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There are a tremondous amount of bicycle laws in Wisconsin. Here are ten important laws concerning bicyclists and drivers in Wisconsin. These ten are very common in Wisconsin car vs. bicycle collisions:
1. Bicyclists generally have the same right to use the roads as cars:
Subject to the special provisions applicable to bicycles, every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway or shoulder of a highway is granted all the rights and is subject to all the duties which this chapter grants or applies to the operator of a vehicle, except those provisions which by their express terms apply only to motor vehicles or which by their very nature would have no application to bicycles. Wis. Stat. §346.02 (4) (a).
2. Three foot law- car drivers must give a safe distance before overtaking a bicyclist from behind. The absolute minimum distance is three (3) feet:
The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device proceeding in the same direction shall exercise due care, leaving a safe distance, but in no case less than 3 feet clearance when passing the bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device, and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device. Wis. Stat. §346.075
3. Bicyclists should leave a safe distance when passing parked cars, debris in the road, and other dangerous conditions. This means that if a bicyclist moves around a parked car to avoid the potential of a driver opening their door, cars traveling behind the bicyclist should anticpate the movement and are at fault if they don't give at least three feet and plan for the bicyclist to move safely around the parked car:
Any person operating a bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand edge or curb of the unobstructed traveled roadway, including operators who are riding 2 or more abreast where permitted under sub. (3), except: 346.80(2)(a)1.1. When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction. 346.80(2)(a)2.2. When preparing for a left turn or U-turn at an intersection or a left turn into a private road or driveway. 346.80(2)(a)3.3. When reasonably necessary to avoid unsafe conditions, including fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or substandard width lanes that make it unsafe to ride along the right-hand edge or curb. Wis. Stat. §346.80 (2) (a).
4. Bicyclists may ride two abreast under certain conditions:
Persons riding bicycles or electric personal assistive mobility devices upon a roadway may ride 2 abreast if such operation does not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic. Bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device operators riding 2 abreast on a 2-lane or more roadway shall ride within a single lane Wis. Stat. §346.80 (3) (a).
5. Night riding requires white front light and red rear reflector or red rear light:
No person may operate a bicycle, motor bicycle, or electric personal assistive mobility device upon a highway, sidewalk, bicycle lane, or bicycle way during hours of darkness unless the bicycle, motor bicycle, or electric personal assistive mobility device is equipped with or, with respect to a bicycle or motor bicycle, the operator is wearing, a lamp emitting a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front of the bicycle, motor bicycle, or electric personal assistive mobility device. A bicycle, motor bicycle, or electric personal assistive mobility device shall also be equipped with a red reflector that has a diameter of at least 2 inches of surface area or, with respect to an electric personal assistive mobility device, that is a strip of reflective tape that has at least 2 square inches of surface area, on the rear so mounted and maintained as to be visible from all distances from 50 to 500 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a steady or flashing red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in lieu of the red reflector. Wis. Stat. §347.489
6. Texting drivers are automatically negligent due to violation of a statute intended to protect other users of the road:
No person may drive, as defined in s. 343.305 (1) (b), any motor vehicle while composing or sending an electronic text message or an electronic mail message. Wis. Stat. §346.89 (3) (a).
7. The Wisconsin OWI/DUI laws refer to "motor vehicles" and not bicycles. However, doing anything while intoxicated is dangerous and may create liability and other problems regardless of whether or not it is criminal.
8. Bicycling on sidewalks is regulated by cities and not state law. Riding a sidewalk may be safer is certain circumstances but may also create enhanced risk of collision due to drivers not expecting or looking for bicylists on the sidewalks.
Driving on sidewalk. Except as authorized in s. 23.33 (4) (f) or when the sidewalk is an all-terrain vehicle route, as defined in s. 23.33 (1) (c), the operator of a vehicle shall not drive upon any sidewalk area except at a permanent or temporarily established driveway unless permitted to do so by the local authorities. Wis. Stat. §346.94
9. Signals are required only if "other traffic may be affected by the movement." Bicyclists in Wisconsin may use either hand to signal. Bicyclists should give a hand turning signal for the last 50 feet of the turn unless they need their hand(s) to ride safely.
In the event any other traffic may be affected by the movement, no person may turn any vehicle without giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided in s. 346.35. A person making a U-turn shall use the same signal used to indicate a left turn. When given by the operator of a vehicle other than a bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device, the signal shall be given continuously during not less than the last 100 feet traveled by the vehicle before turning. The operator of a bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device shall give the signal continuously during not less than the last 50 feet traveled before turning. A signal by the hand and arm need not be given continuously if the hand is needed in the control or operation of the bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device. Wis. Stat. §346.34 (1) (b).
10. Drivers must yield to bicyclists within the bike lane before the driver can enter the lane. Generally if there is a collision inside the bike lane, the driver will be at fault:
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 or bicycle way. Wis. Stat. §346.94 (12).