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Illinois Bike Laws

ILLINOIS BICYCLE LAWS 

It’s important to know your legal rights (and duties) when bicycling in Illinois. It is especially important after a bicycle accident (we call them bicycle “crashes” and explain why here).

For any questions about the State’s bike laws, or about your rights to the road, contact attorneys Jim Freeman and Brendan Kevenides directly.

Right to the Road

  • Illinois bicyclists generally have the same rights, and same duties, as drivers of motor vehicles.

Prohibitions

  • Clinging to motor vehicles while biking is not permitted.
  • Bicycles may only carry the number of persons for which it is designed, except an adult may carry a child in a back pack or sling.
  • Sirens are not permitted on bicycles except for used by a police or fire department.

Helmets

  • There is no statewide requirement for helmet use though some municipalities in Illinois require helmet use by children.

Alcohol

  • Illinois’s DUI statute does not apply to bicyclists and the state does not have a biking while under the influence (BUI) statute.

Where to Ride

  • Bicycles are to ride as close as practicable and safe to the right side of the roadway except when overtaking another bicyclist, when preparing to make a left turn, when necessary to avoid a fixed or slow moving object or vehicle or when riding in a substandard width lane.
  • On one-way roads bicyclists may ride are near the left hand side of the roadway as is practicable.

Sidewalks

  • Sidewalk riding is generally permitted but bicyclists riding on a sidewalk must yield the right of way to pedestrians and must give an audible signal before passing.
  • Many municipalities, however, ban sidewalk riding for persons 12 years of age and older.

Motor Vehicle Doors

  • No person may open the door of a motor vehicle unless it is safe to do so.

Bike Lanes, Bike Paths and Multi-Use Paths

  • Illinois bicyclists are not required to ride in or upon bike lanes or paths.

Left turns

  • To turn left bicyclists may perform a “box turn” or use the left turn lane.
  • A left turning bicyclist has the right of way over a driver intending to proceed straight at an intersection.

Stop Signs and Traffic Control Devices

  • Bicyclists are required to come to a full and complete stop at all stop signs and traffic lights displaying a red signal.
  • In municipalities outside of Chicago, bicyclists may proceed through a red signal that fails to change to green (“dead red”) after yielding to oncoming traffic facing a green signal.

Signaling

  • Bicyclists must use hand/arm signals when turning and stopping.

Drivers Overtaking Bicyclists

  • Motor vehicle drivers must allow at least 3 feet of space when passing a bicyclist.
  • A driver may not drive recklessly near or drive unnecessarily close to a bicyclist.  Where doing causes great bodily harm or death the driver shall be guilty of a felony.  

Bicycles Passing on the Right

  • Bicyclists may pass motor vehicles on the right if it is reasonably safe to do so.

Group Riding

  • Bicyclists may not ride more than 2 abreast and may not impede motor vehicle traffic.
  • Some municipalities, however, permit only single file riding outside of a bike lane or path.

Equipment

  • Every bicycle must equipped with a white front facing headlight, and a red rear reflector or light, visible from at least 500 feet when used at nighttime.
  • Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will adequately control movement of and stop and hold such bicycle.

Police Inspection of Bicycles

  • A uniformed police officer may stop and inspect a bicycle at any time upon reasonable cause that a bicycle is unsafe or not equipped as required by law.

Electric Assist Bikes

  • Illinois has implemented a three class system for electric assist bikes (“e-bikes”).  An e-bike must have operable pedals and an electric motor of less than 750 watts. A Class 1 e-bike is one “that provides assistance only when the rider is pedaling and that ceases to provide assistance when the bicycle reaches a speed of 20 mph.” A Class 2 e-bike is one that does not necessarily require the rider to pedal to activate the motor. Rather the motor may be used exclusively to power the bike, but ceases when the bike hits 20 mph. A Class 3 e-bike, like a Class 1 bike, provides assistance only when the rider pedals, but ceases once it hits 28 miles per hour.
  • Generally, bicyclists may use a Class 1 e-bikes in the same manner as traditional bicycles.  A rider must be at least 16 years of age to ride a Class 3 e-bike.

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