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Oxford Street improvements unveil bike lane

WORTHINGTON -- Bicyclists in Worthington have a new way to navigate one of Worthington's busiest streets. Designated east and westbound bike lanes on Oxford Street that span from McMillan Street to Highway 60 are now complete. The curb-to-curb wi...

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A portion of the new bike path on Oxford Street is shown Tuesday. (Tim Middagh/The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - Bicyclists in Worthington have a new way to navigate one of Worthington’s busiest streets.

Designated east and westbound bike lanes on Oxford Street that span from McMillan Street to Highway 60 are now complete. The curb-to-curb width of Oxford Street did not change as a result of the bike lanes, but the driving lanes were adjusted, said City Engineer Dwayne Haffield.

“Overall, the driving lane area did reduce a little, but it depends on which lane,” said Haffield, adding that there’s anywhere from a zero to two-foot difference in lane width to accommodate for the eight-foot bike lanes.

Now that Oxford Street has become vehicle- and bike-friendly, motorists and cyclists alike should be hypervigilant and drive defensively, Worthington Police Department Srgt. Brett Wiltrout.

“A bike on the roadway is a vehicle - a bike on the sidewalk is a pedestrian,” said Wiltrout, noting that bicyclists on the roadway are expected to abide by the same laws imposed on motor vehicles.

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By Minnesota State Law, motorists must give a minimum of three feet clearance when overtaking a bicyclist on the roadway. Motor vehicles are also prohibited from driving in a bike lane unless making a turn, preparing to turn or parking.

However, parking is prohibited on Oxford Street east of McMillan Street, which has long been the case, Wiltrout said.

“Vehicle versus bike violations, including driving in the bike lane or not providing at least a three-foot distance, is about a $125 fine,” Wiltrout said.  

The bike lanes have solid and dashed lines. The dashed lines signify when a motorist should begin merging onto the bike lane to make a right-hand turn to another street, Wiltrout said.

The bike lanes are solid at business entrances, but motorists should still merge, Wiltrout said.

Wiltrout said it should be noted that while motor vehicles cannot drive in the bike lanes, implements and husbandry are exceptions, but must yield to bicyclists.

Bicyclists also assume driving responsibility. Cyclists in the bike lane must ride in the same direction of traffic, cannot split traffic or ride between cars and, like motorists, must stop for a school bus stop arm.

Wiltrout added that bicyclists must also stop at traffic lights and stop signs and use hand signals before turning. Like a motorist, bicyclists found non-compliant with laws may be cited.

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While not mandatory by Minnesota State Law, Wiltrout said cyclists are strongly encouraged to wear helmets.

“We strongly encourage every bicyclist regardless of age or experience wear a helmet,” he said.

The helmet should fit snugly and not rock side-to-side. No more than a two-finger width should fit between the front of the helmet and rider’s eyebrows. The helmet straps should form a “V” under and in front of the ears. The buckles of the strap should be centered underneath the chin and sliders should be locked. No more than one or two fingers should fit under the chin strap.

Planning for the collaborative project between the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the city began over a year ago, with the resurface project on the horizon.

According to an engineering memo presented to the Worthington City Council in April 2016, the MnDOT planned to fund bike lanes along Oxford Street from Humiston Avenue to Minnesota 60, and it was found desirable that the lanes extend to McMillan Street to maintain continuity along the entire roadway.

According to Haffield, after undergoing a public input process, the city agreed to fund approximately $49,000 for roadway striping removals, new striping and signing west of Humiston Avenue. That portion is being financed by Municipal State Aid Street funding.

The city will also be responsible for maintaining the bike lane signing and striping across the entire length.

Community Wellness Partners of Cottonwood, Jackson and Nobles counties will provide a community bicycle safety training from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Oct. 3 and from 10:30 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Community Education Building, 117 11th Avenue, Worthington.

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For more detailed laws and safety information, visit www.bikemn.org .

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