Rules of the road: How to keep Worthington bikers, pedestrians and drivers safe this summer

“The biggest thing is, bikes are required to follow traffic laws just like a car would be. You don’t need a license, but you do have to obey the speed limits, stop signs, stuff like that.”

FILE PHOTO: A cyclist traveling on Fox Farm Road follows Worthington's biking and walking trail.
FILE PHOTO: A cyclist traveling on Fox Farm Road follows Worthington's biking and walking trail.
(Ryan McGaughey/Daily Globe)

WORTHINGTON — As the temperature rises, so does the number of people taking to Worthington’s streets to enjoy the warm weather, take a walk or go for a bike ride. With more people out and about, it’s important to be mindful of the rules, laws and etiquette when it comes to sharing the roads and sidewalks.

“The biggest thing is bikes are required to follow traffic laws just like a car would be,” said Worthington Police Department officer Chris Hillesheim, who spent several years doing bike patrol in Worthington. “You don’t need a license, but you do have to obey the speed limits, stop signs, stuff like that.”

Bicyclists can be ticketed for ignoring traffic laws the same as motorists, which would show up on their regular driving record. When sharing roadways, bicyclists and motor vehicle drivers also share a responsibility to be mindful of one another. Bike riders have an equal right to the road, something that Hillesheim noted many people don’t realize.

“Bicyclists have got the right to the full lane,” he said, “so legally a car can't just kind of squeeze next to them or go right beside them at the same speed.”

Minnesota also has laws for motor vehicles passing bicyclists, which include a three feet minimum passing distance that drivers must provide. However, more space is better and needed for safety at higher speeds. While riding single file is often safest, bicyclists are allowed to ride with two individuals next to each other in a single lane. The same passing laws for motor vehicles apply here as well.


Bike lanes and streets are often preferred, but bicyclists can also ride on the sidewalk, with certain exceptions. In Worthington, sidewalks are off-limits to bikers in the downtown district.

In areas where riding a bike on the sidewalk is allowed, bikers are subject to the same rights and responsibilities as a pedestrian — for instance, not entering a crosswalk when there is impending traffic. Additionally, bikers must yield to pedestrians on sidewalks and when passing should give an audible signal, either by vocalizing, or hitting a bell or horn to alert others.

“If you're approaching somebody from behind, give them a fair warning that you're coming around,” said Hillesheim.

As for pedestrians, they should always walk on the sidewalk when possible. If there is no sidewalk, they should always walk facing traffic in order to see oncoming vehicles. Bicyclists, runners and walkers should all consider having reflective gear, especially during times when visibility might be impacted.

While Minnesota law doesn't require bicyclists to wear a helmet, it is highly encouraged, Hillesheim said. He also recommends having a headlight, batteries and a cell phone on hand when you go out biking, and water to avoid dehydration. If people are out biking when it’s dark, they should consider tail lights as well.

“Especially for younger kids, it's important to let somebody know where you're going and the route you take so if you don't show up on time they know where to start looking,” Hillesheim added. “Really though, people just have to be mindful. Don’t crowd one another and watch out, it’s a good way to keep things safe.”

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Emma McNamee joined The Globe team in October 2021 as a reporter covering Crime & Courts, Politics, and the City beats. Born and raised in Duluth, Minn., McNamee left her hometown to attend school in Chicago at Columbia College. She graduated in 2021 with a degree in Multimedia Journalism, with a concentration in News & Feature Writing and a minor in Creative Writing.
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