Passing laws: Wisconsin requires that in the event a motor vehicle passes a bicycle it shall leave a safe distance, not less than 3 feet, when passing the bicycle.
Helmet law: Wisconsin has no helmet law. It is legal for all persons of all ages to ride without a helmet. However, it is strongly recommended. In addition, a local ordinance can mandate the use of a helmet.
Laws to Protect the Bicyclist: Wisconsin does not have any specific vulnerable user laws.
Distracted Driving Laws: As almost every bicyclist knows, distracted driving creates one of the most dangerous risks to a bicycle on a public road way. Every state has varying laws to attempt to reduce the amount of distracted driving that exists. Nonetheless, it still presents a serious problem.
In Wisconsin there have been laws passed to attempt to reduce distracted driving by punishing violators. Here is a summary of the present laws:
- No person shall drive a motor vehicle that is equipped with a device that shows video visible to the operator or installed forward of the back seat;
- No person shall text while operating a motor vehicle; and
- No person who holds a probationary or instruction permit shall operate a motor vehicle while using a cellular or wireless phone in any capacity.
Where to Ride – Lane Position Laws for a Bicyclist: Generally speaking, Wisconsin law requires bicyclists to be as close to the right hand edge of the road as possible. However there are some important exceptions that I will outline below:
- When passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction;
- When preparing to take a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway;
- When reasonably necessary to avoid unsafe conditions such as riding in a lane that is too narrow; or
- When operating on a one-way highway having 2 or more lanes available for traffic, you can ride as near the left hand edge or curb as practical.
Sidewalk Riding: Wisconsin provides that when local authorities allow bicycles to be on the sidewalk, the rider must yield to the right of way of pedestrians and give an audible signal prior to passing a pedestrian or bicycle travelling in the same direction.
Riding a Bike under the Influence: In Wisconsin, bicycles are defined as vehicles. Wisconsin’s law prohibiting driving while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances is written so that it applies to vehicles and therefore does apply to bicyclists. In any case, bicycles should not be operated while under the influence.
Stop Sign Laws: Wisconsin provides that no bicyclist facing a steady red light shall enter the roadway unless he or she can do so safely and without interfering with any vehicular traffic. However, once the cyclist is stopped for at least 45 seconds, may proceed through the intersection before it turns green if:
- No other vehicles are present at the intersection to trigger the light to change and the cyclist reasonably believes the signal is vehicle activated; and
- The operator of the bicycle yields the right of way to any motor vehicles or other traffic proceeding through the green signal or cross walk.
Door Laws: Wisconsin requires that no person open their door on the side nearest to moving traffic unless it is safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of traffic. In addition, the door can only be open for the amount of time it takes to load and unload passengers.
Important Resources and Links