This spring, Ride Illinois will be in Springfield to advocate for a new bicycle safety bill we have proposed. House Bill 1784 would make three common practices legal and clarify existing law on another. The proposed amendments will:
Two of the provisions detailed below are inspired by incidents occurring in Illinois where cyclists were either wrongly prosecuted or not offered the protection of the law. Another will clear up a perceived conflict with the existing three-foot passing state law. While these proposed amendments may seem modest, they will go a long way in protecting bicyclists’ rights and safety on the roads, and we’ll need your help to make them a reality!
We want to thank Representative Tim Butler (R-Springfield) and Representative Anna Moeller (D-Elgin) for sponsoring the bill. While we await our bill number, Ride Illinois is conferring with state agencies and groups including the Illinois Secretary of State, Illinois Department of Transportation, Illinois State Police, and Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police in hopes of gaining consensus for easier passage. Please take a moment to read through the four issues and proposed amendments below and contact us with any questions. The current laws that are referenced can be found here.
Issue: Roadway no-passing zones are determined by road engineers, with zone lengths based on the relative speeds of drivers of motorized vehicles passing other vehicles. For some roads, no-passing zones continue for a very long time.
This presents a problem for drivers wishing to pass a relatively slow-moving bicyclist on two-lane roads lacking enough width for drivers to safely and legally pass with at least three feet lateral clearance (625 ILCS 5/11-703(d)). While there may be sufficient time to safely pass a bicycle given the limitations for passing (5/11-705 and 706), the solid centerline tells the motorist not to move into the oncoming lane – even partially – to do so.
In this common situation, the majority of motorists do cross solid centerlines to pass cyclists, anyway. Some drivers choose to pass too closely, to obey the no-passing zone. However, in doing so, they illegally squeeze by within the same, too-narrow lane – a scary maneuver sometimes leading to sideswipe crashes. For long no-passing zones, those obeying both the no-passing zone and the three-feet passing law may end up following the bicyclist slowly for a long time.
It is not clear whether current law (5/11-707(c)) allows a no-passing zone exception in this case by considering a bicycle as an “obstruction” using 5/11-701(a)2. This ambiguity needs to be addressed through a specific clarification, legalizing what most motorists already do.
Proposed solution: Several states have modernized their no-passing rule to reflect safe and practical passing practices. Most of those states allow drivers to pass bicyclists in a no-passing zone merely “when it is safe to do so”. Others provide more specificity related to cyclist speed. We recommend a more specific approach using current law (625 ILCS 5/11-706) prohibiting driving on the left side: 1) when approaching or upon the crest of a grade or a curve in the highway where the driver’s view is obstructed within such distance as to create a hazard in the event another vehicle might approach from the opposite direction; 2) when approaching within 100 feet of or traversing any intersection or railroad grade crossing; 3) when the view is obstructed upon approaching within 100 feet of any bridge, viaduct or tunnel.
PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO 625 ILCS 5/11-703 (d-5): A driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway may, subject to the provisions in paragraph (d) of this Section and Section 11-706 of the Code, pass to the left of the bicycle on a portion of the highway designated as a no-passing zone under Section 11-707 of this Code if the driver is able to overtake and pass the bicycle without exceeding the posted speed limit of the highway.
PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO 625 ILCS 5/11-707. No-passing zones. (c): This Section does not apply under the conditions described in Section 11-701 (a) 2, subsection (d-5) of Section 11-703, …
Issue: Current law 625 ILCS 5/11-709.1 largely restricts vehicles driving on a shoulder, with some exceptions including “any farm tractor or implement of husbandry” listed in its paragraph (b). Bicycling on a paved shoulder is generally accepted practice, usually preferred by cyclists, but it is not legally clarified. Legal clarity would be a benefit both for cyclists as well as for road agencies willingly desiring to sign or otherwise designate bicycle routes having such shoulders.
However, it is poor practice to require cyclists to ride on a shoulder. If the shoulder is unpaved (e.g., gravel), many bikes are unable to ride on it without a very high risk of a flat tire and possibly falling. Many paved shoulders are not routinely swept, resulting in debris accumulation that frequently causes flats and possibly leads to falls. Shoulder rumble strips, while reducing car run-off-the-road crashes, are jarring and dangerous to ride on for bikes. Finally, other legal cyclist traffic maneuvers require riding away from the shoulder.
Proposed solution: We recommend adding bicycles as exceptions to the statute restricting driving on a shoulder, if it is made clear that shoulder riding is not a requirement.
PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO 625 ILCS 5/11-709.1. Driving on the shoulder.
(a) Vehicles shall be driven on a roadway, and shall only be driven on the shoulder for the purpose of stopping or accelerating from a stop while merging into traffic. It shall be a violation of this Section if while merging into traffic and while on the shoulder, the vehicle passes any other vehicle on the roadway adjacent to it.
(b) This Section shall not apply to any authorized emergency vehicle, to any authorized transit bus, to any bicycle, to any farm tractor or implement of husbandry, to any service vehicle while engaged in maintenance of the highway or related work, or to any authorized vehicle within a designated construction zone.
PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO 625 ILCS 5/11-1505. Position of bicycles and motorized pedal cycles on roadways – Riding on roadways and bicycle paths.
(a-5) Any person operating a bicycle or motorized pedal cycle shall not be required to use the shoulder of a roadway when operating the bicycle or motorized pedal cycle.
Issue: Current law 625 ILCS 5/11-1507 governs required equipment when bicycling at night. Required on the back is “a red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the Department which shall be visible from all distances from 100 feet to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle.”
Red lights may be used in addition to a reflector, and there is no specificity on whether the light must be steady or could be flashing: “A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector.”
Current, improved rear-lighting technology has eliminated the need for reflectors, and many bicyclists solely use rear lights already.
Proposed solution: We recommend that the law should be updated so that a steady or flashing lamp may be used instead of the red reflector. Eight states and the City of Chicago currently allow either a light or reflector, although there is no consensus language. A simple fix based on current Illinois law wording is suggested.
PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO 625 ILCS 5/11-1507:
(a) Every bicycle when in use at nighttime shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the Department which shall be visible from all distances from 100 feet to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle, except that a lamp emitting a steady or flashing red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in addition to or instead of the red reflector.
Issue: Current law 625 ILCS 5/11-1505 governs the position of bicycles (and motorized pedal cycles) operating on roadways at less than the normal speed of traffic. That position shall be “as close as practicable and safe to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway” – with a list of safety-motivated exceptions closely approximating the Uniform Vehicle Code.
One such exception to the far-right rule is “substandard width lanes that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge. For purposes of this subsection, a ‘substandard width lane’ means a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle or motorized pedal cycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.” The main purpose is to allow bicyclists to ride further out from the right edge to dissuade motorists from attempting to pass too closely – the source of dangerous sideswipe crashes.
Unfortunately, “substandard lane width” has been subject to various interpretations, even by traffic engineers unfamiliar with national best practice on bicycle accommodation.
Proposed solution: Recently, the AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities (2012) – the top national design reference on bicycle issues – has provided clarity while using the same 3-feet passing minimum clearance specified in Illinois law: “Lane widths of 13 ft (4.0 m) or less make it likely that most motor vehicles will encroach at least part way into the next lane to pass a bicyclist with an adequate and comfortable clearance (usually 3 ft. [0.9 m] or more depending on the speed of the passing vehicle). Lane widths that are 14 ft (4.3 m) or greater allow motorists to pass bicyclists without encroaching into the adjacent lane.”
To clarify its ambiguity, we recommend amending the substandard lane width exception to use the AASHTO bicycle guide’s specification while attributing it as the source.
This does not, in any way, construe that lanes must be constructed with widths of 14 feet or more. We would support legislative language or intent language that may be needed to make this point clear.
PROPOSED AMENDMENT TO 625 ILCS 5/11-1505(a)(3):