Illinois took legislative measures at the beginning of 2018 to establish bicycling as a priority in the Prairie State. As of January 1, bicycling is the official state exercise of Illinois.
When the bill was originally introduced, State Representative Dave Severin said he thought it was important for the state to encourage an active lifestyle for long-term health and encourage citizens to use the trails state and local governments have invested in over the past two decades.
Illinois an “average” state for bicycle friendliness
The League of American Bicyclists is largely happy with the legislative efforts in Illinois. The league ranks all 50 U.S. states in bike friendliness using five criteria: Infrastructure & Funding, Education & Encouragement, Legislation & Enforcement, Policies & Programs, and Evaluation & Planning.
As of the 2017 rankings, Illinois is the top-ranked state in Legislation & Enforcement. The league says this is due to its strong legal protections for bicyclists and strong laws against dangerous driver behavior.
However, there is a caveat to that ranking. In the 1998 case Boub v. Township of Wayne, the Illinois Supreme Court held that state municipalities are not liable for damages to bicyclists caused by road conditions, unless the road was specifically designated as intended for bicyclists. That ruling has yet to be overturned.
Illinois ranks 16th in the nation overall and is described by the league as a mostly average state, with poor performance in Infrastructure & Funding – ranking 45th of 50. The league says this could reflect budgetary problems beyond transportation.
New bicycle laws take effect in 2018
A new trio of laws took effect on January 1 as well. The first law permits bicyclists across the state to put a red tail light on the rear of their bike instead of, or in addition to, the traditional red reflector. Bicycle advocates say this law recognizes changing technology and will offer greater visibility.
The second law allows motorists to pass a bicyclists on the highway in a no-passing zone, which is designed to improve cyclist safety and traffic flow on the road. The third recognizes riding a bicycle on a highway shoulder as a legal practice, addressing safety further.
These laws will hopefully reduce the number of bicycle-related accidents. With Illinois naming bicycling as its official exercise, maybe more efforts will be made to improve infrastructure as well, which could improve the state’s bicycle friendliness ranking.