As of April 16, 2010, new rules about bicyclist behavior at unchanging red lights has become law in Minnesota. This is a fairly big deal for cyclists, both because it provides traffic empowerment to bicyclists, but also because misuse of the rule by some cyclists has potential negative publicity value for all cyclists.
SF 2453 and HF 2616 amend Minnesota Statutes 169.06, Subd. 9 to insert the words “bicycle or” into the existing law that allows motorcycles an affirmative defense for proceeding through a red light if the motorcycle is unable to trigger the signal to change to green.
Subd. 9. Affirmative defense relating to unchanging traffic-control signal.
(a) A person operating a bicycle or motorcycle who violates subdivision 4 by entering or crossing an intersection controlled by a traffic-control signal against a red light has affirmative defense to that charge if the person establishes all of the following conditions:
(1) the bicycle or motorcycle has been brought to a complete stop;
(2) the traffic-control signal continues to show a red light for an unreasonable time;
(3) the traffic-control signal is apparently malfunctioning or, if programmed or engineered to change to a green light only after detecting the approach of a motor vehicle, the signal has apparently failed to detect the arrival of the bicycle or motorcycle; and
(4) no motor vehicle or person is approaching on the street or highway to be crossed or entered or is so far away from the intersection that it does not constitute an immediate hazard.
(b) The affirmative defense in this subdivision applies only to a violation for entering or crossing an intersection controlled by a traffic-control
signal against a red light and does not provide a defense to any other civil or criminal action.
The big things to keep in mind is that a full stop is required, and it needs to stay red for an unreasonable time. Cyclists need to use some sense when defining ‘unreasonable.’ Motorist distance on the cross-street is also a consideration.
Jumping the red after resting for 2.2 milliseconds is not the intent of this new rule, and has a risk of increasing cyclists’ reputation for ignoring traffic signals and laws. Use the law in good faith!