Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Chicago Police Conduct Traffic Stops of Bicyclists

The Chicago Tribune is reporting on efforts by the City of Chicago to target bicyclists for moving violations. According to the report, these efforts were done to enforce the laws and to educate the public about the need for bicylists to follow all traffic laws. The article quotes many riders who argue that they are being singled out unfairly. However, it is a little known legal fact that in Chicago police need little reason to stop a bicyclist.

Section 11-1509 of the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code provides that a uniformed police officer may order an inspection of a bicycle. However, the catch is the police office must have reasonable cause to believe that your bike is unsafe or not equipped with the gear the law requires. Section 11-509 reads as follows:

625 ILCS 5/11‑1509
Sec. 11‑1509. Inspecting bicycles. A uniformed police officer may at any time upon reasonable cause to believe that a bicycle is unsafe or not equipped as required by law, or that its equipment is not in proper adjustment or repair, require the person riding the bicycle to stop and submit the bicycle to an inspection and such test with reference thereto as may be appropriate. (Source: Public Act 82‑132.)

For a police officer to have reasonable cause the law in Illinois provides that "there be enough particularized facts to lead a common sense person of reasonable caution to believe that there is a fair probability" to draw the conclusion. This is a fluid concept and one that ultimately comes down to the particularized facts of the situation. But because it is fluid, a police office could pretty much come up with anything to question the "safety" of a bicycle and use it as "reasonable cause" to inspect the bicycle - and inspect you.

This is not the purpose of the law nor is it fair. But that doesn't mean it doesn't happen. If you are stopped by a police officer your best bet is to stay calm, be reasonable, and show that your bike is safe. Once that is established, you should be on your way. If you have any questions regarding this post or an issue involving Illinois personal injury law, please contact Illinois Bicycle Attorney Mike Keating at 312-208-7702 or MKeating@KeatingLegal.com . All initial consultations are confidential and free.