Minnesota State Capitol Before

A Charming Third, or Tilting At Windmills

Welcome to Winter! In addition to the cold and snow, we are in the early parts of the the 2019-2020 Minnesota Legislative Session.

Among the many hundreds of bills that have been introduced so far, bicycle-related legislation has been introduced in the House (HF 462) and the Senate (SF 1014). This proposed legislation, which seems to be very similar to HF 3925 as submitted in 2018, includes several positive aspects: it provides helpful clarity regarding who determines when a person riding a bicycle may ride other than “as far to the right as practicable” (the bicyclist does!), it clarifies the definition of what constitutes a bikeway, it grants the ability for a person bicycling to proceed straight ahead from a right turn lane(?), and it clarifies safe passing of and by persons bicycling. By and large, all good stuff!

Unfortunately, the legislation also includes a couple less positive aspects. First, it continues to include the word “curb” as a primary referent proximate to which the person bicycling must cleave, thereby leaving open the possibility of requiring said person to be bicycling in the gutter pan (since curb <> edge of lane / gutter). It also adds new language requiring a person bicycling on a bikeway to give an audible signal when overtaking another person or bicycle (bicyclist?) on the bikeway. Granted (and agreed) that is a best practice in more crowded bikeways, requiring it seems to overlook many frequently occurring interaction types (earbuds, extendable leashes, middle-of-the-lane travelers, socializers, etc) and put the onus for civility as well as the risk of perceived culpability solely on the person bicycling. Do people driving cars have to give an audible signal when overtaking other roadway users? Are people walking required to signal audibly when overtaking? Not good stuff.

And disappointingly, the proposed legislation includes nothing about #IdahoStop / #ParisStop / #DelawareYield. Hopefully I’m not flogging a dead horse or rolling another boulder up this hill, but the concept of persons bicycling being able to most clearly tell when it is safe for them to proceed at intersections is well understood (yes, it is also well misunderstood (#BikeHatersGonnaHate), but that is a distraction). As has been stated in the past, the law in Idaho that permits persons bicycling to conditionally treat stop signs as yields and stop lights as stop signs has been in place for 30+ years and the world hasn’t ended. In 2017, Delaware became the second State to implement legislation (info here) that permits “bicyclists to yield at stop signs (when the coast is clear), instead of requiring a complete stop at all stop signs with no exceptions“. In 2018, Colorado signed into law the ability for local communities to implement #IdahoStop. In 2019, Utah is considering, and has passed out of committee, a similar law they’ve branded #UtahYield.

Combine these facts with the increasing frequency of intersections in Minnesota being converted to roundabouts (changing stop lights / stop signs to yield signs for people driving) or being controlled (in part) by flashing yellow arrows instead of absolute, everyone stops all the time signs / signals, and it becomes clear that Bicycle Friendly Minnesota is (and all the other Bicycle Friendly political subdivisions like Counties and Cities, etc are) overdue to implement laws like this.

So, how can we do that? First, establish a relationship with your elected officials (Representatives and Senators, in this specific context, but also mayors, city council members, etc) and help them understand these things. Research it (lots of helpful links here!), and go talk TO them, not AT them. Second, contact your local bicycle advocacy organization (the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota – Bike MN) and/or national organizations (like the League of American Bicyclists) and let them know this is important to you. Third, keep your eyes peeled – maybe someone will tilt at that windmill this Session!

Stay warm!

Luke Van Santen

About Luke Van Santen

A western suburbs (Minnetonka) @BikeCommuter /#quaxer