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Friday, August 5, 2011

IS YOUR BIKE A "VEHICLE" OR A PEDESTRIAN"? TIS THE QUESTION...


            When riding your bicycle, it is important to know what your duties and obligations are to other users of the road.  Also, you need to know what duties and obligations other users have to you as a cyclist. 

            What your duties and obligations are, and what rights you have with respect to other users depends on how/where you are riding your bicycle- either “upon a roadway” or in a “pedestrian-like” capacity.[1]

            If a bicycle is being pedaled on a roadway or highway, it is a vehicle.  When the bicycle is a vehicle, its rider is entitled to the same rights and subject to the same responsibilities as the driver of a car (many rights and responsibilities I have discussed in earlier blog posts- but I know you know that dear reader because you have already read those posts many times over and memorized them). 
           
            There are additional rights, restrictions, and duties for users of a bicycle- such as you cannot go UCI pro style and hold on to a car to grab a couple extra water bottles for your mates up the road, or Cavendish style and have the team car take you up Brookfield Road (this was alleged to have happened to Cavendish during the Tour (not on Brookfield Road) and has never been confirmed through any evidence). 

            So, when is a cyclist acting in a “pedestrian-like” manner?  Well, if a cyclist dismounts, he or she becomes a pedestrian.  A cyclist can also act in a “pedestrian-like” manner when the cyclist operates on a sidewalk and also within crosswalks.  Since the cyclist is a pedestrian in a scenario like this, the rules of the road, including the right-of-way, differ, than when a cyclist is a vehicle.

            If the cyclist is a pedestrian, and at an intersection or crosswalk where traffic is controlled by traffic control signals or by a traffic officer, the operator of a vehicle (car, bike, motorcycle, etc.) shall yield the right of way to a pedestrian, or to a person riding a bicycle in a manner which is consistent with the safe use of the crosswalk by pedestrians, who has started to cross the highway on a green or “Walk” signal.[2]  The same goes for pedestrians or cyclists who are crossing in a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an uncontrolled intersection.[3]

            Further, if the cyclist is acting in a “pedestrian-like” manner, the cyclist crossing a roadway at any other point other than within a marked or unmarked crosswalk shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles upon the roadway.  This only applies to cyclists acting in a “pedestrian-like” manner and not bicyclists operating “upon a roadway”.[4]

            Thus, it is important to know, while riding your bicycle, whether you qualify as vehicle or a pedestrian, because the rules of the road may differ depending upon the capacity in which bicyclist chooses to operate.  Ultimately, that may mean the difference of who is at fault should a bicyclist be involved in a collision. 


[1] See Chernetski v. American Family Mut. Ins. Co., 183 Wis. 2d 68, 515 N.W.2d 283 (Wis.App. 1994)
[2] See Wis. Stat. § 346.23(1)
[3] See Wis. Stat. § 346.24
[4] See Wis. Stat. § 346.25 and Chernetski

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