Did you know Minnesota ranks second among America’s most bicycle-friendly states? The League of American Bicyclists creates an annual report card in which states score ‘bikeability’ points in five categories:

  • Legislation and Enforcement
  • Policies and Programs
  • Infrastructure and Funding
  • Education and Encouragement
  • Evaluation and Planning.

While Minnesota scored consistently high in most categories, it received its lowest marks in the Infrastructure and Funding category.

What does this low score mean for Minnesota bicycle commuters and cycling enthusiasts? It means the Land of 10,000 Lakes contains a low percentage of shoulders on state highways, trail miles, and signed bicycle routes. It also means you need to take extra precautions to stay safe on the road.

Here’s how you can pay close attention, understand bicycle traffic laws, and potentially prevent an accident.

Dos and Don’ts: Share the Road, Not the Sidewalk

Cyclists and drivers both make mistakes on the road. Unfortunately, some of these mistakes result in accidents, including seven fatalities in 2012. Before we delve into discussing specific bicycle safety tips, let’s clear up some misconceptions.

Perhaps the most common mistake cyclists make is pedaling on the sidewalk. Kids do it frequently, largely because their parents teach them it’s safer than being on the road. This misconception represents a major safety hazard. It’s actually much safer to share the road, cycling in the same direction as traffic. If you ride on the sidewalk, you’re at greater risk of being hit by a car as it pulls out of a driveway or turns at an intersection.

You may also believe cyclists have the right of way on the road. That’s not true. Cyclists have the responsibility to ride defensively and cautiously. They also have to share the road and communicate with car drivers.

What should you do to stay safe as a cyclist in Minnesota? Ride on the road, and stay as far right as possible. Pay attention to cars pulling out, garbage cans, construction, and other roadside impediments. Ride single file as much as you can, and ride two across at the most. When you need to turn left, emerge slowly into the middle or left lane.

Finally, make sure your bike is road legal. For example, fixed gear bicycles are popular, but some don’t have brakes, which is against Minnesota Bicycle Law.

Tips for Staying Visible and Communicating Better

The best way to avoid a collision is to communicate with drivers. Even if you think you’re riding predictably, err on the side of over-communicating.

Here are seven quick tips to be more visible on the roadway and let cars know where you’re going:

  1. Wear bright colors and reflective gear.
  2. Install and use blinking taillights on the bike’s rear.
  3. Use a lamp for the front of the bike. Not only does it help oncoming drivers see you, it helps you watch out for debris on the road.< /li>
  4. Stop at stop signs and stoplights. Never ride through either.
  5. Maintain your lane and don’t weave through traffic or between parked cars.
  6. Signal when you’re about to turn, slow down, or stop. Use your left hand for all signaling, except for right hand turns. Check over your shoulder to verify no cars are speeding up to cut you off as you turn.
  7. Signal continuously for 100 feet before you turn.

Though Minnesota might not have the widest collection of cruiseable roadside shoulders, it’s still one of the most bikeable places in the United States. With a little extra care, you can avoid traffic accidents. Follow these guidelines and to do your part to ensure your safety while you’re on the road.

If you were hit by a car while you were out pedaling, a local, Central Minnesota law firm can determine whether you have a case for personal injury compensation.