As people grapple with increased traffic, especially in urban areas like Chicago, there has been a growth in the number of people commuting to and from work via bicycle. The city has improved its infrastructure to allow for more bike lanes and an increasing number of “Divvy” bikes. One question becomes: should all of the rules of the road applicable to drivers apply equally to bicyclists?
Under Illinois law, bicyclists are required to follow the same rules as motor vehicles, even when it comes to obeying stop signs and red lights:
735 ILCS 5/11-1502. Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles. Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this Code . . .
Not surprisingly, however, a new study from DePaul University, Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development, shows that bicyclists often do not stop at stop signs or red lights when there is no cross-traffic and that these traffic laws are not strictly enforced when it comes to cyclists.
Interestingly, the researchers concluded that these Rules of the Road should not apply strictly against bicyclists. Specifically, the researchers proposed changes to state law and city ordinances to allow cyclists to treat stop signs as “yield” signs, and certain red lights as stop signs. This is known as the “Idaho stop” recommendation, named after a law passed in that state.
This relaxed rule for bicyclists recognizes that sometimes it is safer for bicyclists to continue their momentum through an intersection and get ahead of traffic — allowing the cyclist to be easily seen — rather than stopping and waiting at an intersection and risk getting struck by traffic making turns when the light turns green. Indeed, the Chicago Tribune reported that out of the six cyclists killed in Chicago this year, three were women struck by trucks making turns.
Passen & Powell commends DePaul University for conducting empirical research on ways to improve our laws to improve both efficiencies and protect cyclists against preventable and potentially deadly crashes. For a free consultation with one of our attorneys who are knowledgeable and skilled in handling bicycle crash cases, call us at 312-527-4500.