Bike lanes painted on the east side; car parking restricted to one side

Union St at 5th, facing north Union St at 4th, facing south 4th St. near Union, facing west 4th St. near Nevada, facing west
Bike lanes have been painted on the new pavement on both sides of Union St. between 4th and 5th and on both sides of 4th St. between Union and Nevada. 

5th St. near Union, facing west 5th St. at Washington, facing west 
The segment on 5th between Union and Washington (paved last year) does not yet have lanes.  5th St’s bike lanes extend to Water St. where they connect to the Riverside Park trail extension that was installed last year… and which connects to the Mill Towns Trail via the Peggy Prowe Pedestrian Bridge.

Are there other places in Northfield with bike lanes in which car parking has been restricted to only one side of the street?


  1. Looks nice, but they’ve again squeezed the width. Generally, bike lanes along parking should be wide enough to allow bikes to avoid the “door zone.” If a driver carelessly swings open a door, the biker needs to be able to avoid the hazard. The westbound (no parking) lane also should have been integrated into the curb/gutter, as was done on Highway 3 downtown. This allows for more rideable surface, since the seam between gutter and asphalt is not within the bike lane, but between bike and driving lanes. In any case, I hope they’re conscientious about keeping the lanes clearly marked. Normally, additional signage is also used, such as “Bike Lane” or “Right Lane Bikes Only”; I do hope they get these up as well. Not all bike lanes are created equal! The 5th St ones were done better, IMO.

    I don’t know of any streets with bike lanes + 1-side parking, but many similar collector streets have parking on only one side anyway (e.g., St. Olaf Ave, Lincoln St).

    June 16, 2011
  2. Jim Fisher said:

    The whole concept of bike lanes makes me nervous. Rather than working with the laws in existence and actually getting out and riding without fear, bike lanes and paths create a false sense of security/responsibility for bicyclists and give motor vehicle operators (and occasionally law enforcement officials) the idea that the lanes/paths are the only place a cyclist should be. Ride responsibly, ride without fear, ride the road. And no, the Northfield ordinance about riding on sidewalks downtown isn’t restrictive, it has ALWAYS been against the law in Minnesota to ride on a sidewalk. Believe me, I had to hand copied the entire Rochester bicycle ordinance 5 times in 6th grade for violating that section.

    Minnesota Statute
    169.222 Operation of bicycle.

    Subdivision 1. Traffic laws apply. Every person
    operating a bicycle shall have all of the rights and duties
    applicable to the driver of any other vehicle by this chapter,
    except in respect to those provisions in this chapter relating
    expressly to bicycles and in respect to those provisions of this
    chapter which by their nature cannot reasonably be applied to

    June 17, 2011
  3. Jim,
    I disagree with your mixing bike lanes and paths. According to Share the Road MN, a street with bike lanes is generally the safest type of bicycle facility. It also says, very loudly, “bikes are welcome here.” Bike paths, on the other hand, are generally inefficient routes that cause conflicts at meeting points with cars, because bikes are not visible/expected beforehand.

    However, I do agree we shouldn’t just slap bike lanes everywhere. For example, if width is not adequate to accomodate them, then they should not be used — we certainly don’t want people riding unsafely close to cars or road edge.

    There is no statewide law on sidewalk cycling, though I would probably support one (for adults). City ordinance prohibiting sidewalk cycling downtown is common sense for cyclists and pedestrians alike.

    June 17, 2011
  4. William Siemers said:

    I agree with riding a bike responsibly regardless if there is a bike path/lane/trail. And certainly there are busy streets here, like Jefferson, that need good bike lanes. But I question whether bike lanes are needed on streets that have little traffic. Northfield isn’t Amsterdam. It seems hard to justify the expense of putting in a bike lane when there are hardly any cars in the car lane.

    June 17, 2011
  5. Shelley Brady said:

    I am not against bike riding at ALL — matter of fact I should be doing some of it! But I have some questions. Do bicyclist have to obey traffic signs? Such as yielding to on-coming traffic, stopping at stop signs and the list goes on? I am so nervous around bike riders because there are so many who I think ride very danagerously with or without bike lanes. I drive home everyday from Lakeville to Northfield on Cedar. Not a lot of room for cars and bikes. There are bikers who ride pretty far out making a car cross over the line when possible to avoid hitting them. I know we need to be super cautious around bike riders (just like motorcycles), but couldn’t they make it a little safer as well. I’m not just talking kids, but adults as well.

    June 17, 2011
  6. Shelley —
    Yes, bicyclists do have to obey traffic signs and signals, or at least those reasonably applicable to bikes. The only real exception is that in a marked crosswalk, they are to be treated as a pedestrian. There is also, I would say, a de facto acceptance of cyclists not coming to a complete stop at stop signs. At a 2-way stop, they should yield to oncoming traffic. At an all-way stop, they should take turns with the cars. While, again, they should technically make a full stop, most cyclists can safely yield without putting a foot down and completely ceasing movement. Note that cyclists may also run red lights if they have come to a complete stop first, and they yield to oncoming traffic.

    As for riding on narrow roads — this is pretty subjective. The cyclist is supposed to ride “as close as practicable” to the edge of the roadway, but avoiding hazards, including the pavement edge. Usually a foot or two in from the white line is appropriate on a roadway like Cedar (south of 280th), though cyclists are often taught to assume a central position to discourage unsafe passing. On a roadway that narrow, cars should wait behind the cyclist and pass when safe to do so. There is not room for them to stay in their lane and provide the legally required 3′ clearance from bikes.

    June 17, 2011
  7. Shelley Brady said:

    Thank you Sean!

    June 17, 2011
  8. john george said:

    Sean- Bicyclists legally going through a red light after a complete stop? Oh, really? Where is this written in the traffic laws? Even pedestrials cannot do this in leiu of violating J-walking laws. The main gripe I have about bicyclists is they seem to vascilate between being pedestrians or vehicles depending on what is convenient for them I have even seen them make pedestrians legally using a cross-walk waith for them to pass. If you want respect, you need to give respect, IMO.

    June 17, 2011
  9. Jim Fisher said:

    Please site statute that allows bicycles to violate stop sign regulations, particularly the difference between a four way and two way. Additionally quantify the term generally, as in “bike lanes are generally the safest…”
    I road all over Northfield last night from Woodley to Greenvale, Carleton to STO, didn’t use a bike lane, path, or special bridge. Leaned over and pressed the cross light button on 3 (by the way there have been various legal hearings regarding pressure sensitive traffic lights and bicycles but they seem to go both directions) when needed and never once worried about my safety or that of my first born. Guess it was because I grew up riding all the time in a larger city and my first borns first trip out of the driveway meant turning onto State Highway 99.

    June 17, 2011
  10. @John This is an exception that has been in place for some time for motorcycles, that was amended to include bikes a couple of years ago. It is in Minnesota 169.09, subd. 9. Again, they must come to a complete stop, and they should reasonably know/observe that the signal will not change for them. In Northfield, a place I use this most is at Hwy 3 and W 2nd St, where there are often a shortage of cars going straight into downtown.

    Problematically, they are somewhere between car and pedestrian — faster than a ped, but not nearly as large or dangerous as a car. They should yield to pedestrians at crosswalks; there is no excuse for that. However, I think just a significant percentage of vehicles fail to do so also. Bikes need to yield to peds — we ALL do.

    @Jim There is no state statute. That is why I said a “de facto acceptance”; legally, you could possibly get a ticket, but I have literally not ever heard of a bicyclist anywhere in Minnesota getting a stop sign ticket, unless they were being reckless. If you blow through a stop sign, that IS dangerous and bad behavior. I totally agree. But most cyclists cannot come to a complete stop without ceasing operation of the vehicle — setting a foot down. It’s analogous to making a car go into park, or turn its engine off, at a stop sign. Most cyclists, in most situations, can safely yield without stopping completely. Again, this is not the written law; this is the common sense approach.

    And I think it’s great that you are using our existing infrastructure. I bike all around Northfield, all year long, too. I ride, by necessity, on a few routes not at all designed for cycles, like Roosevelt Ridge Rd (County Rd 1). But the bike infrastructure improvements aren’t really for us. They’re for all those people who have a bike, who are physically able to bike, but for some reason or another just don’t use it to get around. A welcoming road gets people using their bikes.

    And I did quantify my claim of safest with that link. See — a street with bike lanes has the lowest number of bicycle crashes per 1000 km travelled than a bike route, a plain old street, or a dedicated bike trail.

    June 17, 2011
  11. Sue Welch said:

    My understanding is that cyclists are NOT supposed to go through a red light even after a complete stop, UNLESS there is no way to trigger the light to turn green (i.e., if the light doesn’t turn green on a timer, there’s no pedestrian “walk” button, and the sensor doesn’t recognize a bike). I say this as a cyclist, and to be clear, I do not proceed on a red light unless the light is clearly never going to turn green.

    Some have referred to Share The Road MN. This is an excellent site with links to further resources. I encourage people to check it out at:

    Rules of the Road (for both cyclists and drivers!):

    An abbreviated version of MN cycling statutes:

    (I don’t have time right now to look up the link to the full statutes right now — maybe someone else can provide it?)

    June 17, 2011
  12. john george said:

    Sean- If I read the sub section correctly,:

    (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 section only applies to apparently non-functioning traffic signals, be it systemic or improperly set. I’m assuming an auto, if faced with the same situation, could legally make a right turn after a stop. I would question your defense if the signal was operating properly, did not have a vehicle sensor system, and you were just impatient.

    David L- Am I interpreting this correctly? I’ll get you breakfast if you can straighten this out.

    June 17, 2011
  13. John:
    What would be critical here is “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.” All lights in Northfield, unfortunately, operate on loop detection. If a bicycle sits there, the light will not respond. This does not reasonably apply to a signal where a bicycle detection area has been painted (unless malfunctioning). It also would not apply to timed lights, assuming you can reasonably know that it’s operating on a timer. This law is really about the failure of the roads to be designed for bikes — not about giving bikers special privileges.

    No matter what, it comes down to recklessness and priorities: if a cyclist is reckless, s/he should get a ticket. If they’re behaving responsibly, let’s just be happy to see another cyclist out there, enjoying the summer, using a healthy means of transportation, and tearing up the roads a less than a car.

    June 18, 2011
  14. john george said:

    Sean- Yes, that is the way I read the law. For me, it doesn’t matter whether you are using a roadway in a motor vehicle, non-motorized or on foot, you need to be attentive to what is going on with traffic around you. I don’t think there is a problem with the laws or traffic lights so much as there are problems with people.

    I was in Haarlem, The Neatherlands, several years ago. In that city, the bicycles have as much roadway as the motorized vehicles, so I agree with your assessment that US roadways aren’t designed for bicycle traffic. I have also traveled in Siberia and India. In those two countries, it seems to be an all-out free-for-all on the roads. In India, the drivers are constantly beeping their horns. It is just their way of making other road users aware of their presence. From that perspective, US roads, and our laws, seem pretty sane.

    June 18, 2011
  15. Sue, sorry, I just noticed your message. I do not see any mention of using the pedestrian signal. Some cyclists may prefer this — and this certainly is the surest way to get across — but I don’t believe it’s required. As I linked to below, the statute is MN 169.09, subd. 9. It does not describe any requirement to use a ped signal, and since it puts motorcycles and bikes in the same boat, that would be particularly odd — I can’t picture someone pulling a Harley up on the sidewalk to hit the button.

    Circumstances vary greatly with lights, of course. In Northfield, we have lights only along Hwy 3. In Minneapolis, however, with lights every couple of blocks on major streets, the entire picture of bicycle commuting changes. A 20 min ride vs. a 30+ minute ride.

    June 19, 2011

Leave a Reply