Are bicyclists safe in Wisconsin?

Bicycling is a great mode of transportation when the weather is warm and the roads are clear. Some cyclists are passionate enough to affix fat tires to their bikes and ride during the winter months.

Regardless of the season, bicyclists should be able to trust they can get on the road without the risk of injury. Does Wisconsin give them the assurance they deserve?

According to the League of American Cyclists, the state could be don’t better. The league ranks the bicycle safety of all 50 states and releases a report card on each state’s strengths and weaknesses. As of the last report card in 2017, Wisconsin ranked No. 26 out of 50.

Complete Streets repeal

Prior to 2017, Wisconsin ranked high; the most recent report card marked the first time the state ranked outside the Top 10. The league pointed to one primary reason for the decline: The state’s repeal of a Complete Streets law, which is the first time a state had done so. Complete Streets laws explicitly recognize non-automotive travel and ensure transportation and infrastructure reflect all travelers’ needs.

“While over 1000 communities throughout the nation and more than two-thirds of states have been adopting and implementing laws and policies that codify the common sense idea that streets should be designed and maintained for all users – the Wisconsin legislature decided that it was inappropriate to require that streets are designed so that people who bike could do so safely,” the league said in its report.

The league released a progress report in 2018 that determined bicyclists have consistently better outcomes in Wisconsin, but the state has not committed to funding improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians over the past decade.

Without these laws, the risk increases that bicyclists could be involved in an crash with a motor vehicle. There are eight main things to do if this happens. Hopefully Wisconsin will update its laws to better reflect the needs of non-automotive travelers.