Ask a Trooper: Center turn lanes
Question: Within the past few years or so, we had a four-lane with bike lanes and a middle turn lane through town. Many people are using that middle turn lane to pull out into and then merge into the traffic on left hand turns — it really is very dangerous. I really wish that this would be covered for a period of time by law enforcement issuing warnings or even citations so that people get educated. I think we need information sent out about the protocol for using the middle turn lane that both directions are to use and who has the right of way concerning the bicycle lane.
Answer: We still see some issues with drivers in cities where those types of road designs have been around for a long time. It is a good road design and drivers using it do have to understand some things, for sure. The center lane is a turn lane only, not a driving or acceleration lane — it cannot be used to drive out into from a side road, street or driveway to merge or fit into the traffic flow. Again, it can only be used as a turn lane.
If your center lane also is a bicycle lane, then bicycles would have the right of way, in most cases. I haven’t seen where they are used as both, but perhaps the one you are talking about is. For other bicycle lanes, bicyclists typically have the right away. There may be some exceptions, but the bottom line is: always physically turn your head and look before turning or changing lanes, or turning so you can watch out for bicycles, motorcycles or even pedestrians.
On a related note, don’t get into that center turn lane too soon, as you might meet other vehicles head on who are trying to turn into a place closer than your turn off. Don’t forget to signal all your turns in advance! Thanks for asking.
If you have any questions for future columns concerning motor vehicle traffic in Minnesota, please send your questions to: “ASK A TROOPER” c/o Sgt. Curt S. Mowers, Minnesota State Patrol, 7694 Industrial Park Road, Suite 2 Baxter, MN 56425 or email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org with Ask a Trooper in the subject line. Questions are edited.