Understanding the Law

Minnesota Bicycling law gives cyclists the same rights and responsibilities as motorists. This means that you have the freedom to ride on all streets, except for those which prohibit cyclists. In Minneapolis, prohibited streets include the limited access freeway system (such as I-94, I-35W, I-394, MN 62). As a cyclist, you also have the responsibility to follow all traffic laws. Among other things, this includes signaling turns, following traffic signals and signs, using headlights and rear reflectors (although taillights are advised), riding with the flow of traffic, following right-of-way rules, and yielding to pedestrians who have entered a marked or unmarked crosswalk.

In 2011, Minnesota adopted an Affirmative Defense Law for cyclists. This states that a bicylist may cross an intersection against a red light if the bicycle has been brought to a full stop, the light continues to show red for an unreasonable amount of time or appears to be malfunctioning, and there is no other traffic that creates an immediate hazard (full text of M.S. 169.06, subd. 9). Please note that many traffic lights (including all lights in downtown Minneapolis) are timed and will turn from red to green with due patience.

Cyclists riding on the street should yield the right-of-way to pedestrians who have legally entered a crosswalk, marked or unmarked.

Cyclists are required to stay to the right, riding "as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway." Exceptions detailed in Minnesota law include: when passing, when preparing for a left turn, and when necessary to avoid parked cars and surface hazards. An exception is also included for narrow width lanes. Typically this translates to cyclists riding just right of center of the lane that serves their destination. Bike riding too close to curbs and in gutters can be dangerous because of debris and decreased visibility to motorists.

Motorists should look at cyclists as slow-moving vehicles. Minnesota Driving Rules require that motorists pass cyclists with "in no case less than three feet clearance, . . . and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle . . . " They also prohibit motorists from driving or parking in bicycle lanes. Minnesota Turning Rules require that motorists enter a bicycle lane before making a turn, yielding to all approaching bicyclists before doing so.


This motorist has lawfully passed the cyclist, giving more than three feet of clearance.

Minnesota law also grants cyclists all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian, when operating on a sidewalk. Minnesota Pedestrian law explains that pedestrians (and therefore cyclists) have the right-of-way at marked crosswalks and at intersections with no marked crosswalks. Before entering the crosswalk, pedestrians and cyclists must ensure that a road user has the ability to stop. Please note, cyclists may not ride on a sidewalk in a business district or where posted. While a business district is precisely defined in state law , the layman’s definition is a city block which has more than half of its buildings occupied by businesses. View a map of the City’s commercially zoned districts (pdf) to see where businesses are located. In these areas, the lawful cyclist will walk his or her bike, or ride on the street. When riding on sidewalks, cyclists must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians. When necessary, cyclists should announce their presence to pedestrians on sidewalks, before passing.

Minneapolis Parking ordinance allows temporary bicycle parking at bike racks and sign posts. Bicycle parking is prohibited at trees, parking meters, traffic signal posts, light posts, and handrails.

Minneapolis ordinance allows bike parking at bike racks and sign posts


Last updated Jan 25, 2012