Motorists looking to pass bicycles and other slow-moving vehicles in Wisconsin no longer would have to wait until they see a dotted line in the roadway before passing, under a bill scheduled to go before the state Assembly today.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Keith Ripp, R-Lodi, would allow cars and trucks to pass, with care, any vehicle traveling significantly less than the normal speed of traffic, even in no-passing zones.

The bill also would make a number of other changes to state law involving the operation of bicycles.

Ripp said many drivers already pass bikers in no-passing zones, but because that is technically illegal, they try to make the pass without crossing the center line.

"A lot of bicyclists are within inches of getting hit," Ripp said.

His hope is that permitting passing of slow vehicles on double-laned roadways will lead drivers to give bikers more room.

"I happen to be a farmer, also, and with farm equipment on the road, we see it all the time," Ripp said. "People often pass us, which is fine as long as it's on a long stretch where nobody's coming."

The bill also would make the following changes to state law:

• Modify the definition of "bicycle" to include vehicles propelled by hand.

• Allow bicyclists to use either arm to signal turns and stops.

• Allow a red lamp on the back of a bicycle, motorized bicycle or electric mobility device to be used as a substitute for a red reflector during dark hours.

• Allow bicycles with metal or studded tires to operate on the highway, as long as they do no damage.

• Exempts bicycles from the 15-mph speed limit for vehicles equipped with metal tires.

• Allows municipalities to enact ordinances that treat mopeds as motorcycles, rather than bicycles, for the purpose of parking.

• Allow mopeds to be parked like motorcycles in parking spaces.

Bicycle advocates worked with Ripp to create the new rules and have endorsed the bill.

"We want to say to motorists, if it is safe, it's OK to pass," said Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin Executive Director Kevin Hardman, adding that the changes bring Wisconsin in line with national standards.

The bill was approved, 15-0, by the Assembly Committee on Transportation on Oct. 12, and is scheduled for a vote in the Assembly today.

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