ASK A TROOPER by Sgt. Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol
Question: Within the past few years or so, we had a four-lane with bike lanes and a middle turn lane through town. Many people are using that middle turn lane to pull out into and then merge into the traffic on left hand turns - it really is very dangerous. I really wish that this would be covered for a period of time by law enforcement issuing warnings or even citations so that people get educated. I think we need information sent out about the protocol for using the middle turn lane that both directions are to use and who has the right of way concerning the bicycle lane. Thank you.
Answer: We still see some issues with drivers in cities where those types of road designs have been around for a long time. It is a good road design and drivers using it do have to understand some things, for sure. The center lane is a turn lane only, not a driving or acceleration lane -it cannot be used to drive out into from a side road, street or driveway to merge or fit into the traffic flow. Again, it can only be used as a turn lane.
If your center lane is also a bicycle lane, then bicycles would have the right of way, in most cases. I havent seen where they are used as both, but perhaps the one you are talking about is. For other bicycle lanes, bicyclists typically have the right away. There may be some exceptions, but the bottom line is: always physically turn your head and look before turning or changing lanes, or turning so you can watch out for bicycles, motorcycles or even pedestrians.
On a related note, dont get into that center turn lane too soon, as you might meet other vehicles head on who are trying to turn into a place closer than your turn off. Dont forget to signal all your turns in advance!
If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205. (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, firstname.lastname@example.org).