<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=1738529553100152&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">

Subscribe to Email Updates

Where Can You Lawfully Ride Your Bike in Wisconsin?

By Keith Stachowiak on March 29, 2020 // Leave a Comment

bike-blog-mpYou tuned up your bike, have all of your gear ready, and are ready to go for a bike ride. One thing you have probably never considered is where biking is permissible. You always ride on roads or trails. I would like to discuss some of the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists on different types of road and trails. 

As vehicles, bicyclists have every right to ride on the road. In fact, in some areas the road is the only permissible place for a bicyclist to ride. However, local governments have designated specific bicycle ways and bicycle paths for the exclusive use of bicycle traffic in other areas.

Is it Legal to Ride Your Bike On Sidewalks in Milwaukee?

One prohibition in most areas is that bicyclists are not allowed to ride on the sidewalk. There are some exceptions to the general rule.

For example, in the City of Milwaukee, children under 10 years of age are allowed to ride their bicycles on the sidewalk if accompanied by an adult. Milwaukee, Wis. Code § 102-7 (1). On a cautionary note, this is not a uniform rule across the state. Each local government is allowed to enact its own rules for bicycle travel on sidewalks.

For example, the Village of Shorewood has different requirements than the City of Milwaukee for children riding on sidewalks. Shorewood’s rule is that “Children 12 years of age or less may be permitted to operate a bicycle on public sidewalks and shall exercise due care for pedestrians or others using the sidewalk.” Shorewood, Wis. Code § 207-5(C)(1)(a).

Therefore, in general you should not be riding your bike on the sidewalk unless the local authorities in your area explicitly permit bicyclists to ride on the sidewalk.

When Can You Ride Your Bike on a Sidewalk?

Bicyclists may be permitted to ride on a sidewalk if the local authorities have designated that area of a sidewalk as a bicycle way.

Under Wisconsin law, a bicycle way is “any path or sidewalk or portion thereof designated for the use of bicycles and electric personal assistive mobility devices by the governing body of any city, town, village, or county.” Some examples of bicycle ways in the City of Milwaukee include:

  1. All sidewalk areas within the Hank Aaron State Trail.
  2. All sidewalks on grated bridges that are not equipped with bicycle surface plate lanes.
  3. All sidewalks on the viaducts and roadways over the Menominee River Valley on 6th Street, 16th Street, 27th Street and 35th Street.
  4. All sidewalks along Commerce Ave. in areas designated the Beerline bike trail.
  5. All sidewalks on bridges over the Milwaukee River on East North Avenue and East Locust Street except the sidewalk on the north side of the Locust Street bridge.

Milwaukee, Wis. Code § 102-15 (1). Again, these areas are specific to the City of Milwaukee, but other local authorities may have designated areas as bicycle ways in your neighborhood. You can find these ordinances through your municipality website.

As of July, 2019, the Milwaukee Ordinance that governs operation of bicycles on sidewalks has not changed, even with the addition of bike lanes on many city streets.

What Are the Rules for Riding on a 'Bicycle Way'?

While bicyclists are permitted to ride on bicycle ways, there are also additional rules for riding on bicycle ways.

  • Bicyclists are required to exercise due care, use audible signals, and obey all traffic regulations. Wis. Stat. § 346.803 (1).
  • Additionally, bicyclists must ride on the right side of the bicycle way and must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and other bicycles on the bicycle way. Wis. Stat. § 346.803 (2)-(3).
  • Bicycles can use bicycle ways, but motorcycles and mopeds use is not allowed. Wis. Stat. § 346.79(5). 

While these rules are not widely known or followed, a failure to follow the rules may result in monetary penalties. See Wis. Stat. § 346.82.

What Are the Rules for Riding in Bike Lanes in Milwaukee?

Another option for bicyclists would be to ride in the bicycle lane, if one is designated on the roadway.

A bicycle lane is defined as “that portion of a roadway set aside by the governing body of any city, town, village, or county for the exclusive use of bicycles, electric personal assistive mobility devices, or other modes of travel where permitted under s. 349.23 (2)(a), and so designated by appropriate signs and markings.” Wis. Stat. § 340.01 (5e). As the statute points out, bicycle lanes are designed for bicycles only. Motor vehicle operators, including motorcyclists, are not permitted to use the bicycle lane, but are allowed to drive through a bicycle lane in certain circumstances.

Wisconsin Statute section 346.94(12) states that no motor vehicles may drive on bicycle lanes or bicycle ways “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 . . . ” Furthermore, when making these maneuvers, motor vehicle operators must yield the right-of-way to bicyclists in the bicycle lane.

Local authorities also have the ability to create and enforce laws specific to bicycle lanes in their respective jurisdictions. Therefore, it may be in your best interest before jumping on your bike and riding in the bicycle lane to look up your local rules.

Interested in learning the bike laws for your villages, town, or city around Milwaukee? See the links below to access more information. 

By knowing the rules of the road for bicycles and where the law permits bicyclists to ride, you will be enhancing your own safety and the safety of those around you.

Free Auto Injury Case Consultation

Bayside - Sec. 47-123 through 47-128. See also Sec. 47-2

Big Bend - 8.11

Brookfield - Chapter 10.16

Brown Deer- Sec. 62-101 through 62-106

Butler - Secs. 32-86—32-113. - Reserved.


Cudahy - Secs. 38-94—38-114. - Reserved.

Delafield - 7.13 - Bicycle Regulations (Cr. )

Eagle - 10.07.030 Registration And Regulation Of Bicycles

Elm Grove - Chapter 101 Bicycles (§ 101-1 – § 101-9)

Fox Point - Chapter 591 Bicycles, Play Vehicles and Pedestrians (§ 591-1 – § 591-9)

Franklin - Chapter 87 Bicycles

Glendale - Title 10.2 Bicycles

Greendale - 7.10 Bicycles

Greenfield – Section 8.18

Hartland - Sec. 82-66 through 82-73


Lannon - Sec. 70-121 through 70-125


Menomonee Falls - Sec 106-176 through 106-183


Mequon - Sec. 82-93


Mukwonago - Sec. 82-256 through Sec. 82-273

Muskego - § 343-15 Bicycles



Oak Creek - Bicycles and play vehicles sec. 100-108



Shorewood - § 207-5(C)(1)(a)

South Milwaukee - § 24.22 Use of skateboards, roller skates, roller skis and play vehicles on public and private property; § 28.17 Registration of bicycles.

St. Francis - §192-7


Sussex - 7.08


Waukesha - 7.05 Bicycles

Wauwatosa - Chapter 11.48

West Allis - Sec. 10.15 and 10.155

Whitefish Bay - Sec. 6.12