Bicycle Injury Lawyer, Criminal Defense Lawyer

Bicycling on Sidewalks in Wisconsin

Generally, bicyclists are discouraged from riding on sidewalks because they are considered vehicles and have the same rights to the road as motor vehicles.  Sidewalk bicycling can be dangerous due to the number of driveways, direction of travel, and motor vehicle drivers not expecting anyone to be traveling at a speed faster than jogging when using a sidewalk.  

Keep in mind, many experienced bicyclists choose to ride the sidwalk over the road in some instances.  An example of this may be a road that has limited space for a bicyclist and high speed limits for motor vehicles in addition to a wide smooth sidewalk with little traffic and few driveways.  In this circumstance, a bicyclist may make weigh the risk of getting hit from behind by a texting driver at a high rate of speed vs. the risk of a car pulling in front of him at a driveway.  In Wisconsin, municipalities govern whether or not it is lawful to ride a bike on a sidewalk-thus there is no state law saying yes or no for the entire state.  In Madison, bicycling is permitted on sidewalks except in areas where buildings abut the sidewalks.  Please see the attached flyer below from TransMadison regarding bicycling on sidewalks and some things to keep in mind:

1.   When local authorities permit bicycles on the sidewalk, every person operating a bicycle upon a sidewalk must yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall exercise due care and give an audible signal when passing a bicycle or electric personal assistive mobility device rider or a pedestrian proceeding in the same direction.

2. Riding on the sidewalk may increase your chance of collision with a motor vehicle.  This is  because many drivers pull out onto the sidewalk area when leaving a driveway area.  Drivers also tend to look for things that are a personal danger to them (like other cars) and neglect to look for bicylists.

3. Cars turning right at an intersection with a green light may not look behind them and will not see a bicyclist coming from behind them on the sidewalk.  Cars turning left from opposite a bicyclist usually look at the oncoming lane of traffic and not the sidewalk-therefore cars will often not see a bicyclist approaching from the sidewalk.  The car will turn left in front of the biker.

4. If riding the opposite direction of traffic on a sidewalk be especially careful as drivers pulling out of a gas station driveway and turning right onto a roadway will tend to only look to their left before pulling out.  In this circumstance, the driver will not see a bicyclist approaching from his or her right.

5. There is a danger of collision with other bicylists.  For example, along PD in Madison, the sidewalk crosses the Badger State Trail bike path.  Bicyclists on the Badger State Trail heading north will usually not stop their bikes before they get to the sidewalk because they are primarily concerned with motor vehicles on PD.