The death today of a cyclist on Summit Avenue in St. Paul sadly demonstrates that cyclists keeping to bike lanes – as some motorists urge – simply isn’t an answer.
In each place where the inner service road meets the main throughway of Summit Avenue, there is a stop sign – for the service road. Summit is the ‘main’ road, and thus the only stops along Summit for a vehicle of traffic would be at the major crossings. The cyclist is almost undoubtedly not at fault in the crash described in the Strib – for all the good it does her.
Multiple sections of Minnesota Statute 169 pertain to right-of-way. Being not an officer of the law, or an expert in Minnesota laws as such, I can’t tell you which is especially applicable here. I doubt it’s 169.20, subdivision 4, a personal favorite of mine:
Subd. 4. Vehicle entering roadway. The driver of a vehicle about to enter or cross a roadway
from any place other than a roadway shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching on
the roadway to be entered or crossed.
Usually this is applied to things like alleyways, not service roads.
It’s far more likely that 169.20, Subd. 3 applies:
Subd. 3. Through highway; stop sign. (a) The driver of a vehicle shall stop as required by this chapter at the entrance to a through highway and shall yield the right-of-way to other vehicles
which have entered the intersection from the through highway or which are approaching so closely
on the through highway as to constitute an immediate hazard, but the driver having so yielded may
proceed, and the drivers of all other vehicles approaching the intersection on the through highway
shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicles so proceeding into or across the through highway.
(b) The driver of a vehicle shall likewise stop in obedience to a stop sign, as required herein,
at an intersection where a stop sign is erected at one or more entrances thereto although not a
part of a through highway, and shall proceed cautiously, yielding to vehicles not so obliged to
stop which are within the intersection or approaching so closely as to constitute an immediate
hazard, but may then proceed.
Given the road configuration at the point of the crash, that St. Paul police do not seem to be at least ticketing the driver seems pretty insane. At a minimum, a ticket under the reckless driving statute (169.13) should be possible, even without witnesses. Again, totally not a legal expert, so this is speculation.
What I am, though, is a bicycle educator, and I do think this shows that education matters. Summit is a striped bikeway. There was a stop-sign for the driver, and the cyclist would have been in a legal through lane. There is no low shrubbery through there. Clearly, the SUV driver wasn’t paying attention.
Only education focused on watching for traffic on the road – including bicycle traffic – is really an answer to collisions such as this. How many motorists did you see on cell phones today? How many motorists did you see eating in their car, or putting on makeup at a light, or yelling at the kids in the back seat? None of these behaviors create safe roads for anyone.