Diluted Vulnerable User Bill Passes


Our vulnerable users legislation is an attempt to put the scales of justice back in balance.

It is good news that the Wisconsin Senate just passed an amended version of our proposed Vulnerable User Law (AB388) on a voice vote, but I’m not sabering any champagne bottles yet. Regular readers will remember the bill was amended in the Assembly to remove all penalty enhancers in order to get it through the legislature this session. I still includes language strengthening the requirement that driver’s education classes include instruction about vulnerable users, but the penalties for severely injuring or killing someone will not be enhanced. If we had not agreed to remove those enhancements, the original bill, would have never been moved for a vote.

Even though we had broad bipartisan support for this republican-sponsored bill, because a few key caucus members had reservations about it, the bill would have died this session. We consulted with the bill sponsors, Sen. Luther Olsen R-Ripon and Rep. Garey Bies R-Sister Bay, and with our lobbyists, and they all agreed we should accept this small victory, but work next session to win over those who had objections and introduce new legislation to get the penalty enhancements on the books.

I want to take this opportunity to thank our bill sponsors, their staff for all the work they put in to get this far. I would also like to thank those of you who called or emailed in support of the legislation over the last year or two. You made a difference, I promise. Finally, I want to give special thanks to those who testified about their innocent friends and family members who were killed. I know it was extremely painful to relive those terrible crashes that took loved ones from you, but without your testimonies, we would not have made even this small progress.

Thanks to Maja Holcomb (pictured) and the other friends and family members who lost someone for testifying in support of the Vulnerable User Bill. It took time and courage for all of you to travel to Madison.

I will promise all of you that the staff at the Bike Fed will not give up. It remains unacceptable that someone can kill an innocent road users through simple negligence and get away with a minor traffic ticket. These are not accidents, they are crashes that can be prevented if people pay full attention when behind the wheel and sharing the road with vulnerable road users.

In order to right the scales of justice, we will need not only the continued support of the survivors, we will also need more members so together we can speak with a louder voice.

So I ask every reader who is not a member, please take the time to join the Bike Fed now. We need you in our corner. If you are already a member, I thank you for your support, but ask you to please forward this blog post to a friend or two and ask them to join us. Together, we can get stronger and make Wisconsin an even better and safer place to live, work and ride a bike.

Direct anyone who you think might join us to our Strength in Numbers Campaign. For every person you encourage to join with us, we will enter you in a raffle with the chance to win a Trek bike. Prizes are nice, but the real reason to get others to join the Bike Fed is we need their help to move bicycling forward in Wisconsin.


About Dave Schlabowske, Deputy Director

Dave was the first full-time staff member hired to open the Bike Fed's Milwaukee office 15 years ago. A former professional photographer and life-long Milwaukee resident, Dave likes wool, long rides, sour beer, and a good polar vortex once in a while.

10 thoughts on “Diluted Vulnerable User Bill Passes

  1. Won’t this have to be voted on again down the line?

    Why doesn’t the law require the vulnerable user to be educated? I have brought this up in my blog, about the best way to do this. You guys continue to miss the whole picture. You MUST educate EVERYONE, or else these problems will continue, everyone will SCREAM, and say those stupid motorists need MORE education, while the vulnerable users get NONE!, like usual. Think about this long and hard. You need people that aren’t biased, that can think clearly away from the fog of the drama.

    • It’s a question of public endangerment. Most vulnerable road users are not endangering others by their lawful use of the public way. Those operating motor vehicles are in a position to cause significant harm to others through inattention, emotional response or malfeasance. The contemporary terms used to describe this is “vehicular or “motor vehicle violence”.
      I do agree, everyone who takes a driving test for a license should also be tested for their ability to drive a bicycle lawfully and to safely walk along and cross roadways. I think this is the best way to inform road users of the needs of all modes of use.

    • Brian,

      Read the law, it does require everyone to be educated. And the Bike Fed spends a huge part of our budget doing education of both adults and children. Given more funding, we would do even more education, another reason we need more members.

      That said, you miss the point about the scales of justice being out of balance. When, through negligence a person who kills someone traveling legally on the road, there should be some options between a traffic ticket for a couple hundred dollars (90% of the cases) and homicide.

      • I have read it once again. This one https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2013/related/amendments/ab388/asa1_ab388 nor does this one contain any education for NON-DRIVERS
        Your vulnerable user law only educates DRIVERS, not pedestrians, bicyclists, etc, etc.
        What your vulnerable user law doesn’t do is what I have a problem with. To make it fair, it should teach how to properly cross the street, jay walkers are suppose to yield to traffic, making yourself visible at night, when bicycling, walking, etc.
        Until these issues are addressed in this vulnerable user law, it puts too much blame on one user. I will contact my state legislatures about getting these added to this bill.

        • Oh, I see, you think there should be universal education about bicycling and walking. We couldn’t agree more. The Bike Fed does all we can do with limited resources, but the reality is the vast majority of kids don’t get good educations about how to pedestrian and bicycle safety and laws. Other countries do have such requirements, Denmark and the Netherlands are often cited.

          Sorry I misunderstood, we would love to see mandatory pedestrian and bicycle education. All schools should teach it. We teach it in Milwaukee, some other districts teach it, but it is far from universal.

          All that said, in the majority of fatal crashes involving bicycles in the last handful of years, the driver of the motor vehicle has at fault. When a person on a bicycle failed to obey the law in these fatal crashes, they paid the ultimate penalty. Universal education could definitely help eliminate many of these tragedies.

          • Great! Glad to see we’re in agreement. I don’t explain myself very well, so people don’t understand me right away.
            If I was a multi-million dollar lottery jackpot winner I’d fund the universal education myself. The stuff I see out there makes me cringe, joggers and pedestrians distracted by electronic devices, etc etc, just as bad as the drivers. I have almost been hit by other drivers distracted by cellphones. I may end up putting a dash cam in my vehicle for protection from other road users. I find it helps me obey the laws better.

    • No further progress has been made on the Vulnerable User Bill to date. If you follow Wisconsin state government, you know why. However, with a divided state government starting this year for the first time since 2011, we on your Bike Fed’s lobbying committee have renewed optimism. We are working with the governor’s staff and legislators of both parties to advance our legislative agenda, and the Vulnerable User Bill has a prominent place on that agenda!

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