BISMARCK — Beginning Sunday, Aug. 1, North Dakota cyclists will be able to legally roll through stop signs under one of a handful of new biker-friendly laws aimed at promoting bicycle safety.
In addition to allowing bikers to treat stop signs as yields in most circumstances, the trio of new laws mean the increasingly popular e-bikes will no longer be treated like motorized vehicles, and the state will have its first "safe passing" law to mandate a cushion between cars and bikes on the road.
Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, was a sponsor on each of the bills during this year's legislative session and said the new laws are part of a broader effort to educate both cyclists and drivers on road safety to encourage "less tension between motorists and bikers."
Dan Farnsworth, a transportation planner with the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments, noted the Fargo-Moorhead area received national recognition for its friendliness to bikers in recent years and called the new laws "proactive." Border cities like Fargo and Grand Forks already have substantial cycling infrastructure like bike lanes and bike paths, but the practice is less common farther west, in rural North Dakota and in areas that lack designated riding areas.
Currently, North Dakota is one of just seven states without a safe passing law of some form, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. North Dakota's new policy, created under House Bill 1290, is the same as Minnesota's and requires cars to provide bikers with a three-foot berth when passing.
The National Congress of State Legislatures also reported North Dakota is in a small group of states with no definition for e-bikes, bicycles with small electric motors that help propel riders, written into law. That means e-bikers have been subject to the same rules as motorcyclists. But House Bill 1148 created three sub-categories to define e-bikes based on their speed and propulsion mechanisms. All classes of e-bikes will be allowed to ride on trails, bike paths and in bike lanes.
The new stop sign policy, established under House Bill 1252, will allow cyclists to treat stop signs as yields as long as they're on a road with two lanes or fewer in each direction and hold the right of way at the intersection. Mock said this provision is intended in part to reduce the amount of time bikers spend in intersections, where the likelihood of a collision is far higher.
The law "makes it legal for (bikers) to do something that they do already," Farnsworth added.
Mock recounted that earlier this week he rolled through an intersection with a stop sign on a ride with friends, remarking, "that turn will be legal on Sunday."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at email@example.com.