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Ask a Trooper: Sharing the road with bicyclists

Question: I frequently encounter a traffic situation while riding my bicycle. I ride with traffic and adhere to the same rules as when I'm behind the wheel of my own vehicle. When I come to a stop sign on my bike and the crossing traffic does not...

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Photo illustration, Metro Creative Graphics, Inc.

Question: I frequently encounter a traffic situation while riding my bicycle. I ride with traffic and adhere to the same rules as when I'm behind the wheel of my own vehicle. When I come to a stop sign on my bike and the crossing traffic does not have the same, many drivers will stop and attempt to wave me across. I will wave the polite crossing driver to move along. My thought is I'm riding in a lane of traffic and want to be treated the same as other traffic. If I want to be treated as a pedestrian, I will dismount my bike and cross at the crosswalk. I feel it is best to proceed through an intersection when crossing traffic is sufficiently spaced so I can make it across just as I would in an automobile. Accepting a wave by a driver doesn't necessarily assure my safe crossing as crossing traffic from the other direction may or may not stop. Do you think drivers should only stop if a bicyclist dismounts and/or enters the crosswalk? Or am I misinterpreting their stopping as politeness when in fact they are legally required to stop?

Answer: If the bicyclist is off their bicycle at an intersection and walks across, they have all the rights at the intersection as a pedestrian would. Motorists must stop for crossing pedestrians at every intersection, even those without crosswalks or stoplights. Motorists should stop far enough back so drivers in other lanes can also see the pedestrian in time to stop.

Those riding a bicyclist is must obey all traffic control signs and signals, just as motorists. Bicycle-vehicle collisions are due to a variety of behaviors by the rider, such as disregarding a traffic sign or signal, inattention and distraction.

Bicyclists and motorists are equally responsible for safety on the road. The number one contributing factor to bicycle-vehicle collisions is failure to yield the right-of-way-by bicyclists and drivers alike.

Each year in Minnesota, approximately 40 pedestrians and 10 bicyclists are killed as a result of collisions with motor vehicles.

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• As a group, pedestrians and bicyclists comprise nearly 10 percent of all traffic fatalities each year-71 percent of these fatal crashes occur in urban areas.

• 30 percent of pedestrians and 8 percent of bicyclists killed had consumed alcohol.

• 15 percent of pedestrians killed were not crossing properly.

Rules of the Road and Safety Tips

• Bicyclists may ride on all Minnesota roads, except where restricted.

• Bicyclists should ride on the road, and must ride in the same direction as traffic.

• Motorists must at all times maintain a 3-foot clearance when passing a bicyclist.

• Bicyclists must signal their turns and should ride in a predictable manner.

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• Bicyclists must use a headlight and rear reflectors when it's dark. To increase visibility, add a rear flashing light.

• Motorists must drive at safe speeds and be attentive-look for bicyclist sand check blind spots.

• Drivers should use caution and look twice for riders when turning.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Sgt. Neil Dickenson, Minnesota State Patrol, 1131 Mesaba Ave., Duluth, MN, 55811; on Twitter @MSPPIO_NE; or by email at neil.dickenson@state.mn.us .

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