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Letter to the editor: Keep bicycle safety in mind when operating a motor vehicle

From Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson

There are certain rules and laws you should be aware of as a driver of a motor vehicle that pertain to sharing the road with bicycles.

Under Minnesota Statutes, every person operating a bicycle shall have all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle.

The NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) encourages all road users, including motorists and bicyclists, to respect each other and foster a safer transportation environment. Bicycles on the roadway are, by law, vehicles with the same rights and responsibilities as motorized vehicles. NHTSA’s bicycle safety program’s focus is on research, education, and enforcement of bicyclists’ and motorists’ behavior to enhance roadway safety and reduce bicycle injuries and fatalities in our nation. Some of these rules include:

Passing bicycles – The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on the roadway shall leave a safe distance, but in no case less than three feet clearance, when passing the bicycle and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle or individual.

Passing bicycles on the right – A driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under certain conditions, such as when the other vehicle or bicycle is making or attempting to make a left turn.aBe aware that you cannot do so by driving in a bicycle lane or onto the shoulder, whether paved or unpaved, or off the pavement or main-traveled portion of the roadway to do so.

Bicycle Lanes – Whenever a bicycle lane has been established on a roadway, any person operating a motor vehicle on the roadway shall not drive in the bicycle lane except to perform parking maneuvers in order to park where parking is permitted, or to enter or leave the highway, or to prepare for a legal turn.

Speeds on streets with bicycle lanes – Motorists should also be aware that there may be reduced speed limits on streets with bicycle lanes. These speed limits shall be posted for awareness.

Turning – Whenever it is necessary for the driver of a motor vehicle to cross a bicycle lane adjacent to the driver’s lane of travel to make a turn, the driver shall first signal the movement, then drive the motor vehicle into the bicycle lane prior to making the turn, but only after it is safe to do so. The driver shall then make the turn, yielding the right-of-way to any vehicles or bicycles approaching.

Hand signals – Motorists should be aware that bicycle riders should indicate by using hand signals their intentions to stop or turn. Regardless, motorists should also be aware that this sometimes does not happen and should be cautious when approaching bicyclists.

Other Bicycle Awareness Rules – a) using extra caution in school zones, near parks and residential areas, and bicycle crossing areas, b) looking for bicyclists before opening your car door near traffic or bicycle lanes, and c) being aware and cautious of bicycles when approaching all intersections including driveways and other roadways.

In Lake County, the Two Harbors Police Department, the Silver Bay Police Department, the Lake Superior School District and the Lake County Sheriff’s Office are working together through the Safe Routes to Schools coalition to make the roadways safer for bicycles and motorists. In May we will be having a bicycle safety program for the elementary students in Two Harbors and Silver Bay.