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CAN YOU RIDE A BIKE WITHOUT A HELMET IN WISCONSIN?
Cities and towns can create their own rules for riding bicycles. For example, the state law in Wisconsin leaves riding on the sidewalk up to municipalities. The city of Port Washington Wisconsin has a municipal ordinance that requires children under 16 years old to wear a helmet while biking. I am unaware of any other cities in Wisconsin that have rules for children/ bike helmets. If you know of any, please post in the comments section.
Everyone agrees that bicycle helmets reduce injuries in collisions. There is a strong debate over whether the government should require bikers to wear helmets and if the goverment does require helmet use will it lead to less riders and thus result in more health problems than it saves. For more on bike helmet usage and laws and whether not wearing a helmet could be used against you in a personal injury case, click here.
A. A person under 16 years of age shall not operate a bicycle, unicycle, skate board or scooter, nor shall they wear in-line or roller skates, nor ride upon a bicycle, unicycle, skate board, scooter, in-line or roller skates as a passenger, at a public skate board recreation facility under the jurisdiction and control of the City unless that person is wearing a properly fitted and fastened protective helmet that eets or exceeds the impact standards for bicycle helmets set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or the Snell Memorial Foundation, or standards subsequently established by those entities.
2. No parent or guardian of any child shall authorize or knowingly permit such child to violate any of the provisions of this ordinance.
3. This ordinance applies to a child seated in an auxiliary child’s seat or trailer designed for attachment to a bicycle.
4. Except as provided herein, violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a fine of not more than twenty-five (25) dollars. The parent or legal guardian having control or custody of the minor whose conduct violates this section shall be jointly and severably liable with the minor for the amount of a fine imposed pursuant to this subdivision.
5. The court may waive any fine for such person found guilty of violating the provisions of this ordinance if the person supplies the court with proof that between the date of the violation and the appearance date for such violation, the person purchased or otherwise obtained a helmet which meets the requirements of this ordinance. 8.13.000 PENALTY
The penalty for violation of any provision of this ordinance shall be a forfeiture as hereinafter provided together with the cost of prosecution imposed as provided in Section 345.20 to 345.53, Wis. Stats.
CAN EVIDENCE BE PRESENTED TO A JURY THAT YOU DID NOT WEAR A HELMET?
If you are injured in a Wisconsin bicycle collision with a vehicle and were not wearing a helmet during the collision, it is unlikely that the jury will hear evidence of this. Wis. Stat. 901.053 prevents the admission of such evidence for motor vehicles like motorcycles. Since bicycle riders are not legally required to wear a helmet in Wisconsin, it is likely that this statute would also bar evidence of no helmet in a bicycle collission case. 901.053 Admissibility of evidence relating to use of protective headgear while operating certain motor vehicles. Evidence of use or nonuse of protective headgear by a person, other than a person required to wear protective headgear under s. 23.33 (3g) or 347.485 (1), who operates or is a passenger on a motorcycle, as defined in s. 340.01 (32), an all-terrain vehicle, as defined in s. 340.01 (2g), or a snowmobile, as defined in s. 340.01 (58a), on or off a highway, is not admissible in any civil action for personal injury or property damage. This section does not apply to the introduction of such evidence in a civil action against the manufacturer or producer of the protective headgear arising out of any alleged deficiency or defect in the design or manufacture of the protective headgear or, with respect to such use of protective headgear, in a civil action on the sole issue of whether the protective headgear contributed to the personal injury or property damage incurred by another person.
ARE YOU PARTIALLY AT FAULT FOR YOUR INJURIES IF YOU DON'T WEAR A HELMET?
In Wisconsin, if you are hit by a car while riding your bicycle, there may be an issue involving what percentage at fault you were. Generally, any recovery you obtain at trial will be reduced by the amount you are determined to be at fault. (Note, this is a general rule and there are exceptions). The question is, what if you are bicycling without a helmet. Should your damage award be reduced because you didn't have a helmet on? Answer-most likely no. See Wis. Stat. 895.049. Although the statute addresses motor vehicles, it would likely apply to a bicycle as well because bicyclists are not required to wear helmets in Wisconsin. 895.049 Recovery by a person who fails to use protective headgear while operating certain motor vehicles. Notwithstanding s. 895.045, failure by a person who operates or is a passenger on a motorcycle, as defined in s. 340.01 (32), an all-terrain vehicle, as defined in s. 340.01 (2g), or a snowmobile, as defined in s. 340.01 (58a), on or off a highway, to use protective headgear shall not reduce recovery for injuries or damages by the person or the person's legal representative in any civil action. This section does not apply to any person required to wear protective headgear under s. 23.33 (3g) or 347.485 (1). When this section applies to prohibit a reduction of damages, it necessarily also precludes a person's failure to wear a helmet from being considered a form of negligence. Hardy v. Hoefferle, 2007 WI App 264, 306 Wis. 2d 513, 743 N.W.2d 843,.