Bicycle Laws in Wisconsin – What You May Not Know
Bicycling in the summer months is a favorite pastime for many. While it is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise, cyclists also have legal responsibilities to those around them as they travel the local roadways and bicycle trails.
- Same as a car – While a bicycle is not exactly the same as a car, when it comes to the laws in the State of Wisconsin, they are defined as a vehicle. This means, that they should be afforded the same rights as cars, but are also subject to the same duties as a driver of any other vehicle.
- To the right – Just like any other vehicle on the road, a bicyclist should always operate on the right hand side of the road (the same direction as other vehicular traffic). They should ride as far to the right as is practical to operate safely and reasonably. A few situations where it might not be reasonable to do so include overtaking another vehicle traveling in the same direction, making a right hand turn and when it is necessary to avoid an unsafe condition such as hitting a pedestrian or a parked car, or unsafe road conditions.
- One way – When traveling on a one-way street with two or more lanes, a bicyclist may operate either to the far right or far left hand side of the roadway.
- Shoulder riding – Unless it is otherwise noted, a bicycle can be ridden on the shoulder of the roadway.
- Two-by-two – Cyclist are allowed to ride two abreast as long as it does not impede other motorists. Additionally, if the riders are two abreast on a two lane road, they must operate within a single lane.
- Signals – Unlike a car that has turn signals, cyclists are required to use hand signals to indicate a right or left turn. It is not necessary to hold the signal continuously if both hands are required for control of the bicycle, however, it must be made within 50 feet of a turn.
- Pass with care – If a motorist is passing a cyclist, they must give the rider at least three feet of clearance until they are safely past the bike. Conversely, a bicycle that passes a moving vehicle (stopped or in motion) must give at least three feet of passing clearance as well.
- Sidewalks – Each local government makes its own ordinances regarding riding a bike on the sidewalk. In municipalities where this is allowed, the cyclist is required to yield to pedestrians and give an audible warning when they are passing from behind. When moving through a crosswalk at an intersection, bicyclists are required to follow the same laws as pedestrians.
- Nighttime operation – Regardless of where a cyclist is riding (path, street, sidewalk) When operating a bike at night, they are required to have a white front headlight and a red rear reflector. The headlight must be visible up to 500 feet and the reflector 50 to 500 feet. A flashing rear light (red or amber) may be used in addition to the red reflector.
- Helmets – While bicycle helmets are not required in the State of Wisconsin, it is strongly recommended.
- Reporting accidents – Similar to a motor vehicle operator, if a bicyclist is an accident that results in the injury or death of another person, or causes property damage of $1000 or more, they must give notice to the police.