Cycling is a popular and eco-friendly mode of transportation in Illinois, providing us with an efficient and healthy way to get around. Whether you’re commuting to work, exploring scenic routes, or just enjoying a leisurely ride, it’s essential to prioritize bike safety. Remember, though, vehicles don’t always follow the law and “share the road.” In this article, we’ll delve into some key aspects of bike safety in Illinois, including regulations, infrastructure, and tips to ensure that cyclists can pedal with confidence even though there are dangerous drivers out there.
1. Know the Laws
Understanding the rules of the road is fundamental to staying safe while cycling in Illinois. Some key regulations include:
- Helmets: While Illinois law doesn’t require adult cyclists to wear helmets, it is highly recommended for safety. However, all cyclists under the age of 16 must wear a helmet.
- Traffic Laws: Cyclists must obey the same traffic laws as motorists, including stopping at stop signs and red lights. They must also signal their intentions using hand signals. This is key because in every lawsuit against a driver who hits a bicyclist, the driver attempts to shift blame to the rider for not following the rules of the road to a “T.”
- Riding at Night: If you plan to ride after sunset, your bike must be equipped with a front white light and a rear red reflector or light.
- Right of Way: Always yield the right of way to pedestrians, and be aware of their presence on sidewalks and crosswalks.
Familiarize yourself with the specific bike-related laws in your city or town, as regulations can vary.
2. Choose the Right Route
Illinois offers a variety of bike-friendly routes, from dedicated bike lanes to scenic trails. Planning your route carefully can significantly enhance your safety. Consider using online maps and mobile apps that highlight bike lanes and routes, such as the Illinois Department of Transportation’s (IDOT) “Bike Illinois” map.
3. Utilize Bike-Friendly Infrastructure
Many cities and towns in Illinois are working to improve cycling safety. Look for bike lanes, sharrows (shared lanes), and multi-use paths, which are designed to accommodate cyclists. Cities like Chicago have implemented initiatives like the “Divvy” bike-sharing program, making cycling more accessible for residents and visitors. Make sure you bring your own helmet if you use a bike from “Divvy.”
4. Stay Visible
Visibility is crucial when riding a bike, especially in busy urban areas. To increase your visibility:
- Wear bright and reflective clothing, especially when riding at night.
- Equip your bike with lights and reflectors as required by law.
- Use hand signals to indicate turns and stops.
- Consider using a bell or horn to alert pedestrians and other cyclists.
5. Stay Alert and Predictable
Remaining attentive and predictable is key to avoiding bike accidents in Chicago and the suburbs. Always scan your surroundings for potential hazards, and follow these safety tips:
- Avoid distractions such as texting or listening to music while riding. The first thing drivers looking to blame bicyclists focus on is whether the rider had earbuds in at the time of a collision.
- Keep a safe distance from parked cars to avoid opening doors. “Dooring” is a major cause of bike accidents each year in Illinois.
- Ride in a straight line, and signal your intentions clearly to motorists and other cyclists. Don’t cut in and out of traffic. This makes it more likely that a driver won’t see you or be able to react in time.
- Be cautious at intersections and yield to oncoming traffic when necessary. Make eye contact with drivers if possible. If the driver doesn’t ride, chances are they won’t appreciate or understand that it is harder for the cyclist to stop than it is for the car.
- Maintain Your Bike. Get regular tune ups so your bike doesn’t fail. Check your brakes, tires and gears to ensure they are functioning properly.
Cycling in Illinois can be a safe and enjoyable experience when you prioritize safety, follow the rules of the road, and take precautions. By wearing a helmet, knowing the laws, choosing safe routes, utilizing bike-friendly infrastructure, staying visible, and remaining alert, cyclists can confidently enjoy our roads while minimizing the risk of accidents. At The Lewis Law Firm, we only represent bicyclists, not drivers, involved in collisions. We ride so we understand the law. We have a proven track record of winning lawsuits in Illinois, recovering over $100 million in settlements and verdicts. If you or a friend has been involved in a bike accident in Illinois, contact personal injury lawyer Brian Lewis to protect your rights and get you the compensation you deserve from the driver’s insurance company.