Wisconsin town proposes bike ban

The bedroom community of Hull, Wisconsin considers ways to draft an ordinance that could close and otherwise restrict town roads to biking and walking.

Town of Hull Chairman John Holdridge presented a draft ordinance to the town Public Safety Task Force “to promote safe use of Hull roads by bicyclists, pedestrians and vehicles … through reasonable separation and usage regulations.” Then, in classic doublespeak fashion, Holdridge proposes to promote safe bicycle use by banning them! The proposed statute says, “bicycles may be prohibited from using Hull roads after holding a public hearing.”

Papers please!

I don’t know Wisconsin law so I can’t comment on the legality of a local ordinance like that, but Hull wades into freedom to travel rights with a proposed permit requirement for “Groups.” On top of the bike prohibition statute, Chairman Holdridge proposes:

A formal notification system is established which provides contact with known groups who walk, run or bike in the Town of Hull. Groups will be informed of the state law and the Hull ordinance to control their operation on Hull roads. Groups operating on Hull roads shall be required to have a permit based on an application which details travel plans (time, date, roads used, and numbers) prior to operating on Hull roads. They will need to certify to following all applicable laws and ordinances.

The way I see this working is, we’ve got the names of the athletic directors and we’ve got the names of the cross country track coaches so once we get this, maybe even before we can approve that particular provision, the Town will invite them in and have a discussion.

Hull’s Public Safety Task Force has been mulling ways to keep cyclists, joggers, and dog walkers off of their city streets for a couple of months now. The town council receives complaints regarding groups cycling, walking, and jogging on public roads, and, according to the Public Safety Committee, those people primarily come from the University of Wisconsin in Stevens Point three miles south of Hull, along with cross country runners from high schools in Stevens Point. The ROTC battalion at UW-Stevens Point “has caused problems” for the town as well. Discussion in the September 15 public safety meeting then devolved into gripes about people riding without lights, people taking up the whole lane while biking and walking, and dog walkers blocking traffic and leaving their pet excrement on the street.

The Public Safety Committee doesn’t appear to address any actual public safety issues with the bike / jog / walk ban. Drivers in this city of 5,000 seem to be annoyed by the momentary delays posed by walkers, joggers, and cyclists. There are no sidewalks on the 80 miles of road in Hull and, according to Public Safety Committee meeting notes, the lanes within town limits are no more than 12 feet wide.

The irony: the Public Safety meeting that proposed this bike ban begins with discussion about speeding motorists who drive too fast through town, about how bad the speeding is on parts of Jordan Road and North Second Street and other roads by I-39 on the western edge of Hull and what can they do to reduce the speed limits and oh-by-the-way can we call the Sheriff and ask him to step up enforcement. Finally, at the end of their September meeting, the Public Safety Committee had a traffic engineer come in and talk to them about ways they could implement traffic calming measures.

It sounds to me like the town council in Hull probably need some education. I hope cyclists in Portage County and with the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin are able to reach out to these officials in a mutually constructive way.

Via Minneapolis Bike Love through Bike Portland. Town of Hull contact information.


  1. I don’t understand, there’s only 5,000 people in the damn town the size of a small city neighborhood with NO SIDEWALKS! Clearly Libertarianism in theory isn’t quite so “let’s all get along.” 

  2. You mean 12ft lanes, not 12ft roads right?

    Let’s see them require drivers to apply to use the roads…

  3. If people don’t mind driving carefully and slowly and waiting for people walking in the street, the sidewalks probably aren’t necessary. The roads can and should be a shared space in small towns.

  4. This sounds like a small town with rural character, the kind of place where cycling groups like to ride.  Local equivalent might be Woodside, which tried to do a similar “register your groups” rule.

  5. Don’t worry.  The League will be on this…right after tea…and a stroll around the Mall…and maybe a nap….zzzzzzzzz.

  6. Around here there are many small (single-lane) streets which are shared between pedestrians / bicycles / automobiles.  Drivers drive more slowly (and sometimes that can be very slow— often people simply ignore cars, especially when it’s crowded, meaning they have to drive at walking speed or even slower) and are more careful, and there’s a measure of courtesy, so it basically works out.†

    But I can’t see this working so well in the U.S., especially in these less dense areas, where everybody seems to want to drive 60mph regardless of circumstances… Shared streets would basically become no-go zones for peds and bicyclists…

    † Recently though, I’ve seen an increase in U.S.-style “asshole” drivers, who try to drive quickly down these shared streets and clear a path by scaring people out of the way.  Interestingly enough, they often also seem to be driving U.S.-style cars like SUVs!    Although my usual practice is to move aside and let drivers pass, when I encounter these asshole drivers, I just stand in front of them so they’re forced to stop…

  7. Except this is also what I’m used to seeing in rural America — small towns with narrow lanes that are used as shared spaces. It generally works out okay. I wonder if some of the complainers are newcomers to town come to get their piece of exurban paradise.

  8. Hmm, from what I can see, the town in question (“Hull, WI”) isn’t so much a traditional rural area, but more like low-density sprawl.  It looks very very very automobile-oriented…

    Granted, that’s mainly from looking at google maps…

  9. Cyclelicious,

    While I would say it’s never a good idea to outlaw bikers/walkers as a means to resolving their conflicts with cars, you’ve distorted the context in this situation a bit. Hull is not a “city of 5,000 people” as you reported. It is a Wisconsin township, meaning its the administration for a fairly large rural area. All you need to do is search for “Hull, WI” on Google Maps and switch on the satellite view to see that is nothing but a vast area of forest and some farm land. There is no city, town, or center of anything – it’s a rural administration. The township has one incorporated community inside it. Even that you couldn’t qualify as a city, town, or village by normal understanding.

    So we’re not actually talking about a city banning bikers and walking. We’re talking about a rural area that is having conflicts when cross-country teams and cycling teams from a nearby university come out on its roads. I think they handled it wrong, but I think you also reported it wrong. Neither is going to help resolve the conflict. 

    By releasing the self-righteous bike-rights brigade (which I am admittedly a proud member of) you may have actually done more harm than good to area bikers and pedestrians. 
    A Wisconsin-born non-motorized transport advocate and professional,


  10. My wife and I actually went to Wisconsin for our vacation this year.  We already decided we wouldn’t ever go back, but this just confirms our decision.

    While it was fairly nice in places, for the most part the people didn’t much like tourists.

  11. The town can also ban animals and also other animals, including humans, from their town, except for city officials and public safety officers (pigs). Put they violate the 4th amendment right from seizure. The 3,999 people, those 99%, must ban together with a federal lawsuit should such a law be enacted. A request for an injunction from a grand jury convened specifically to address this violation of constitutional rights would also be in order. You have the support of everyone else in America watching your back. This town sounds real pleasant, like pleasantville, or maybe more like Stepford Place (the Stepford Wives) or maybe like Quartzite, Arizona where now operating under “Martial Law” and the police and elected officials are acting entirely outside of the State of Arizona and US Constitutions and appear nearly unstoppable by their beligerance. Take your town”Hull”  and shove it. 


  12. I have never understood the ‘problem’ of motorists waiting to pass cyclists. Roads are public, paid for by the public, to be used by the public. When a motorist makes a reckless pass of a cyclist or group of cyclists, he or she is essentially saying, “the time I will save by passing you here is more important than your bodily health and/or life.” Sorry to all, I know this is an old thread, but I was almost killed (again) this morning by someone who’s seconds are more important than my life because the vehicle they use to travel on our roads was more expensive than mine.

    Thank you to the drivers who wait to pass when there is no oncoming traffic.

  13. Really? Because I’m from Wisconsin and when I mention that to anyone here in FL they always comment on how friendly Midwesterners are….so I’m thinking, maybe it was your attitude/perception??? Have a nice day!

  14. Every possible collection of two or more people who could potentially walk or ride in this town needs to separately register for every possible day they could possibly need to ride or walk. After several million registrations, they may rethink this.

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