to look out for cyclists when turning is illegal. If a driver in a motor vehicle needs to enter a bike lane and a cyclist is there, they’re legally required to give cyclists the right of way.
What Can Bikers Do When Cars Are in Bike Lanes Illegally?
Despite there being strict laws restricting cars from being in bike lanes, it still happens. However, cyclists aren’t totally powerless. Here are a few ways to take action:
- Stay calm and be safe: It’s completely normal and justified to feel aggravated when cars are in the bike lane. But remember, your safety is your priority. You don’t know the driver, and antagonizing them could put you at risk. If necessary, slow down and pull over safely to gather your bearings.
- Gather the car’s information: If it’s safe to pull over and stop, you can take photos of the car and its license plate or write the information down. If not, try your best to mentally record any identifying information, such as the car’s license plate, color, make and model.
- Contact your local police’s non-emergency number: You have the right to report any vehicle’s illegal actions. You can either report it to a local precinct or call Minneapolis’ non-emergency dispatch line, 311. You don’t have to do this in the middle of your ride; you can wait until you arrive safely at your destination.
Use Bike Lane Uprising: Bike Lane Uprising®️ focuses on making biking safer by making it easy to report bike lane obstructions to a live database. You can download their app to report any obstructions.
Know Your Rights as a Minneapolis Cyclist
You shouldn’t have to shoulder the responsibility of making cycling safer, but many drivers continue to violate cycling laws. Whether you’ve been in an accident or want to know more about your cycling rights, I’m here to support you.
Attorney Daniel J. Brazil of Brazil Law Group is an experienced personal injury attorney with offices located in Uptown. He’s also a member of the Bike Law Network. He has a passion for the outdoors, especially cycling and climbing. Learn more about Dan and his practice by following him on Twitter (@LawDanielBrazil and #MplsBikeAttorney).