Pulled over in Bloomington for not being far enough right
I was pulled over by an Officer Smith of Bloomington PD tonight, for failing to ride in a right-turn-only auxiliary lane near Lyndale and American (when, to be clear, I was not turning right).
Has anyone had any trouble with Bloomington PD? I got a warning, no citation. This is what I’m sending in response:
To whom it may concern:
I am an experienced cyclist and a resident of Richfield. This evening, I was pulled over while cycling by an Officer Smith of Bloomington police and given a warning that was completely unfounded. Thankfully, the officer did not cite me, but I was deeply concerned that a Bloomington police officer would misrepresent both Minnesota law and safe cycling standards.
I was pulled over on northbound Lyndale Ave S, just south of W American Boulevard, tonight, Nov 13 2012 at approx 10:30pm. My journey on Lyndale was from W 98th St in Bloomington to W 73rd St in Richfield. For this entire length, Lyndale Avenue has two lanes in either direction, with no bike lane or shoulder. At multiple points — including this portion, between 82nd and American — there are right-turn-only auxiliary lanes. At the time, I was riding in the center of the right-most through-lane, as I had been for over twenty blocks. The lane is not wide enough for a bicycle and car to lawfully share side-by-side, and, as such, I was riding in the center of the lane to prevent in-lane passing. According to Officer Smith, Minnesota law requires me to change lanes right into the auxiliary lane, and then “at the last minute” (the officer’s words) change back into the through lane. He claimed that I was “allowed” to be in the roadway, but only if I was in the “far right lane, not impeding traffic”. He further claimed that I was “impeding” his travel. When I attempted to explain why I was riding where I was, he accused me of riding in the left lane as well.
I would like to break down Officer Smith’s claims individually:
I was riding in the left lane of NB Lyndale Ave S
This is not a question of statute, but there is simply no way the officer’s claim is correct. I entered the roadway from the right-most left-turn-only lane on W 98th St, and was planning to turn right in Richfield. Never was I in the left through lane of Lyndale Avenue.
A cyclist is required to ride in a right-turn-only auxiliary lane
Officer Smith is presumably thinking of 169.222, Subd. 4(a):
Subd. 4.Riding rules. (a) Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations: [...]
“roadway”, critically, is defined (169.011) as:
Subd. 68.Roadway. “Roadway” means that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the sidewalk or shoulder.
That is, the roadway is the main-traveled portion of the highway, not necessarily all portions of the asphalt. 169.222, Subd. 4 also specifically exempts the requirement to ride “as far right as practicable” when lanes are narrow — this not defined, but presumably when a lane is so narrow that it cannot be lawfully shared by a bicycle and motor vehicle side-by-side, such as the lanes on Lyndale Ave S. There is no definition or statement about whether a turn lane is part of the roadway or not. But mere common sense would show that a cyclist not intending to turn right should not be riding in a lane clearly signed “RIGHT LANE MUST TURN RIGHT”.
A cyclist should “wait until the last minute” to change lanes
169.222 gives particular permission for a cyclist to position him or herself in a left lane when necessary to prepare for a left turn, but it specifies no particular length of time or distance one should be in a given lane. However, the League of American Cyclists (and virtually any other safe cycling authority) would discourage a cycling from “waiting until the last minute”. Note how League Cycling Instructors ride in a left through lane for over a block to signal their intention to turn left in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rU4nKKq02BU. This prevents sudden movements and expresses their intentions clearly to other users of the road.
A cyclist may not impede traffic
There is no law against a single cyclist impeding traffic. The only use of the word “impede” in 169.222 regards two cyclists riding abreast. Furthermore, there is no reasonable way that Office Smith was “impeded” in his travels, as he and I were the only vehicles on the roadway, and there was another completely empty through lane available to him.
I am certain that the officer’s warning was with the best of intentions. He expressed concern that if I get “whacked at 30″, I would be seriously injured. As a matter of fact, I was “whacked at 30″ just this June — not from behind, which is an extremely rare crash type, but from a vehicle who ran a stop sign and “didn’t see me”. Since then, I have made a point of riding predictably, safely, and (as always) lawfully. That this riding style warrants harassment from Bloomington police is appalling. I would strongly encourage all your officers to review Minnesota statute regarding bicycling and to review some safe cycling resources. That video is a great start: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rU4nKKq02BU. Bicycling and the Law by Bob Mionske is also a great resource.
I appreciate Bloomington’s concern for my safety on the road — but without proper understanding of safe cycling techniques or applicable statute, I believe this concern could intimidate other cyclists into unsafe behaviors (such as sidewalk cycling).
Thank you for taking the time to review this matter.
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