Governor Signs Bicycle "Tune-up" Bill

Governor Walker signs AB265 with Executive Director Kevin Hardman (L), Bill Hauda, Bike Fed board member and Chair of Legislative Committee (C) and Greg Hubbard, one of the Bike Fed's lobbyists (R)

Yesterday, Governor Walker signed a bill that updates various state laws regarding bicycles. Dubbed the Bicycle Tune-up Bill, the most noticeable changes in AB265 is that it is now legal for people who ride bicycles to signal turns with either the right or the left hand and to use red rear lights in place of rear reflectors.

The old laws about manually signaling turns required that people on bicycles use the same hand signals as motorists [346.35].  This was a particular problem for people riding racing style bicycles because as they are leaning forward, the old manual right turn signal was not visible. In order to make a legal right turn visible, a person riding a racing-style bicycle would have to take both hands off the handlebars, sit up and make the right turn signal.  Because this is dangerous when approaching a turn, in practice many people would instead extend their right arm and point to the right to signal their turn. Under the new law, this is now legal.

The alternate method circled in red is now a legal right turn signal.

The bill updates a number of other bicycle related laws as summarized below. You can also read all the current state statutes and see the exact language of the new statutes in the text of the bill here.


  • Allow the use of a red rear light in lieu of a rear reflector.
    Existing law requires the use of a rear reflector on all bicycles between dusk and dawn, even if a rear light is used. This change allows the replacement of the required reflector with a more highly visible flashing or steady red light.
  • Adding handcycles to the definition of bicycles
    Although they are operationally similar to bicycles, handcycles are not legally allowed to operate on Wisconsin streets and roads. By adding handcycles to the legal definition of bicycles, handcycles may be legally operated with the same rights and responsibilities as other legal vehicles.
  • Allow vehicle operators to pass slow moving vehicles across a solid yellow line when it is safe to do so.
    It is common, but illegal, for motorists to pass slow moving vehicles (bicycles, tractors, disabled vehicles…) in no passing zones when they can see it is safe to do so, even if they have to cross a solid yellow center line. These passing maneuvers can be carried out very quickly, and often without fully crossing into the opposing lane. AB265 allows a vehicle operator to cross the center line in such a no−passing zone to overtake and pass, with care, any vehicle, including a bicycle, traveling at a speed less than half of the posted speed limit at the place of passing.
  • Allow the use of studded tires.
    It is currently illegal to use studded tires on a bike on the roadway. This law is carried over from motor vehicles, which can cause extensive pavement damage with studded tires. Because bicycles weigh a fraction of what a car weighs, the potential for pavement damage does not exist. Good news as winter is approaching.
  • Allow municipalities to regulate moped parking.
    State law currently allows mopeds to park at bicycle racks and on terraces and other pedestrian areas as long as they are not obstructing walkways. In most communities this works fine. However, a few communities face considerable challenges with moped parking, and need the ability to regulate where mopeds can park. This change returns local control to these communities without changing the status quo for the communities where existing law is working.

These changes to existing law are common sense items that will legalize safe existing practices. Each of the changes noted above is already law in other states, and some of the items, like signaling with either arm, are law in over half the states.


Rep. Keith Ripp (R-Lodi)

The bill was introduced by Representative Ripp last September and drew bi-partisan support. It was co-sponsored by eleven Republicans and eight Democrats in the Assembly and by one Republican and two Democrats in the Senate. Given the current political climate, it is good to see that members of both parties can agree on making bicycling safer in Wisconsin!

The Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin would like to thank all the co-sponsors of the bill: 

Rep. Sinicki, Rep. Pocan, Rep. Ott, Rep. Taylor, Rep. Ballweg, Rep. Bernier, Rep.  Jorgensen, Rep. Spanbauer, Rep. Petrwoski, Rep. Strachota, Rep. Vrunwink, Rep. Roys, Rep. Zepnick, Rep. Tranel, Rep. Mursau, Rep. Stone, Rep. Brooks and Rep. Steinbrink.  The bill was also co-sponsored by Senators Hoperin, Sen. Grothman and Sen. Taylor. Thank you all for helping to make Wisconsin a better place to bicycle.

The Bike Fed works daily to create better bicycling through legislation, education and encouragement campaigns however we cannot do it without your support. If you are not already, become a member today.

Stay tuned to this blog by subscribing via email or RSS feed (see upper right hand corner of this page) for updates on our progress with the Bike Fed’s other legislative efforts like the vulnerable user law.


19 thoughts on “Governor Signs Bicycle "Tune-up" Bill

  1. Great news on this bill signing!

    One item about your write-up. The first paragraph says that the new bill now allows a bicycle operator to “use red rear lights in addition to rear reflectors”. This is either a typo or merely very misleading, depending on interpretation. Bicycle operators could always use a rear light in tandem with a rear reflector.

    Later in the write-up, you do correctly and more clearly state that the new bill will “allow the use of a red rear light in lieu of a rear reflector”. I recommend the first paragraph be reworded to more clearly reflect this new part of the law.

    • Bob – you are correct about the lights being able to replace reflectors. The text has been updated. Thanks for paying such close attention!

  2. This is great!

    …now that that’s all squared away can someone please get to work on getting the Cannonball path funded and built all the way to the Wingra Creek trail? Those rails aren’t even used anymore and trying to commute from downtown to ANYWHERE in Fitchburg is like playing russian roulette.

    Anyone know who I can bug to expedite this project?

    • Thanks for your response. There are five phases for the Cannonball Path. Phases 1 – 4 are either complete or in progress. Phase 3 includes a ped/bike bridge over the beltline. This is already funded and planned for. Unfortunately, the only phase that is not currently being planned for is Phase 1, the section from Fish Hatchery to Wingra Creek trail. We understand that this has been stalled indefinitely due to failed negotiations with Union Pacific. I’ve asked our friends with the City of Madison for an update and if anything has changed, I will be sure to update you.

  3. Does the flashing red tail light need to be affixed to the bicycle? Or would having it affixed to the rider like the headlight suffice?

    • The light needs to be affixed to the bicycle to be legal as it is considered part of the bicycle’s equipment.

  4. Could the Bike Federation gush any more over Scott Walker. Remember this is the same governor who opposes many of the ideas that many cyclists hold sacred about American democracy. Maybe the headline should have said bipartisan support leads to passage of bill. Interesting that the Bike Federation would gush so clearly over Walker, considering how many are currently circulating petitions to vote on the job performance of this governor. Why bother being a member if leadership of the Bike Federation appears to give endorsements. Lets be non-partisan, lead headline would have been better if it gushed, “Bike Fed Legislation Bill Passes with Bipartisan Support.

    • Morning Leo, sorry for the slow response, but I was up north hunting and on vacation after that. Funny you mention the headline as we actually had something very similar to what you suggest as the first draft for the blog post which was written immediately after the legislation passed. Then we held the blog post because it seemed imprudent publish the success before the legislation was actually signed into law. Since we waited, we changed the headline to make it more active and more clear given this post was written after the bill signing.

      You are certainly correct that the bipartisan support for this bill is important to note given the nature of partisan politics for every other issue these days. Bicycling should be bipartisan, and I have argued in the past that if anything, it is actually more conservative or libertarian than it is liberal.

      Bicycling should rise above the political fray as it is neither a republican or democratic issue. Bicycling is incredibly important to our state for all the money and jobs it provides, but perhaps more importantly, because it is one of the things that makes Wisconsin a great place to live and visit. We can pridefully claim that Wisconsin has the best deer hunting in the country, best cheese, best bicycling, etc. These are assets everyone should be proud of whether you are lactose intolerant, don’t ride a bike, vegetarian, etc.

      The staff at the Bike Fed is charged by our members to represent their interests in bicycling, no matter which party is in the majority, no matter who sits in the governor’s office and no matter our personal political persuasions. I hope you can understand and respect that.

    • I am a cyclist and I support Scott Walker. I would consider the act of transporting oneself by bicycle to be pretty darn conservative too.

  5. AB265 Section 10
    “A bicycle, motor bicycle, or electric personal assistive
    mobility device shall also be equipped with a red reflector that has a diameter of at
    least 2 inches of surface area or, with respect to an electric personal assistive mobility
    device, that is a strip of reflective tape that has at least 2 square inches of surface
    area, on the rear so mounted and maintained as to be visible from all distances from
    50 to 500 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlamps
    on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a red or flashing amber light visible from a
    distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in addition to but not in lieu of the red
    When lawful upper beams of vehicle headlamps shine directly upon the rear of a bicyclist wearing a reflective bright yellow vest or jacket, the rider is visible from 1000 feet in front of those vehicles. Average surface area of the back side of a medium sized jacket is is more than 300 square inches.
    If visibility equals safety, then the law is a bit short sighted.
    A vulnerable users bill should have been given priority over AB265.

  6. I’m still trying to figure out how this cuts government or union worker positions or in some way lines Walkers pockets – this is the first good thing this ‘Governor’ has put thru. Too little too late. Representative Ripp, thanks for updating these stale policies!

  7. Excellent work. Isn’t it great when members of all parties coalesce around a topic, find common ground, and actually ‘git ‘r done’? But, it wouldn’t have happened without the guidance of Kevin Hardman and Bill Hauda and others at the BFW. Great job guys. Thanks to legislators who sponsored this, and thank you to Governor Walker for signing it. Happy Thanksgiving.

  8. It is my understanding the the law was passed under the” Tune Up’ Bill (AB265) in Nov.2011 that it is now legal to pass a bicyle in a no passing zone if they are traveling at a speed less then half the speed limit & if it is safe to do so am i correct on this ?? I would really appreciate a reply thanks

    • Christy, yes, we had that included in the bill. You can read the explanation in the blog post above by the bullet point ” Allow vehicle operators to pass slow moving vehicles across a solid yellow line when it is safe to do so.” You can read the exact text in the bill, which is linked in the blog post above as well.

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