You might think that you have a better chance of spotting a white peacock than you do a bicyclist in Minnesota. After all, the North Star State isn’t exactly known for its year-round warm weather.
Nevertheless, Minnesota’s bike scene is thriving.
The state is home to more than 4,000 miles of bike trails, including the Root River, Paul Bunyan, and Central Lake trails. The League of American Bicyclists ranked Minnesota the 3rd most bike-friendly state in the entire country, and Bicycling magazine named Minneapolis the country’s #1 bike city.
Unfortunately, even in a bike-friendly state like Minnesota, bicycling can be dangerous.
Let’s take a look at bike accidents in Minnesota, including the laws that cyclists should know about and how cyclists can receive compensation following a bike crash.
Bike accidents have generally trended downward in Minnesota since 2005, although the number of fatal bike accidents has remained somewhat steady from year to year.
Bicycle crashes are more common in warmer months, which is not too surprising considering there are more cyclists out when the weather is nice. However, in 2019, there were bicycle crashes during each month of the year.
There are all sorts of factors that contribute to bike accidents, but being aware of the most common actions taken by cyclists prior to a crash may help you avoid a crash:
|Prior action of bicyclists involved in crashes in Minnesota (2019)|
|Prior action||Bicyclists in fatal crashes||Bicyclists in injury crashes||Bicyclists in property damage crashes|
|Cycling across traffic||4||312||16|
|Cycling with traffic||4||158||18|
|Cycling against traffic||0||26||6|
|Cycling on sidewalk||0||74||6|
|Standing or stopped||0||4||0|
Most of the laws specific to bicycling can be found in Chapter 169 of the Minnesota Statutes. These laws address everything from required equipment to whether cyclists need to carry a driver’s license.
Let’s answer some of the most common questions about bicycle laws:
Minnesota state law does NOT require bicyclists to wear helmets.
With that being said, bicycle helmets are strongly encouraged. Studies show that bicycle helmets are 85-88% effective in mitigating head and brain injuries.
When purchasing a helmet, be sure it’s approved by the Snell Memorial Foundation (SNELL) or American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).
Minnesota Statute 169.222 states that “every person operating a bicycle shall have all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle.”
To put it another way, you need to obey the same traffic laws as motor vehicle drivers unless those traffic laws cannot reasonably be applied to bicyclists.
Riding a bike while intoxicated is a very bad idea.
According to a research study published by the International Journal of Surgery, roughly ⅓ of injured cyclists screened for alcohol are intoxicated.
With that being said, you cannot be charged with a DWI while operating a bicycle in Minnesota.
Minnesota Statute 169.18 states that motorists cannot drive or park in bike lanes. What’s more, no person shall stop or stand in a bike lane except to avoid conflict with other traffic or to be in compliance with the instructions of a police officer.
Lane splitting (sometimes called “stripe riding”) is when a bicyclist (or motorcyclist) rides between 2 lanes of cars heading in the same direction. Most cyclists split lanes when traffic slows, but some cyclists also split lanes in order to filter to the front of traffic at a stoplight.
Regardless of the reason, lane splitting is prohibited in Minnesota.
Minnesota Statute 169.222 states that a bicyclist on the roadway in a traffic lane must ride in the direction of traffic, as must a bicyclist on the shoulder or in a bike lane.
The term “dooring” refers to the act of opening a motor vehicle door into the path of another road user (typically a cyclist).
Minnesota Statute 169.315 strictly prohibits dooring. The law states that no person shall open any door on a motor vehicle unless and until it can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic.
What’s more, no person shall allow any door to remain open for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.
Texting while operating a bicycle is an extremely dangerous and stupid thing to do. It’s not, however, strictly prohibited under Minnesota law.
Minnesota is a no-fault insurance state. This means that motor vehicles drivers injured in an accident file insurance claims with their own insurance company first regardless of who’s at fault for the accident.
What does this mean for cyclists?
Even if you’re injured on your bicycle, your auto insurance—specifically, your personal injury protection (PIP) policy—will typically provide some compensation regardless of who was at fault for the accident (assuming your accident involved a motor vehicle).
If you don’t have auto insurance, you may be able to receive coverage if someone in your family has auto insurance.
When making a claim against the motor vehicle driver or filing a personal injury lawsuit against them, you’ll need to prove that they were responsible (i.e., at fault) for the accident.
In most cases, proving fault means proving that the driver was negligent. To do this, you’ll have to establish that:
Minnesota limits the amount of time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. This time limit is called the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations for most bike accident cases is 2 years from the date of the accident.
If you’re under the age of 18 at the time of the accident, the 2-year clock typically won’t start running until you turn 18.
Under Minnesota’s contributory negligence law, a plaintiff’s damages are reduced by their percentage of fault. What’s more, if the plaintiff is found to be more than 50% responsible for the accident, they’re barred from recovering ANY damages.
Even “minor” bike accidents can be traumatic. However, you can increase your chances of recovery down the road by staying calm and completing the following steps: