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WSLL @ Your Service April 2024

The Law of Electric Bicycles - Carol Hassler

E-bikes, or electric bicycles, have been around for decades, but their popularity has climbed in recent years. 2019 Wisconsin Act 34 split electric bicycles into three classes, reflecting the different ways electric bicycles can be propelled and how fast they are designed to go. Along with solely human-powered bicycles, and many other wheeled devices, electric bicycles are considered vehicles under Wisconsin law.

electric bicycles

Electric bicycles are manufactured with motors to assist efficient travel by bicycle. Thanks to widespread manufacture and the adoption of e-bikes into many community bicycle-sharing programs, they're increasingly common on roads and community paths. In Wisconsin, electric bicycles shouldn't be confused with "motor bicycles" which have a non-integral motor. For the purposes of this article, e-bikes do not include motor bicycles. Wisconsin Statute 340.01, a lengthy definitions statute in the general vehicles chapter, describes how these two types of bicycles differ.

Speed and pedal-power limitations help to differentiate e-bike classes. A class 3 electric bicycle can provide motorized assistance only when the rider is pedaling, and stops providing assistance when the bicycle reaches 28 miles per hour. Tearing down a long, straight downhill in Wisconsin's famed hills can easily get you up to these speeds, even without the help of a motor. Class 1 and 2 electric bicycles are limited to a slightly lower speed cap of 20 miles per hour. Class 2 e-bikes may be powered solely by the motor, but stop providing assistance when the bicycle reaches its speed cap. Electric bicycles must meet the Code of Federal Regulations "Requirements for bicycles" (16 CFR Part 1512). 

Before you head out to buy an electric bicycle, make sure you understand what you're buying, and check that e-bikes are allowed where you want to ride. When buying for a child, check age restrictions as well. While the Statutes generally treat electric bicycles in a similar manner to bicycles, the 2019 act also required standard labeling to indicate the classification of the electric bicycle, speed limitations, and wattage.
Get a summary of traffic laws for electric bicycles and other two-wheeled motorized vehicles from the WI Department of Motor Vehicles. A few years ago, the State Bar of Wisconsin's InsideTrack published an article examining OWI law and electric bikes or scooters which discusses definitions of these vehicles. The WI Department of Natural Resources (DNR) as well as local restrictions may affect where these bicycles may be ridden with the motor assistance engaged.

The DNR summarizes electric bicycle use on their biking recreation page.

"Electric bicycles are allowed on some of the straight (linear) bicycle touring trails, but must observe a 15-mile-per-hour speed limit. (Note that any electric bicycle capable of more than 30 miles per hour is, under state law, a motorcycle and not a bicycle, and may not be ridden on any state trails that do not specifically allow motorcycles). Electric bicycles are not allowed on any other bicycle trails other than those indicated in the table below. Electric bicycles used without the motor engaged are allowed on all bicycle trails."

Check the DNR's table of trails throughout the state to find out which trails allow electric bicycles.

The National Park Service also has a helpful page on e-bikes, having passed a final regulation governing electric bicycles in 2020. Scroll to the FAQ at the bottom of the page to learn more about how e-bikes are regulated. Individual park roads and trails may have customized restrictions on all e-bikes, or on certain classes of electric bicycles. All types of bicycles are prohibited in wilderness areas.

Municipalities may directly address electric bicycles or other motorized two-wheeled vehicles in local ordinances. Check local laws to learn more about bike path, trail, and other areas where e-bikes may be either permitted or prohibited.


Photo credit: Maryana - stock.adobe.com

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A New Era: North Western Reporter 3d - Carol Hassler

North Western Reporter books

New volumes in West's North Western Reporter, 2nd series, have been staples of law library collections since 1941, and the North Western Reporter, 1st series, has informed researchers since 1879. These two series alone have contained over half a million decisions, according to a recent release from Thomson Reuters.

The North Western Reporter series has declared Volume 999 as the last published volume in the second series. While the library won't get the bound volume 999 for a little while, advance sheets for the volume are already at the library.

Although N.W. 2d is sunsetting, the work is continued with West's North Western Reporter, 3rd series. Advance sheets for the third series are on the shelf, ready for perusal and citation. The decisions published in this series include headnotes, key numbers, and synopses prepared by Thomson Reuters staff.

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New Books - Chris Schroeder

book cover

New Edition: Wisconsin Rules of Evidence: a Courtroom Handbook
State Bar of Wisconsin
Call Number: KFW 2940 .B37 E992

This is an important resource for any lawyer navigating the difficulties of evidentiary rules in trial proceedings. With its wide range of topics covering everything from objections to privileges to expert testimony, this handbook ensures that vital information is always at your fingertips. Since its debut in 1982, it has been a trusted resource for legal professionals seeking to enhance their trial performance and succeed in court. With user-friendly features like an index, table of cases, and cross-referencing, it streamlines the process of finding relevant rules and case law, making it a must-have for any courtroom practitioner.

Topics include:

  • Witnesses
  • Relevancy
  • Judicial Notice
  • Hearsay
  • Authentication/Identification
  • Opinions and Expert Testimony

book cover

Updated: Guide To Records Retention: the Lawyers Role
Call Number: KF 1357.5 .G852

This is a three volume resource for legal professionals seeking to assist their clients in managing records effectively. Covering crucial topics such as the admissibility of business record reproductions and legal regulations, this guide equips lawyers with the knowledge needed to provide sound advice. With sample policies and guides provided, it offers practical solutions for navigating the complexities of records retention across various areas of law.

Topics include:

  • Records retention and business records
  • Admissibility of business records
  • Distinction between personal and corporate records
  • The legal implications of document destruction
  • Privacy aspects of record keeping


New books

See our latest New Titles list for a list of new books and other resources. For assistance in accessing these or other resources, please contact our Reference Desk.

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Tech Tip - Heidi Yelk

iPhone photo search

person with phone

Even if you have never bothered to organize or caption the thousands of photos on your iPhone, you can still use a keyword search to find a photo or begin a photo sorting project.

The process is simple. Open your Photos app and click the magnifying glass (lower right) for "search." You'll notice some photos are already sorted by automatically generated categories, such as "animals," "vehicles," or "snow." But you can also enter your own keywords in the search box at the top of the screen. For example, you might search the word "football" to find photos you took at a Badger game five years ago. Or "Wisconsin" which will look for the word itself in a photo - such as on a person's shirt, a sign, or in the end zone.

Once you've generated a results page, you can view all the photos or scroll down to "moments" to narrow further by date. This search is not perfect but it is fun. It may help you to organize some of the thousands of photos on your phone. See Apple support for information on using albums and editing, sharing and organizing albums.


Photo credit: InsideCreativeHouse - stock.adobe.com

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Library News - Carol Hassler

Law Day in Dane County

May 1st marks Law Day, a day to learn about and celebrate the rule of law. The Dane County Bar Association is planning events at the Dane County Courthouse, with drop-in clinics once again held in the Dane County Law Library. Watch our website and social media for updates, and block off your calendar to celebrate Law Day at the courthouse!

April Learning Opportunities

Federal Legislative History - Some methods in researching Acts of Congress
Thursday, April 25, noon-1:00 p.m.
Location: David T. Prosser Jr. State Law Library - Register for Federal Legislative History
Free class

Sometimes an Act of Congress leaves some room for disagreement about how it should be applied or interpreted. This class discusses some of the documentary sources that can help give insight into what Congress was considering while passing legislation. This information, available through sources such as Congress.gov and HeinOnline as well as a variety of printed material, is the sort usually resorted to by courts and lawyers when they ask, "What did Congress really mean?"

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April Snapshot

Hyer Hall

Hyer Hall is an iconic building on the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater's campus for many reasons. Not only is it beautiful, but it is also filled with history. It is the only part of Old Main, the university's main academic building, to survive a massive 1970 fire. Interestingly enough, the fire was non-accidental, and the university never found the culprits. To find another example of Hyer Hall's rich past, look no further than the building's name itself. Frank S. Hyer was president of UW-Whitewater from 1919 to 1930, spanning the Post-War and Great Depression era. He is credited with helping the university reach its highest enrollment at the time at one thousand students, and with growing their normal school to the second largest in the states. A normal school is an educational institution that trains teachers, and Hyer's past experiences as a teacher made the Whitewater Normal School a priority of his during his time as president. - Compiled by Abby E. Miller, library extern.

We are accepting snapshots! Do you have a photo highlighting libraries, attractions or points of historical interest? Send your photo the editor at carol.hassler@wicourts.gov to be included in a future issue.

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