Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Much Needed "Tune Up"...

In a prior post, "Big changes start with small steps", I discussed proposed legislation to update some bicycle laws.  This proposal was championed by the Bike Federation.  And I am happy to announce 2011 Assembly Bill 265, a bipartisan bill, was signed on November 21, 2011 by Governor Walker (finally this guy signed a good law that actually helps people).

You can read the Bike Fed release here: http://www.bfw.org/2011/11/17/governor-signs-bicycle-tune-up-bill/

You can also read the actual changes to the statutes here: http://legis.wisconsin.gov/2011/data/AB-265.pdf

However, the biggest changes are as follows:

- Bicycle operator can now have a red rear light in lieu of a red rear reflector

- Term bicycle now includes vehicles propelled by hands acting upon pedals and having wheels any 2 of which are not less than 14 inches in diameter (no word on if a vehicle propelled by only one hand, as opposed to "hands" is still considered a bicycle)

- Bicyclists can now use either arm to signal turns and stops

- A vehicle operator can cross the center line in a no-passing zone (zones either indicated as no passing by signage or a thick center yellow line) to overtake and pass, with care, any vehicle, including a bicycle, traveling at a speed significantly less than the normal speed of traffic at the place of passing.  The passing of another vehicle can only occur if the left side, of the continuos yellow line, is clearly visible and is free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit such overtaking and passing in a safe manner. (There are exceptions when you still cannot pass, so read the law!)

This may be the biggest change to the law- allowing other vehicles to pass where prohibited from doing so either by a continuous yellow middle line or no-passing signage.  This allows passing vehicles to provide more than the 3 feet required to pass a bicycle, thus hopefully ensuring more safety on the roads for all vehicle operators.  This is especially handy when there are cars parked adjacent to curbs, leaves or other hazards near curbs, or riders are riding two abreast but not impeding traffic.  This change also has the most exceptions on when it is ok for a vehicle to disregard a yellow line or no-passing signage, so it is really important to read and understand when it is acceptable to pass under these circumstances.

There are some other changes, as well as exceptions to the rules, but those mentioned are what I believe to be the most important.  I strongly encourage you to click on the above links and read the changes for yourself so you, as a driver and a cyclist, know the law and can enlighten others of it.

These are great steps forward for cyclists in Wisconsin and the Bike Fed should receive much applause.  Hopefully they will be able to do the same with their proposed Vulnerable Users Law.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Did you know?

I am a nerd, kind of.  But, I am also a lawyer, so I found myself reading Milwaukee Ordinance on bicycles.  What was interesting to me is that per local ordinance 102-15, the following sidewalks are considered bicycle ways:

- all sidewalks within the Hank Aaron Trail
- all sidewalks on grated bridges that are not equipped with bicycle surface plate lanes
- all sidewalks on viaducts and roadways over Menominee River Valley on 6th, 16th, 27th and 35th streets
- all sidewalks along Commerce Ave. in areas designated the Beerline (sweet name) Bike Trail
- all sidewalks over the Milwaukee River on East North Ave. and East Locust St., except the sidewalk on the north side of the Locust Street Bridge

What does this mean?  Well, it means that these sidewalks are actually designated for the use of bicycles specifically, as well as pedestrians.  This is important because according to Milwaukee Ordinance 102-7, the operation of a bicycle is not permitted upon a public sidewalk, unless specifically noted otherwise- hence ordinance 102-15, which provide exceptions to 102-7.

So, memorize where it is acceptable in Milwaukee to ride your bike on a sidewalk, should it be necessary for you to do so (and if you live outside of Milwaukee County, well, you probably do not have sidewalks).  If you ride on the wrong sidewalk (or in the wrong direction apparently) you could find yourself in violation of a Milwaukee Local Ordinance and face a fine (though probably doubtful).

Although, if you are like me, you are probably wondering why the hell I am writing about riding on a sidewalk when I know the street is the place to be.