Monday, April 21, 2008

New Road Rules in Illinois: A Lesson for NY

A new law passed in Bloomington, Illinois requires motorists give cyclists three feet of clearance when passing, and assesses violations up to $500, according to a report by Pantagraph.com

Now this is a law that should be passed not only in New York State, but also in the entire country.

This law has been in effect since Janaury 1, and was sponsored by two lawmakers who have been struck by cars while riding their bikes, Rep. Elaine Nekritz, D-Des Plaines, and Sen. Edward Maloney, D-Chicago.

Other major advancements included in the bill are an allowance for cyclists to use the center lane when there is a right hand turn lane-- a major source of collisions--and an allowance for cyclists to move out to avoid debris.

The League of Illinois Bicyclists will be sponsoring radio ads next month to alert motorists to the changes. Brochures explaining the changes will be given to police departments for officers to hand out as warnings in lieu of writing tickets, if they choose.

According to Pantagraph.com, seven states have passed a 3-foot provision before Illinois, and similar bills are pending in several other states.

More info that the article cites:

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety counted 770 bicyclists killed in crashes with motor vehicles in 2006, the last year available. Bicyclist deaths are down 23 percent overall since 1975, but up about 23 percent since 2003.

In related action last year, the General Assembly overrode Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s veto of what was dubbed “Complete Streets” legislation to require pedestrian and bike ways while planning and constructing state roads.

Some cities in Illinois are taking stronger action on behalf of bicyclists.

In March, Chicago aldermen passed an ordinance mirroring the state law mandating at least 3 feet of clearance, but they went further. They disallowed making left or right turns in front of bicyclists, opening a vehicle door into the path of bicyclists (a type of crash called “dooring”), and double parking in marked shared vehicle/bike lanes.

Fines for driving, standing or parking in a bicycle lane also were increased: Each violation carries a minimum $150 fine, increasing to $500 if the violation results in a bicycle crash. More than 6,000 crashes between bicycles and motor vehicles were reported in Chicago between 2001 and 2005, with 30 bicyclists killed.

Closer to home, the Normal City Council recently set aside $50,000 to hire a planner to design safe bike and pedestrian routes, based on the recommendation of Oehler’s committee. He hopes Normal officials will eventually designate certain streets as bike routes with marked bike paths, similar to Chicago’s.

The routes would offer bicyclists safer ways to access Constitution Trail, said Oehler, who also is a member of the boards of Friends of Constitution Trail and the League of Illinois Bicyclists. Meanwhile, those groups and the Twin City parks and recreation departments are cooperating to print a map of recommended bike/pedestrian routes. Copies should soon be ready at the parks departments, cycle shops and online at www.GoToTrails.com, a new website showcasing area trails.

This year, the league and bike clubs across the state also are pressing the General Assembly to pass a Vulnerable Users Bill aimed at motorists who kill people using alternative forms of transportation, including pedestrians, bicyclists, equestrians and unprotected farm equipment operators. Punishment would increase to up to a year in jail, a $12,500 fine, and the suspension or revocation of driving privileges. Supporters point out that current penalties include no jail time or significant fines.

Bike facts

-- One-third of bicyclist deaths occurred at intersections in 2006, the last year available.

-- Sixty percent of bicyclist deaths that year occurred on major roads other than interstates and freeways, and 33 percent occurred on minor roads.

-- Nearly three of every four bicyclists were killed in urban areas rather than rural areas, a switch since 1975 when bicyclist deaths occurred equally in both kinds of settings.

-- The decline in deaths was greater for women, 49 percent, than for men, 18 percent.

-- Get more information

-- Download a list of bike laws

-- The Illinois State Police offers bike safety tips

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