Governor Rauner just signed a new law reinforcing bicyclist rights in Illinois. "Dennis’s Law" grants bikers the same right-of-way privilege as cars, legally recognizing bicycles as vehicles.
The law is named after a 68-year-old Illinois man who died after colliding with a car in 2015. The car didn't yield to Dennis Jurs, who had the right-of-way because he did not have a stop sign while going through an intersection. A judge in Kane County dismissed the driver’s ticket on the basis that bicycles aren’t legally considered vehicles.
"Dennis’s Law" edits the Illinois vehicle code to clearly state that bicyclists have all of the same rights as vehicle drivers. The full text of the law can be found here.
Sadly, just two days after the law’s passing, two cyclists were struck and killed in Chicago. The first accident happened on Milwaukee Avenue near West Town. An 18-wheel truck fatally struck a 20-year-old woman. The victim was using Milwaukee’s bike lanes and the truck driver received two citations. The second accident happened the next day in West Garfield Park, when a man was hit by a commercial van. Police are still searching for the driver.
What This Means for You
Because so many urban bicyclists use bikes and public transportation are their main mode of transportation, many may be unaware of the state's vehicle laws. Here are a few rules and rights cyclists should be aware of:
- You have the right to a safe amount of distance away from cars around you from each side.
- In most areas, it’s illegal for cyclists to ride on sidewalks.
- You must ride on the right-hand side of the road, except when:
- passing another cyclist
- preparing for a left turn
- when necessary to avoid obstacles
- or when approaching a right-turn lane
- You must ride with traffic on one-way streets.
- You have the right to, and must obey, rules of right-of-way at intersections and while changing lanes.
- You must obey all traffic lights and signs.
A “safe distance” between cars and bikes can change depending on the circumstance, but generally you should have at least a three feet buffer.
It’s important to note that this law applies only to Illinois. Laws in Indiana are much different. For example, Indiana cyclists can ride through red lights if they wait two minutes and yield to right-of-way traffic. Neither Illinois nor Indiana have any helmet laws.
Biking in Chicago
In Chicago and the surrounding suburbs, more than 3,000 people are injured and 15 are killed each year while riding a bike. You may have seen white Ghost Bikes on sidewalks throughout the city – these are placed up by the Chicago Ride of Silence to honor cycling fatalities and their families.
Chicago has built more than 200 miles of protected bike lanes, including concrete barriers on Milwaukee Ave, Clybourn Ave, Kinzie Street, 31st Street, and Sacramento Drive. Barrier-protected bike lanes address the number one concern most people have about biking on city streets: sharing the road with vehicles.
Our bicycle accident lawyers represent seriously injured victims and their families nationwide. We’ve spent 30 years fighting for the injured, winning millions of dollars for our clients. We offer free case reviews and can travel anywhere to help you understand the legal process.