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Active Transportation in Minnesota: Resources Dedicated to Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Non-Motorized Transportation

Creating communities that support active living is a critical component of improving health outcomes and reducing chronic diseases associated with lack of physical activity. In an effort to promote physical activity, communities are increasingly looking for ways to make the built environment of roads, sidewalks, trails, and other facilities safer and more accessible to pedestrians and bicyclists.

Increasing the number of pedestrians and bicyclists provide public health benefits and can also improve air quality and help meet other environmental goals by reducing air pollution and road congestion from motor vehicle use.

Minnesota law recognizes that pedestrian, bicycle, and non-motorized transportation is an important part of Minnesota’s transportation system. Minnesota creates a system of highways, roads, streets, sidewalks, paths, and bridges that support the movement and travel of all types of traffic, including pedestrians, bicyclists, and other non-motorized transportation. This system serves and benefits people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities to satisfy the vision and requirements of federal and Minnesota law.

The Public Health Law Center developed a series of resources dedicated to pedestrian, bicycle, and non-motorized transportation to raise public awareness of laws and programs that support these healthy forms of transportation.

Understanding MN Roads (2014)


Minnesota roads make up a substantial and important part of Minnesota’s transportation system. Motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians use highways, streets, and other roads to get from one place to another on a daily basis. For this reason, Minnesota laws addressing roads apply to pedestrian and bicycle use just as much as they apply to motor vehicle use. This fact sheet discusses who is responsible for establishing and maintaining these roads and how Minnesota’s transportation system is designed to ensure safety and efficiency and meet certain goals.

Pedestrian and Bicyclist Rights and Responsibilities

 

Minnesota law specifies how different types of traffic should behave when traveling throughout the state. The ability of pedestrians and bicyclists to safely and effectively travel depends on all forms of traffic understanding and following these laws. This fact sheet identifies essential rights and responsibilities of different types of traffic that support safe pedestrian and bicycle travel.

Crossing Minnesota Roads

Minnesota law supports pedestrian and bicycle travel throughout the state as energy-efficient, nonpolluting, and healthy forms of transportation. In doing so, it identifies specific places and ways that pedestrians and bicyclists may safely cross streets, highways, and other roads. This fact sheet discusses laws that impact how pedestrians and bicyclists are allowed to cross Minnesota roads to support safe travel for all users of the transportation system. 

School-Zone Speed Limits in Minnesota

High speed roads and wide crossings can cause walking or biking to school more dangerous and less enjoyable for students, making students are far less likely to be allowed to walk or bike to school. Establishing safe school-zone speed limits is one way to make walking and biking routes safer, providing students with opportunities for increased physical activity. This fact sheet discusses how school-zone speed limits are established so that local authorities can develop strategies to enforce these speed limits, making roads safer for children to walk or bike to school.

Liability for Volunteers in the Walking School Bus Program

A walking school bus program aims to get children to be more physically active and socially engaged by supporting walking to and from school in groups accompanied by adults. Adult volunteers are often responsible for organizing the program and walking the children to and from school. This fact sheet discusses how Minnesota law may protect volunteers from liability claims for accidents that occur while volunteering.

Minnesota Complete Streets Policy

Across the United States, states and local communities are pursuing Complete Streets laws and policies to ensure that the state and local transportation system accommodates the needs of all types of traffic. Minnesota adopted a statewide Complete Streets law in 2010. This fact sheet discusses how Complete Streets initiatives provide a framework for bringing attention to the needs of pedestrians and bicyclists, promoting active transportation, and improving public health by increasing physical activity.

Minnesota Complete Streets Variance Process

Minnesota’s Complete Streets law allows a local government, including a county, city, town, or regional park authority, to request a variance from state aid design standards when using state funding for a local Complete Streets project. The law requires the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) to evaluate all Complete Streets variance requests using specific Complete Streets guidance publications. This fact sheet provides information about Complete Streets and a basic flow chart of its state aid variance process. 

  

Applying State Aid to Local Road Projects

Funding roads can be expensive, making it difficult for smaller communities to finance local roads on their own. In these cases, local roads under the control of county, city, or town government may qualify for state aid distributed by the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT). This flow chart provides a basic overview of the project approval process that local governments must use when seeking state aid for a local road project.

   

Liability Issues for Bike Share Programs

Bike share programs provide the public with the opportunity to rent bicycles for transportation and exercise without the expense and responsibility of owning a bike. However, bike share programs can create liability and safety issues. This fact sheet provides an overview of the liability issues that can arise and how a bike share program owner or operator can minimize risk of liability. 

   

A Review of Federal and Minnesota Laws on Pedestrian, Bicycle, and Non-motorized Transportation

This report provides a review and analysis of federal and Minnesota state laws and regulations relating to pedestrian, bicycle, and other non-motorized transportation. It is designed to increase the understanding of the Minnesota and federal legal framework regulating and providing a transportation system support-ing bicycle, pedestrian, and non-motorized transportation.