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Bicycle Safety Tips

  • Communicate with other road users. Even expert bicyclists need to be prepared for motorists, pedestrians, and other cyclists behaving unpredictably.
  • Be visible. Wear bright colors during the day. Use good lights and reflectors at night. Wisconsin law requires at least a white front light and a red rear reflector. Make sure that other drivers can see you.
  • Communicate with other drivers. Make eye contact with them to be sure you have been seen. Signal turns and lane changes.
  • Be aware of hazards. Watch ahead for surface hazards like broken glass, sand, and potholes. Weather and light conditions create visual hazards, too. Watch for other traffic, including pedestrians, at intersections and driveways. Adapt your riding style as needed to minimize these and other potential hazards.
  • Obey all traffic signs and signals. Obeying the law is your first defense against being involved in a crash, and is the best way to gain respect from other road users. In addition, bicyclists can be ticketed for traffic violations.
  • Always ride with traffic. Besides being illegal, riding against traffic in the roadway makes you unpredictable, especially to drivers turning at intersections, exiting driveways, or leaving parking spaces.
  • Ride at least three feet from parked cars to avoid being hit by a suddenly opened car door. A motorist passing a bicyclist is also required to give a bicycle three feet of clearance when passing.
  • Cross railroad tracks at an angle to avoid catching your wheel and falling.
  • Ride defensively. Be aware of what is going on all around you, and watch out for other drivers' mistakes. Some common situations to watch for include:
    • a motorist coming toward you who turns left in front of you
    • a motorist passing you and then turning right in front of you
    • a motorist pulling out from a stop sign, driveway, or parking space without yielding to you
  • Wear a helmet. Head injuries cause 75% of bicyclist deaths. Protect yourself from the unexpected by wearing your helmet whenever you ride.

Bicycle Crashes

As a cyclist, it is important to recognize the leading causes of bicycle/motor vehicle crashes. Recognizing the following situations will help you avoid crashes and keep you safe:

  • Motorist turn/merge into bicyclist's path
  • Motorist driving out from stop sign
  • Motorist exiting a driveway or alley
  • Bicyclist turn/merge into motorist path
Bicycle Laws of Wisconsin

Madison and Wisconsin laws recognize bicycles as vehicles, granting cyclists the same rights as other drivers on the road. Along with these rights, however, comes the responsibility to follow all traffic laws, just as you would in a motor vehicle. For specific information on bicycle laws or any other law enforcement issue please contact the UW Police Department for a copy of the brochure titled "What you need to know to ride safe".

UW Police Department
1429 Monroe Street
Madison WI 53711