02

Blog

New Illinois Passing Law

Illinois has just passed one of the most comprehensive laws in the country specifying when a driver may legally pass a bicyclist in a designated no-passing zone. Governor Bruce Rauner signed the law, formally known as HB 1784, on August 25th. It goes into effect January 1, 2018.

The law adds clarity of Section 11-703 of the Illinois Vehicle Code. It states that,

A driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction on a highway may. . . pass to the left of the bicycle on a portion of the highway designated as a no-passing zone if the driver is able to overtake and pass the bicycle when:
(1) the bicycle is traveling at a speed of less than half of the posted speed limit of the highway;
(2) the driver is able to overtake and pass the bicycle without exceeding the posted speed limit of the highway; and
(3) there is sufficient distance to the left of the centerline of the highway for the motor vehicle to meet the [legal] overtaking and passing requirements.

The new law also maintains the existing requirement that drivers provide bicyclists at least three feet of space when passing.

I worked with Ed Barsotti, Chief Programs Officer of Ride Illinois, on drafting this portion of the bill. Our goal was to provide as much clarity as possible to drivers to help ensure the safety of people on bikes in our state. Recently there has been a push nationwide to clarify when drivers may pass slower moving bicyclists on roadway sections signed or striped as no-passing zones. Road sections are generally designated as such, either with signage or double-yellow lines, based upon an engineering determination that passing at a speed required to pass a motor vehicle is unsafe. The lesser speed often necessary to pass a slower moving bicyclist generally does not play a role in the designation of a section as a no-passing zone. Illinois law currently contains a provision that permits drivers to leave the right half of a roadway “when an obstruction exists.” However, the Vehicle Code does not define what an “obstruction” is, leaving it up to individual police officers and judges to determine whether a bicyclist is an obstruction, akin to a fallen log, pothole or deer carcass, or not. Is a bicyclist always an obstruction, or only when riding at less than the posted speed limit? Also, the Vehicle Code grants bicyclists all of the same rights and duties to use the road as motorists. A person on a bike is not a mere annoyance to be end-rounded by people in cars. Aside from the practical lack of direction of the law provided, the message it arguably sent was that people riding bikes were second class road users.

We also hoped to do better than other states that enacted similar laws providing drivers with too much discretion with regard to passing bicyclists in a no-passing zone. For example, in states like Maine and Mississippi a motor vehicle may pass a bicycle traveling in the same direction in a no-passing zone when it is “safe to do so.” It seemed more prudent to clarify that there are certain, clear instances when it will not be safe to do so; like when the driver must exceed the post speed limit to pass the bicyclist.

Our desire for greater clarity in the law was born of experience. In August 2016, I represented an Illinois bicyclist at trial who was injured by a driver who attempted to pass him in a no-passing zone in Libertyville, in Lake County. The driver, impatient at having to travel behind my client who had moved out into his lane to make a left turn, crossed a double yellow line and attempted to pass him in an intersection. The bicyclist had clearly signaled his intention to turn. He was struck while into his turn by the passing driver. Nevertheless, a responding police officer, adding insult to injury, ticketed the bicyclist for obstructing the roadway. The officer explained in his deposition that the driver did nothing wrong in attempting to pass when and where he did in light of the bicyclist blocking his ability to travel at the posted speed. He said, “It’s an everyday occurrence out there when you’re talking bicyclist. If he comes over a hill and you’re moving – and the bicyclists are moving slower than what the posted speed limit is and you come over the hill and you now have this option to either run them over because, as you said, the lanes are sub standard to fit both vehicles and bicyclists in it or to go around them, do the later part and go around them.”

We were able to have the ticket dismissed and we won the trial against the driver. However, the officer’s imprudent application of what he understood the law to be was a significant hurdle in achieving justice for our client. [Click here to read more about the case.] Illinois’ new bicycle safety law will allow for less independent interpretation regarding when a driver may safely pass a bicyclist.

Photo credit: I am Traffic

Comments

Atlanta's Bike Czar
Bruce Hagen Apr 19, 2018

Who is looking for a great job in a dynamic city with a great opportunity to make bicycle advocacy not just a passion, but a full time, rewarding and well-paying job?   The City of Atlanta is in search of a a new Chief Bicycle Officer to replace the outgoing CBO, Superstar Becky Katz, who after […]

Read More
Joe Piscitello Apr 04, 2018

Piscitello Law – Bike Law PA is pleased to share highlights from the third annual Vision Zero conference, held March 17 in West Philadelphia.  The event was hosted by Philadelphia Bicycle Coalition and opening remarks by the Executive Director Sarah Clark Stuart encouraged 250 participants to “listen, learn and be inspired….”   Mayor James Kenney […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Apr 03, 2018

The first issue is that many bicycle crashes are not being reported into the State of Maine Crash Database, which leads to incomplete and inaccurate state-wide crash reporting data and arguably also leads to uninformed priority setting and budgetary decisions.  The crashes that are unreported and/or underreported on a state level are sometimes, but not […]

Read More
Lauri Boxer-Macomber Mar 25, 2018

Foundational Principles Bicycles are Traffic and Belong on Maine’s Roadways In Maine, bicycle riders are included within the definition of “traffic” and should be treated as part of Maine’s traffic system.  See 29-A M.R.S.A. § 101 (82).   Rights and Responsibilities In general, a person riding a bicycle in Maine has all of the rights […]

Read More
Joe Piscitello Mar 20, 2018

Vision Zero (VZ) is multi-nation initiative with a guiding principle that death and serious injury should not be an acceptable outcome of transportation.  Vision Zero plans often draw attention to flaws within the transportation system such as dangerous traffic patterns, speeding and a lack of sufficient protected bike/pedestrian lanes.  VZ action plans utilize data to […]

Read More
Danny Feldman Mar 15, 2018

I will not pretend to speak for all cyclists, but I feel pretty confident in saying that being passed by cars on the road is a primary area of concern. Most of the time there is no problem and the vehicle passes safely. Nevertheless, I personally have been “buzzed” more times than I wish were […]

Read More
Bruce Hagen Mar 14, 2018

Georgia Bicycle Laws   I find myself in what some people might describe as an odd position.  As a lawyer, I represent people who have suffered injuries while riding bicycles due to the negligent actions of others, mainly car drivers.   However, as an advocate for safe cycling, I spend a lot of time trying to […]

Read More
DC Bike Lanes
Amy Benner Johnson Mar 12, 2018

The star of the 2018 LAB Summit was hands down dockless bikeshare. Prior to even picking up their nametags at the registration booth, summit attendees encountered the wealth of dockless options available to them as a result of DC’s dockless bikeshare trial period, which is nearing the end of its seven month test run. Social […]

Read More
Bike Delaware
Peter Wilborn Feb 11, 2018

We understand the importance of good Rules of the Road when it comes to protecting cyclists in court. Changing the laws that protect cyclists is one of the most important ways to make the roads safer and promote better biking. And there has been some notable progress in this area over the last 10 years. […]

Read More
Load More