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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 roads 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's website.

As of July 2019, the Milwaukee Ordinance that governs the 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 are 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?

View the table below for a summary of the location's ordinance. For more locations and information on the specifics of each ordinance, view the links below the table.

Location

Ordinances

Big Bend Requires registration of bicycles. Requires single file riding. Otherwise follows State of Wisconsin Statutes.
Brookfield Requires registration and license to operate on public ways. Adopts state statutes on bike operation.
Delafield

A fairly comprehensive ordinance, defining bike lane (a portion of a roadway designated for bicycles) and bicycle ways (path or sidewalk designated for the use of bicycles.) If you are in a bike lane, ride in the same direction as traffic unless two-way traffic is authorized by authorized traffic signs. Bicycles shall give an audible signal when passing a bicycle rider going in the same direction, and shall yield the right-of-way to all bicycles when entering or leaving the bicycle lane.

If on a bicycle way, the ordinance requires an audible signal when passing another bike or pedestrian, and to obey each traffic signal or sign facing a roadway that runs parallel and adjacent to the bicycle way. It also requires bicycles entering a bicycle way to yield the right-of-way to all bicycles and pedestrians already there.

For sidewalks, it follows the State of Wisconsin statutes.

Elm Grove Requires registration of bicycles. Allows operation of bicycles on pedestrian pathways and sidewalks within the village. Bicycles shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrians, and shall give an audible signal when passing a bicycle rider or pedestrian proceeding in the same direction. Bicycles shall be operated single file on roadways.
Franklin The City of Franklin has no rules governing the operation of bicycles on sidewalks, so the State of Wisconsin statutes apply, specifically, §346.94 which prohibits bicycle riding on the sidewalk, unless local authorities permit it. Franklin has strict requirements for the registration of all bicycles driven on Franklin streets.
Greendale Greendale allows the riding of bicycles on sidewalks, except sidewalks in any business district. It requires an audible warning for passing people going in the same direction, such that it becomes evident that the person so warned is aware of the approach of the person driving the bicycle.

Pedestrians have the right-of-way on sidewalks at all times, and if necessary, the person driving the bike shall dismount and vacate the sidewalk to prevent a collision. On roadways and bicycle paths, a person shall ride as near to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway as practical, and on roadways, shall ride single file. If a usable bike path is adjacent to a roadway, bicycle drivers shall use the path and not the roadway. On making a left turn at an intersection, the cycle rider shall approach the point of turning in the line of traffic nearest to the center of the roadway. The bicycle operator, in turning left at an intersection, shall pass to the left of the center of the intersection before turning unless otherwise directed by markers, buttons, or signs. At intersections where traffic is moving in opposite directions, if it is not safe for bicycles to make turns as mentioned above, the bicycle operator shall stay in the right-hand lane and ride to the opposite corner, then dismount and walk the bicycle to the left-hand corner and proceed. Left turns may also be made by riding to the opposite corner and then turning left and riding in the normal riding position. Crosswalks shall be used when walking a bicycle through an intersection.

Greendale also has strict bicycle registration requirements.
Hartland Hartland requires registration of bicycles having two wheels which are 14 inches or more in diameter on any streets, alleys, sidewalks, or parking lots. Hartland allows persons riding bicycles on a road to ride two abreast if such operation does not impede the normal or reasonable movement of traffic. Bicycles are permitted on sidewalks and paths in the village. A person riding a bicycle on a sidewalk or path shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall exercise due care and give an audible signal when passing a bicycle rider or pedestrian going in the same direction.
Menomonee Falls Establishes a bicycle way, where it is permissible to operate a bicycle. It prohibits anyone 13 or more years old to ride on a sidewalk except if the sidewalk has been designated a bicycle way. Requires registration of bikes. Whenever any person is operating a bicycle upon any sidewalk or bikeway, such person shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.
Mequon The City of Mequon has its own rules of the road for bicycle operation on sidewalks and pedestrian ways. This is in addition to state statutes governing operating a bike on public streets.

First, a person operating a bicycle shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrians, and give an audible signal when passing a pedestrian going in the same direction. Bicyclists must operate at a moderate speed when no pedestrian is in the area, and at a slow speed when pedestrians are present. Bikes cannot be used to transport more riders than the bike was designed for, except auxiliary child seats or trailers designed to be attached to a bike are permitted.

No racing or endurance contests are allowed on sidewalks or pedestrian ways. Finally, any bicycle operated on a streets bike pathway or highway need to be registered and a license sticker affixed to the frame of the bicycle.
Muskego Requires registration of bicycles. Bicycle riding within a park or recreation facility is only permitted on trails. No bicycle will be allowed on any park, trail, or road after sunset and before sunrise without an attached headlight plainly visible at least 500 feet in front of the bicycle and without a red reflector plainly visible from all distances from 50 to 500 feet to the rear of the bicycle.
New Berlin Code allows riding on sidewalks/sidepaths in the city, unless there is a designated on-street bike lane that runs parallel to the sidewalk/sidepath, or an official traffic sign indicates otherwise. It requires children riding bicycles with less than 20-inch wheels, to use the sidewalk/sidepath.
Oak Creek There is no specific allowance of bike riding on sidewalks, so the State of Wisconsin statutes apply, specifically, §346.94 which prohibits bicycle riding on the sidewalk, unless local authorities permit it. Oak Creek has strict requirements for the registration of all bicycles driven on Oak Creek streets. General safety requirements of the ordinance are that bikes need to be operated in single file, cannot attach themselves or their bikes to any moving vehicle, and that bikes can only carry the number of passengers it was designed to carry. Oak Creek also has an ordinance prohibiting the use of any audio device attached directly to the ears of the operator that materially impairs the ability of the operator to hear audio warnings. Ordinances also require that if a bike lane is provided, the bike shall operate in that bike lane, and not on the road.
City of Oconomowoc Adopts the State of Wisconsin Statutes, except it carves out an exception for districts in the city zoned residential, for the purpose of learning the operation of a bicycle. It prohibits riding on City streets more than two abreast, except for parades or public demonstrations. It prohibits riding with feet removed from the pedals and prohibits no hands riding.
Pewaukee Requires registration of bicycles. Otherwise adopts state statutes.
City of Waukesha Requires that the bicycle be licensed and the sticker applied. This registration applies for as long as the person owns the bicycle. Waukesha adopts the state of Wisconsin Statutes for bicycle operation, except that bicycle riding in parks, public walkways, and sidewalks is prohibited where indicated by official City signs, and on sidewalks, in the central business district unless otherwise permitted by official city signs.
West Bend The City of West Bend allows bicycle operation on its sidewalks, except in the Central Business District. Bicycles in that area must operate on the roadways. Outside of that downtown area, bicycles on sidewalks shall be operated at a low rate of speed and shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians.

Washington County has no meaningful bicycle rules, except if operated in its parks, follow the signs on bicycle operation.

Like most other communities, West Bend requires bicycles operated on its streets and sidewalks to be licensed and registered.

 

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.

Chenequa - STATE LAWS ADOPTED

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

Haunchyville

Lannon - Sec. 70-121 through 70-125

Lisbon - STATE LAWS ADOPTED

Menomonee Falls - Sec 106-176 through 106-183

Merton - STATE LAWS ADOPTED

Mequon - Sec. 82-93

Milwaukee

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

Muskego - § 343-15 Bicycles

Nashotah - STATE LAWS ADOPTED

North Prairie - STATE LAWS ADOPTED

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

Ottawa - STATE LAW ADOPTED

Pewaukee - STATE LAW ADOPTED

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

Summit - STATE LAWS ADOPTED

Sussex - 7.08

Vernon - STATE LAWS ADOPTED

Waukesha - 7.05 Bicycles

Wauwatosa - Chapter 11.48

West Allis - Sec. 10.15 and 10.155

Whitefish Bay - Sec. 6.12

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.

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