This past spring, Ride Illinois proposed and successfully advocated for new legislation that will strengthen Illinois bicycle traffic laws. We’re pleased to announce that House Bill 1784 unanimously passed both houses and was signed into law by Governor Rauner on August 25th. The new laws will go into effect on January 1, 2018. The amendments will:
“This new legislation legalizes some common motorist and bicyclist traffic practices,” said Ed Barsotti, Ride Illinois’ Chief Programs Officer. “The intent is to make the roads safer while improving car-bicycle interactions.”
Long no-passing zones on two-lane roads commonly present a problem for drivers trying to legally pass a bicyclist with at least three feet of clearance. The travel lanes of most roads lack the width needed for drivers to safely and legally pass a cyclist with at least three feet of clearance while staying within the lane.
In this common situation, most motorists do cross solid centerlines to pass cyclists anyway. However, some drivers choose to pass the cyclist too closely to obey the no-passing zone, and in doing so, illegally squeeze by within the same, too-narrow lane – a scary maneuver sometimes leading to sideswipe crashes. For long no-passing zones, those drivers obeying both the no-passing zone and the three-feet passing law may not be able to pass a bicycle for a long time.
Under the new law, when there is sufficient distance to do so, drivers in this situation will be allowed to cross into the oncoming lane to safely pass a cyclist who is riding at less than half the posted speed limit. The driver must pass with at least three feet clearance and not exceed the speed limit.
The new legislation will also legalize bicycling on shoulders, a common safety practice of biking. Current Illinois law largely restricts vehicles driving on a shoulder, with some specified exceptions (e.g. farm tractors and equipment), and the new legislation will add bicycles to the list of exceptions. Having this legal clarity will benefit cyclists as well as road agencies desiring to sign or otherwise designate bicycle routes having paved shoulders. Bicycling on shoulders is not required, however, as there are situations for which cyclists should not ride on a shoulder.
The last provision of the new legislation will update current law and allow cyclists to use a rear, red tail light instead of (or in addition to) the currently required rear, red reflector when bicycling at night. Today’s improved bicycle light technology has much greater visibility than reflectors, and many bicyclists solely use rear lights already. Eight states and the City of Chicago currently allow either a light or reflector in their vehicle code, and now Illinois will join the group.
Thank you to all of our members and supporters that spoke up and asked their state legislators to pass the bicycle traffic safety bill. As HB1784 made its way through the General Assembly, Ride Illinois put out a number of action alerts and you responded! Over the course of two months, approximately 1,400 letters were emailed to our state representatives and senators by our members and fellow Illinois cyclists. Your voice was integral to the successful passing of this new legislation!
We also want to thank all of our bill sponsors for their support, and especially thank Representative Butler and Senator Steans for leading the bill through the house and senate.
Representatives Tim Butler (87th District), Anna Moeller (43rd District), Thomas Morrison (54th District), Frances Ann Hurley (35th District), and Dave Severin (117th District)
Senators Heather A. Steans (7th District), Ira I. Silverstein (8th District), Dale Fowler (59th District), Jim Oberweis (25th District), and Cristina Castro (22nd District)