Yesterday, Governor Walker signed a bill that updates various state laws regarding bicycles. Dubbed the Bicycle Tune-up Bill, the most noticeable changes in AB265 is that it is now legal for people who ride bicycles to signal turns with either the right or the left hand and to use red rear lights in place of rear reflectors.
The old laws about manually signaling turns required that people on bicycles use the same hand signals as motorists [346.35]. This was a particular problem for people riding racing style bicycles because as they are leaning forward, the old manual right turn signal was not visible. In order to make a legal right turn visible, a person riding a racing-style bicycle would have to take both hands off the handlebars, sit up and make the right turn signal. Because this is dangerous when approaching a turn, in practice many people would instead extend their right arm and point to the right to signal their turn. Under the new law, this is now legal.
The bill updates a number of other bicycle related laws as summarized below. You can also read all the current state statutes and see the exact language of the new statutes in the text of the bill here.
- Allow the use of a red rear light in lieu of a rear reflector.
Existing law requires the use of a rear reflector on all bicycles between dusk and dawn, even if a rear light is used. This change allows the replacement of the required reflector with a more highly visible flashing or steady red light.
- Adding handcycles to the definition of bicycles
Although they are operationally similar to bicycles, handcycles are not legally allowed to operate on Wisconsin streets and roads. By adding handcycles to the legal definition of bicycles, handcycles may be legally operated with the same rights and responsibilities as other legal vehicles.
- Allow vehicle operators to pass slow moving vehicles across a solid yellow line when it is safe to do so.
It is common, but illegal, for motorists to pass slow moving vehicles (bicycles, tractors, disabled vehicles…) in no passing zones when they can see it is safe to do so, even if they have to cross a solid yellow center line. These passing maneuvers can be carried out very quickly, and often without fully crossing into the opposing lane. AB265 allows a vehicle operator to cross the center line in such a no−passing zone to overtake and pass, with care, any vehicle, including a bicycle, traveling at a speed less than half of the posted speed limit at the place of passing.
- Allow the use of studded tires.
It is currently illegal to use studded tires on a bike on the roadway. This law is carried over from motor vehicles, which can cause extensive pavement damage with studded tires. Because bicycles weigh a fraction of what a car weighs, the potential for pavement damage does not exist. Good news as winter is approaching.
- Allow municipalities to regulate moped parking.
State law currently allows mopeds to park at bicycle racks and on terraces and other pedestrian areas as long as they are not obstructing walkways. In most communities this works fine. However, a few communities face considerable challenges with moped parking, and need the ability to regulate where mopeds can park. This change returns local control to these communities without changing the status quo for the communities where existing law is working.
These changes to existing law are common sense items that will legalize safe existing practices. Each of the changes noted above is already law in other states, and some of the items, like signaling with either arm, are law in over half the states.
The bill was introduced by Representative Ripp last September and drew bi-partisan support. It was co-sponsored by eleven Republicans and eight Democrats in the Assembly and by one Republican and two Democrats in the Senate. Given the current political climate, it is good to see that members of both parties can agree on making bicycling safer in Wisconsin!
The Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin would like to thank all the co-sponsors of the bill:
Rep. Sinicki, Rep. Pocan, Rep. Ott, Rep. Taylor, Rep. Ballweg, Rep. Bernier, Rep. Jorgensen, Rep. Spanbauer, Rep. Petrwoski, Rep. Strachota, Rep. Vrunwink, Rep. Roys, Rep. Zepnick, Rep. Tranel, Rep. Mursau, Rep. Stone, Rep. Brooks and Rep. Steinbrink. The bill was also co-sponsored by Senators Hoperin, Sen. Grothman and Sen. Taylor. Thank you all for helping to make Wisconsin a better place to bicycle.
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