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Ask a Trooper: Law gives cyclists leeway, but with conditions

Question: What is the rule for drivers of motorcycles for making left or right turns at intersections? Someone told me that because some vehicles are not heavy enough to trip the signal lights they are legally able to make a left or right turn at a red light when it is safe to do so, after the signal light has cycled once. Please advise, thanks!

Answer: Minnesota law does address motorcycles, bicycles and mopeds that are not detected by control systems at traffic lights.  When a signal change does not occur, the law gives motorcyclists, bicyclists and moped riders the option to proceed through the intersection after a reasonable amount of time. 

These five conditions must be met in order to proceed:

•The motorcycle, bicycle or moped has come to a complete stop.

•The traffic-control signal remains red for an unreasonable time.

•The traffic-control signal is apparently malfunctioning or, if programmed to change to a green light only after detecting the approach of a motor vehicle, the signal has apparently failed to detect the motorcycle, bicycle or moped.

•No vehicle or person is approaching the roadway to be crossed or entered.

•Approaching vehicles or persons are so distant that they do not constitute an immediate hazard.

The law also provides an affirmative legal defense to this action. The affirmative defense applies only to an alleged violation for entering or crossing an intersection controlled by a traffic-control signal against a red light. It does not provide a defense to any other civil or criminal action.

You can avoid a ticket — and a crash — if you simply buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and always drive sober.  Help us drive Minnesota Toward Zero Deaths.

If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota send your questions to Sgt. Troy Christianson – Minnesota State Patrol at 2900 48th Street NW, Rochester MN 55901-5848.  (Or reach him at, Troy.Christianson@state.mn.us)