A bicycle is legally defined as a vehicle, and its rider is granted the same rights and responsibilities as a driver of any other vehicle. Because bicyclists regularly share paths with a variety of different commuters, they must be especially aware of their own rights as well as the rights pedestrians and other vehicles. No matter where chose to ride, there are a few safety concerns that every bicyclist should be aware of:
- Bicycle and moped operators are not legally required by the state of Wisconsin to wear a helmet. This does not negate the importance of helmet use for personal safety. Most serious injuries resulting from a fall or crash while riding a bike are to the head and can be prevented by wearing a helmet.
- Any bicycle being operated on a street, path, or sidewalk must be equipped with working brakes.
- Any bicycle being operated during hours of darkness must have a white front headlight that can be seen from at least 500 feet away and a red rear reflector that can be seen from at least 50 feet away.
- Wear bright colors or reflective clothing when riding your bike to increase your visibility to others.
- Bicyclists should use these hand signals to notify others when they plan to stop or make a turn:
Riding Down the Hill
- Check that your bike has working brakes. When riding downhill, both the front and rear brakes should be applied equally. Avoid making sudden stops using just your front brake, as your forward/downward momentum can send you and your bike flipping forward over the handlebars.
- Keep your body weight low and positioned slightly towards the back of your bicycle when riding down hills.
- As always, wear a helmet!
- Anticipate the traffic arm at the bottom of the hill. Approach it slowly in order to maneuver safely around it.
On the Sidewalk
- Remember, a bicycle is a vehicle. Anyone operating a bicycle on a sidewalk must yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian.
- In the case of experienced and fast-riding bicyclists, it is often safer to ride in the street and obey all traffic laws rather than to ride in the sidewalk and maneuver around slow-moving pedestrians. If you chose to ride in the sidewalk, ride slowly and communicate your presence to nearby pedestrians.
- In the City of Eau Claire, bicyclists are not allowed to ride on the sidewalks within certain designated districts. Please ride in the street in these areas:
- Central Business District - The area bounded by Madison Street, Dewey Street, Lake Street, and the Chippewa River
- Madison Street-Bellinger Street District - The area bounded by Oxford Avenue, Cameron Street, Bellinger Street, and Randall Street
- Water Street District - The area bounded by the Chippewa River, First Avenue, Chippewa Street, and Sixth Avenue, except from First Avenue to Third Avenue on both sides of Water Street.
On the Road
- Bicyclists using the roadways must follow all regular traffic laws, including stopping at all stop signs, obeying traffic lights, and yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks. You will fare better with other road users if you function like a legal vehicle operator, which you are.
- Bicyclists should ride at least three feet from the curb and from all parked and moving vehicles. It is important to avoid swerving in and around parked vehicles so that you remain visible to other traffic at all times and so that you may avoid being hit when the doors of parked vehicles are opened in front of you.
- When making a turn, do not wait until you come to a cross walk and then attempt to cross traffic lanes from a full stop. If you need to cross as a pedestrian, leave the vehicle lanes and enter the crosswalk from the sidewalk.
- When biking downhill, your speed will be closer to that of other traffic or to posted speed limits. Keep to the center of traffic where you will be most visible to other vehicles in your lane and to oncoming traffic in the left turning lane.