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Beyond Chicagoland

New State Bike Laws Kick in and Cycling Becomes Illinois’ Official State Exercise

Crossing a solid line to safely pass a cyclist is now legal. Photo via I Am Traffic.

Back in September I reported on House Bill 1784, which unanimously passed the Illinois legislature on August 25, officially legalizing three commonsense bike-related practices. The laws kicked in on New Year’s Day (thanks to state bike advocacy organization Ride Illinois, which proposed the bill, for the reminder), so here’s a quick recap.

Drivers may cross a solid centerline in order to safely pass a cyclist.

On most two-lane roads, the travel lanes are too narrow for motorists to safely and legally pass cyclist by providing the required three feet of clearance, without crossing the center line. In a no-passing zone with a solid centerline, drivers can now do so with the confidence that they aren’t breaking the law, assuming that there’s no danger of striking an oncoming vehicle in the other lane.

Bike riders are allowed to ride on the shoulder of the road

This should be obvious, but the new legislation specifies that it’s legal (although not required) for cyclists to use the shoulder of the road. Making it clear that cyclists may the shoulder could be helpful in liability cases where a cyclist is struck on the shoulder, and it will also be useful for road agencies that wish to designate a road shoulder as part of a marked bike route.

Cyclists may use a taillight instead of a rear reflector

Again, this should be a no-brainer, but the legislation codifies the fact that a rear, red taillight is at least as visible as a comparably sized reflector. The city of Chicago, as well as eight states, already allow a taillight to be used instead of a reflector, and now Illinois has a more logical law in this regard as well.

In other good news for Prairie State pedalers, state bill HB2895 went into effect on the first, making bicycling the official state exercise. The bill was sponsored by bike-friendly former state representative Elaine Nekritz of the 57th District, which includes Northbrook, home to northeast Illinois’ only velodrome. Nekritz resigned in October, fed up with the current dysfunction in Springfield, but hopefully she views this new designation as a final feather in her helmet.

As Active Trans pointed out in a recent, cleverly titled, blog post, the law is a largely symbolic gesture but, hey, it can’t hurt when they lobby for more funding for bike infrastructure in the next Illinois budget. The Illinois Department of Transportation currently spends little state money on biking and walking project, usually just serving as a conduit for federal sustainable transportation grants (which the Trump administration has threatened to abolish.) Active Trans also plans to lobby for the inclusion of walking and bike education in school phys ed or health classes.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, it’s time to start thinking about our state rock song: “Mannish Boy” by Muddy Waters, “I Feel for You” by Chaka Khan,” or “Clock Strikes Ten” by Cheap Trick?

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