Bicycle on An Empty Road Crossing with Cars in The Background


The Paul Benson Law Firm March 22, 2022

Janesville Bicycle Accident Attorney Serving Bike Accident Victims Across Wisconsin

Bicyclists have equal rights on the road

If a car hits you while you are riding your bicycle, you need to call an experienced personal injury lawyer.  Our cities are built for cars and our culture favors cars, indeed, most people drive cars every day.  Juries are comprised of people who mostly drive cars. Under Wisconsin law, bicycles have equal rights to the road unless clearly marked otherwise. US interstates and some other freeways prohibit bicycles but almost all city streets permit bicycles. You need an advocate to make that point clear to the insurance company adjuster or eventually to a jury of your peers.

Don’t get Bullied onto the Sidewalk

Wisconsin law generally prohibits people from riding bicycles on the sidewalk, but the law allows local municipalities to carve out exceptions on their sidewalks (See WSA § 346.94 (goo.gl/xprrNn)). For example, the City of Janesville, Wisconsin allows bicycles on the sidewalk in most residential areas. But, the Janesville city code prohibits riding on sidewalks in the central business district or near schools. Pedestrians also always have the right of way on Janesville sidewalks (See Janesville City Code 10.64.080 (https://goo.gl/nLQL5J)).

Regardless of the law, the sidewalk is often not a safe place to ride a bicycle (small children excluded).  Bicycles travel faster than pedestrians. Most people bicycle at approximately 12-16 mph while people walk at approximately 4 mph. People in cars are not trained to look for someone bicycling that fast on the sidewalk.  As a result, cars often strike bicyclists while they are making turns.  The person driving the car believes that they have sufficient time and space to make a safe turn, but don’t fully appreciate the speed of the bicyclist.

Riding a bicycle in the street can be intimidating and scary at first.  It is best to avoid major commercial streets and highways.  The speed limits are higher and the amount of traffic makes riding a bicycle more dangerous.  Secondary streets make for great bicycle roads.  Ride on the right hand side of the lane, but not so close to the curb that motorists don’t see you. This is safer than the sidewalk because cars can easily see you and appreciate your speed.  There are no trees or signs blocking the motorists’ view.  The street is also free of obstacles common to the sidewalks, like driveways, sprinklers and children’s toys.

Get the Right Gear

Wear a helmet. Make sure it fits snug to your head. Slamming your skull on the pavement is lot less cool than wearing a helmet. Plus, there are a lot of cool helmets available all over the internet. Amazon is a good place to start because there are lots of customer reviews to help inform your decision.

A good headlight and taillight are crucial to your safety. There are three main goals when considering what lights to buy. First, you need to see the road. Second, you need cars to see you. Third, you don’t want to blind motorists. 700 to 750 lumens seems to be a good balance for the headlight. Buying a light that can charge with a standard USB charger is convenient and a good option for the daily cyclist who doesn’t have time to buy new AAA batteries every week.

Make sure you have coverage

Buy the most underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage that you can, commonly referred to as UM/UIM.  If possible purchase an umbrella policy that attaches to your UM/UIM coverage.  When you are riding a bicycle, you are obviously more susceptible to major injury. Wisconsin law only mandates $25,000 in liability coverage.  A trip to the emergency room that involves CT scans can easily eclipse that $25,000 in coverage. That leaves nothing for your future medical expenses, lost wages or pain and suffering. If you have sufficient UM/UIM coverage, you will be covered for those expenses no matter what. I recommend buying at least $100,000 in UM/UIM coverage, but it may only be a few more dollars to increase that coverage to $250,000 or more.

Hire a Lawyer who Cycles

I’ve been riding a bicycle as my main form of transportation for the last ten years.  Three cars have hit me. I’ve been forced to break the traffic laws for my own safety.  I understand the challenges of riding a bicycle in our modern car-centric cities.  I also know how much it hurts to be sidelined from bicycling for an extended period.  Don’t trust your case to an attorney who doesn’t fully understand the issues that bicyclists face every day and can’t understand what it is like to be unable to cycle for an extended period.  I’ve handled many bicycle injury cases and even recovered from insurance companies when my client was given a citation by the police.