Ride Boldly!

Bikes, bicycling, and road safety.

Tragedy on Summit

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.

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Author: julie

Julie Kosbab is an online marketing consultant and active transportation advocate living in Anoka County, Minnesota. She was one of Minnesota's only League of American Bicyclists Certified Instructors when certified in 2005. She is a past member of the National Bicycle Tour Directors Association. She has 2 children and 4 bicycles. Find her on Twitter as @betweenstations.


  1. Julie,
    I, too, am perplexed that no citation was issued if that is indeed the case. And I totally agree that education is the key component of preventing these tragedies. You can place as many statutes in the books as you would like, but they will no more protect us from the inattentive driver as those statutes you have just listed. The simple fact is that as bicyclists we are in the minority. And like any other minority the larger population will not pay attention until there is a sufficient outcry from enough individuals organized in advocacy to raise awareness. Until such time as the metro area becomes more bicycle (and pedestrian friendly), the role of educating both the bicyclists and the motorists of our presence on the roads is critical to prevent the recent tragedies we have seen on the roadways.


  2. I’m certainly keeping an eye on it. They can still issue a citation. Based on the street configuration through there, I know of several possibilities that at least fall into ‘misdemeanor’ and ‘gross misdemeanor’ departments.

    I’d also wonder if they did alcohol tests on site. I think one of the things that concerns me is that it’s not a default action in injury accidents of any kind involving a vehicle. I know that there needs to be ‘due cause’ to make such a request, but having been in an injury accident should hold up as a reason.

  3. The problem I see is, that the sign says STOP. To many, this is, well slow down somewhat, I’m in a hurry. The driver should have been ticketed at least for failure to stop. Having been hit by someone who failed to stop, this is an epidemic. I am always leary of cars approaching, even when I have the right of way. They simply are not paying attention.
    If you drive as you should have been taught, this would not have happened. You stop and look before proceding. Of course, this would also have to apply to some of the people enforcing the laws.

  4. In my accident the driver failed to yield, turning left in front of me. That driver, too, did not get ticketed.

    I don’t know what it’s going to take to make people, even on relatively bike friendly areas, more attentive to their surroundings, but this issue is nation-wide, and more needs to be done.