Rules of the Road

What Drivers Need to Know

You must stop for pedestrians at any intersection or crosswalk

Any time a pedestrian is crossing in a marked crosswalk, you must stop for him or her. You must likewise stop any time a pedestrian is crossing at an intersection — regardless of whether or not you have a stop sign or there is a crosswalk marked. You may proceed after the pedestrian has passed your lane of travel; if the pedestrian is coming from the right, you do not have to wait until s/he has completely crossed the street.

You must give 3 ft of clearance when passing bicycles

3 ft is the minimum clearance required by Minnesota state law. Imagine a yard stick coming off the left side of the cyclist’s handlebars. If you’re touching that yard stick, you’re too close. What does this mean? On rural roads without shoulders, if there is an oncoming car, you should not attempt to pass the bicycle until after the oncoming car has passed.

Expect cooperation from bicycles, but be prepared for worse

You are at a four-way stop. You have stopped and are preparing to cross the intersection. A bicyclist approaches the intersection after you have stopped and is preparing to make a conflicting move. Expect that the bicyclist will yield to you — it is extremely frustrating for the cyclist to give up his or her momentum only to be waved on into making in illegal crossing. However, be prepared for the fact that some cyclists are not aware of or ignore the rules at intersections. If the bicyclist does not seem to be slowing down, stop for him or her.

The travel lane is for bicycles, too

There are several instances that require a bicycle to enter the travel lane:

  1. The road is too narrow (as mentioned in the 3 ft clearance explanation)
  2. There are parked cars to the right of the travel lane — generally bicyclists should be giving enough clearance for a door to be opened unexpectedly
  3. The bicyclist is preparing to make a left turn or proceed straight through an intersection (and does not want to interact with cars turning right).

In instance 3, you should not attempt to pass the cyclist. Wait patiently until after you are through th intersection. In the other instances, you may pass with care.

What Pedestrians Need to Know

Lacking sidewalks, you have a right to the (left of the) road

Many streets in the Northfield-Dundas area, unfortunately, lack sidewalks. While pedestrians are required to use sidewalks when available and accessible, they have the right to use the road when not available. Always walk against traffic, on the left side.

You have a right to cross

No pedestrian crossing Unless there is a specifically marked no pedestrian crossing sign (not aware of any in the Northfield area), you have the right to cross at any intersection, regardless of the presence of stop signs or crosswalks.

Be careful, but be assertive. Not all drivers will give pedestrians the proper right-of-way, but simply taking one foot off the curb will cause many to yield to you.

What Bicyclists Need to Know

The right side is the right side

Almost all cyclists know this, but it’s important to ride on the right side of the road — with traffic. The only exception might be if riding on a sidewalk when a sidewalk is only available on the left side. In this case, the bicyclist should be aware when crossing streets that the driver may not be expecting a bicycle. It is safest in this instance to dismount and cross the street as a pedestrian.

Always signal

Be as clear and distinct as possible with your signals. To indicate a left turn, fully extend your left arm. To indicate a right turn, raise your left arm in the air at a 90-degree angle. Signal a good ways before your turn — it will likely be difficult to continue signaling as you turn, so make sure you leave plenty of time for cars to see you intention.

Stay Visible

The safest place for the bicycle is often in the middle of the road. When a bicyclist is making a left turn, s/he should be in the middle or left side of the driving lane. On roads with bike lanes (such as the 100-500 of South Highway 3 and the 100 east and west blocks of 5th Street), the bicyclist should leave the bike lane and enter the left turn lane (if available) or travel lane to signal.

Likewise, in the downtown area, avoid riding close to parked cars. Allow clearance for the door to be opened.

Acknowledge traffic stops

There is no excuse for running a red light in a bike or a car. Inexperienced bicyclists may prefer to dismount their bikes and cross as a pedestrian, especially at busier intersections like 2nd Street/Water Street (Hwy 3) and 5th Street/Hwy 3.

For stop signs, officially bicyclists are required to stop at stop signs like other vehicles. Know that you could be ticketed if you violate this. It was worth acknowledging, though, that few cyclists do stop completely at stop signs. While it is always safer to stop fully, a partial stop can still be made safer by yielding to cars that have stopped (or to cars that do not have a stop sign). Cutting in front of cars that have right-of-way is dangerous and unnecessary. Slow down while the cars with right-of-way pass and then proceed through the intersection.

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