Tuesday, May 31, 2011

New Illinois Law To Permit Bicyclists To Proceed Through Faulty Traffic Signals, Chicago Exempted

Illinois Governor Patrick Quinn is expected to sign a bill into law that will allow bicyclists outside of Chicago to proceed through traffic lights that fail to turn from red to green.  The new law, which originated as House Bill 2860, does not permit bicyclists to run red lights.  It requires cyclists to come to a complete stop at red lights, but permits them to pedal through after waiting a "reasonable period of time" for the light to change and only when the coast is clear.  The new provision states:
After stopping as required by paragraph 1 or 2 or this subsection, the driver of a motorcycle or bicycle, facing a steady red signal which fails to change to a green signal within a reasonable period of time because of a signal malfunction or  because the signal has failed to detect the arrival of the motorcycle or bicycle due to the vehicle's size or weight, shall have the right to proceed subject to the rules applicable after making a stop at a stop sign as required by Section 11-1204 of this Code.
 The new law will apply only to municipalities with less than 2 million inhabitants, obviously exempting Chicago.

The house bill seems to have been initially proposed due to a perceived problem for motorcyclists who sometimes find themselves, especially in less populated parts of the state, sitting at traffic signals for inordinate periods of time with nary a car or truck in sight.  Apparently, a motorcycle may not be large or heavy enough to trip the sensors that facilitate light change.  Bicyclists were later added to the bill.

Despite the late addition of bicyclists to this legislation -- and its exemption in Chicago -- this law should be viewed as progress for Illinois cyclists.  Our traffic laws do not reasonably reflect the realities of how bicyclists use our roadways.  Bicyclists should not simply blow through red lights and stop signs without looking.  At the same time we should not be required to lumber about like a two ton motor vehicle.  It would be reasonable, in my opinion, for bicyclists throughout the state to be permitted to treat traffic signs and signals as yield signs.  That is how most people ride anyway.  If the coast is clear, after slowing to a stop or near stop, bicyclists should be permitted to proceed.  This is not the law.  But the new provision to be signed by Governor Quinn is a step in that sensible direction.

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