Common legal questions about bike riding in Chicago.
With the proliferation of bicyclists in the city of Chicago, and the city’s very conscious effort and policy of encouraging everyone to ride to work, here are the most popular questions about bike law.
Q: What road laws do bicyclists have to follow?
A: Bicyclists have to obey the same rules of the road as cars. They follow the same traffic controls, regulations, and conditions that automobiles have. They are required to stop at stop signs and red lights, use some kind of signal when making turns, and although not required under the law to have lights at night, they are required to have reflectors so that others can see them in the dark.
Q: Are bicyclists required to wear a helmet?
A: There is no law in Illinois requiring the bicyclists to have helmets. However, just because there isn’t a law requiring helmets, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear one. This is true for other safety gear as well, including rear view mirrors, lights, and reflective clothing.
Q: What happens if I am hit on my bicycle by a car?
A: If you are on a bicycle and you are involved in an accident with a car, you may have insurance coverage with your own automobile policy. Most automobile insurance policies cover any accident that involves a vehicle, even if you are the one riding a bike.
If you are in an accident that involves a vehicle, make sure you give notice to your own insurance company about the accident so that if you later find out that the other side’s insurance doesn’t pay for your injury or if you decide to sue, you could possibly have insurance coverage for the claim.
Q: What happens if the bicycle hits a defect in the road that causes the rider injury? Is the city of Chicago liable?
A: Safe road conditions are very different for bicyclists than they are for cars. Hitting a pothole that a car would normally bounce over, for example, could result in serious injury for a bicyclist.
This has been a hotly contested area. There is an open question as to whether or not the city of Chicago would have any liability to maintain the roads to the quality required to be suitable for the small size and width of bike tires and to ensure the safety of the bicyclist.
There are some cases that suggest that bicyclists are authorized, but not intended, users of the streets of Chicago. This means that bicyclists can legally be on the streets, and they have the right to be on the streets, subject to the rules of the road, but they do not have the right to expect perfect road conditions.
However, the city has designated specific routes as bike lanes. It could be argued that because they are dedicated bike lanes, the city should have the obligation to maintain the bike lanes for purposes of bike riding. This means that there may be an argument that the city may be liable for maintaining appropriate road conditions in the designated bike lanes.
As you can see, while cyclists are at a disadvantage when it comes to road conditions, they have many of the same legal rights and duties as their gas powered counterparts.
The bottom line? Ride safely, follow the rules of the road, and if you are in an accident consult an attorney to know and understand your rights under Illinois law.