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Where can you lawfully ride your bike in Wisconsin?

By Keith Stachowiak on July 17, 2014 // 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 or 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, in other areas local governments have designated specific bicycle ways and bicycle paths for the exclusive use of bicycle traffic.

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. The Village of Shorewood has different requirements than the City of Milwaukee for children riding on sidewalks. Shorewood’s rule is that “No person 12 years or older shall operate a bicycle on the sidewalk, except that a bicycle equipped with a child seat and carrying a child thereon may be operated on a sidewalk when said sidewalk is not so congested as to endanger the safety of those lawfully using the same.” Shorewood, Wis. Code § 207-5(D). 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.

Bicyclists may also 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.

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.

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. We have attached links to the websites for several villages, towns, and cities in the Milwaukee area to this article.

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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Bayside - Sec. 98-141 through 98-146.

Big Bend - 8.11

Brookfield - Chapter 10.16

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

Butler

Chenequa

Cudahy - 6.16

Delafield - Sec. 12.06

Eagle - Section 4.23

Elm Grove

Fox Point

Franklin - STATE LAWS ADOPTED

Glendale

Greendale

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 - 7.13

Nashotah - STATE LAWS ADOPTED

North Prairie - STATE LAWS ADOPTED

Oak Creek - pages 18-21

Ottawa - STATE LAW ADOPTED

Pewaukee - STATE LAW ADOPTED

Shorewood

South Milwaukee - 28.17(6)

St. Francis - §192-7

Summit - STATE LAWS ADOPTED

Sussex - 7.08

Vernon - STATE LAWS ADOPTED

Waukesha

Wauwatosa - Chapter 11.48

West Allis - Sec. 10.15 and 10.155

Whitefish Bay - Sec. 6.12