Many people remain confused about the laws that relate to riding a bicycle in Wisconsin. You can find a summary of most of the laws that relate to cycling in the post below.
The bicycle is defined as a vehicle. [340.01(5)]
The operator of a vehicle is granted the same rights and subject to the same duties as the driver of any other vehicle. [346.02(4)(a)]
Always ride on the right, in the same direction as other traffic. [346.80(2)(a)]
Ride as far to the right as is practicable (not as far right as possible) [346.80(2)(a)]. Practicable generally means safe and reasonable.
Article 346.80(2)(a) lists a few situations when it is not practicable to ride far to the right:
- When overtaking and passing another vehicle traveling in the same direction
- When preparing for a left turn at an inter-section or driveway
- When reasonably necessary to avoid unsafe conditions, including fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or substandard width lanes [defined as a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane].
One Way Streets
Bicyclists on a one-way street with two or more lanes of traffic may ride as near the left or right-hand edge or curb of the roadway as practicable (in the same direction as other traffic). [346.80(2)(b)]
Bike Lanes and Use of Shoulders
(12) Driving on bicycle lane or bicycle way. No operator of a motor vehicle may drive upon a bicycle lane or bicycle way except to enter a driveway, to merge into a bicycle lane before turning at an intersection, or to enter or leave a parking space located adjacent to the bicycle lane or bicycle way. Persons operating a motor vehicle upon a bicycle lane or bicycle way shall yield the right-of-way to all bicycles and electric personal assistive mobility devices within the bicycle lane
Bicycles may be ridden on the shoulder of a highway unless prohibited by local authorities. [386.04(1m)]
The Bike Fed recently had the law changed in Wisconsin so it is now legal for bicycles to ride through red lights after stopping and waiting for 45 seconds if they suspect the light is actuated but is not tuned to detect bicycles.
Wisconsin statute 346.37(1)(c)(4) outlines the one exception to general rule of stopping for red lights for operators of bicycles, motorcycles, mopeds and motorbikes. The exception is for intersections where the lights are controlled by vehicle-actuated sensors – that is, the light will only change when it senses that a vehicle is present. Some sensors do not pick up smaller vehicles, such as bicycles and motorcycles, and therefore will not change no matter how long the operator waits at the light. If you are on a bicycle and have waited at least 45 seconds at a red light, and you believe the light only changes color when it senses the presence of a motor vehicle, you may proceed through the intersection if it is safe to do s.o
Here’s exactly what the statute says:
“a motorcycle, moped, motor bicycle, or bicycle facing a red signal at an intersection may, after stopping as required under subd. 1. for not less than 45 seconds, proceed cautiously through the intersection before the signal turns green if no other vehicles are present at the intersection to actuate the signal and the operator of the motorcycle, moped, motor bicycle, or bicycle reasonably believes the signal is vehicle actuated. The operator of a motorcycle, moped, motor bicycle, or bicycle proceeding through a red signal under this subdivision shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicular traffic, pedestrian, bicyclist, or rider of an electric personal assistive mobility device proceeding through a green signal at the intersection or lawfully within a crosswalk or using the intersection.”
Riding 2 abreast is permitted on any street as long as other traffic is not impeded. When riding 2 abreast on a 2 or more lane roadway, you both have to ride within a single lane. [346.80(3)(a)]
Bicyclists are required to use the same hand signals as motorists [346.35]
Hand signals are required within 50 feet of your turn.. They are not required continuously if you need both hands to control the bicycle [346.34(1)(b)]
A motorist passing a bicyclist in the same lane is required to give the bicyclist at least 3 feet of clearance, and to maintain that clearance until safely past. [346.075]
A bicyclist passing a stopped or moving vehicle is also required to take due care when passing. [346.80(2)(c)]
Passing on the right
346.08 When overtaking and passing on the right permitted. The operator of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting the movement in safety and only if the operator can do so while remaining on either the roadway or a paved shoulder, and then only under the following conditions:
(1) When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn or U-turn; or
(2) Upon a street or highway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width to enable 2 or more lines of vehicles lawfully to proceed, at the same time, in the direction in which the passing vehicle is proceeding; or
(3) Upon a one-way street or divided highway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width to enable 2 or more lines of vehicles lawfully to proceed in the same direction at the same time.
Use of Sidewalks
State Statutes allow local units of government to permit vehicles on sidewalks through local ordinances. 346.94(1)]
When bicycles are allowed to be operated on sidewalks, bicyclists must yield to pedestrians and give an audible warning when passing pedestrians traveling in the same direction. [346.804]
At intersections and other sidewalk crossings (alleys, driveways), a bicyclist on the sidewalk has the same rights and duties as pedestrians. [346.23, 24, 25, 37, 38]
Bicycling at Night
Bicycling at night requires at least a white front headlight and a red rear reflector. The white front light must be visible to others 500 feet away. The red rear reflector must be visible to others between 50 and 500 feet away. A red or amber steady or flashing rear light may be used in addition to the required reflector. These are required no matter where you ride–street, path or sidewalk. [347.489(1)]
Duty to report a crash (accident) [346.70]
The operator of a vehicle involved in a collision resulting in injury to or death of any person, or total damage to property owned by any one person of $1,000 or more shall immediately give notice of such collision to the police.
- “Injury” means injury to a person of a physical nature resulting in death or the need of first aid or attention by a physician or surgeon, whether or not first aid or medical or surgical treatment was actually received
- “Total damage to property owned by one person” means the sum total cost of putting the property damaged in the condition it was before the accident, or the sum total cost of replacing such property.