Thursday, August 25, 2016

Why The New Illinois Bicycle Law, "Dennis's Law," Is Important For All Bicyclists

Dennis Jurs
On Friday, August 12, 2015 a new Illinois law was signed into law that clarified that Illinois bicyclists are to receive all the same rights in traffic situations involving the right-of-way as the drivers of motor vehicles. Previous to this change, there was a conflict as to whether a bicycle was considered a “vehicle” under Illinois law and was therefore entitled to the right-of-way between vehicles. Since the prior right-of-way laws in Illinois referenced “vehicles” there was an issue as to whether the right-of-way laws explicitly applied to bicyclists. 

New Bicycle Law Provides Clarity To Existing Laws

This change in Illinois bicycle law makes it absolutely clear that bicycles are “vehicles” as defined in the Illinois Vehicle Code and that motorists must provide the right-of-way to bicycles when the bicyclist is entitled to the right-of-way. The new bicycle law will go into effect on January 1, 2017.  

New Law Sought After Traffic Ticket Dismissed

This change was sought after an October of 2015 ruling in which a Kane County judge dismissed a traffic citation against a driver for failing to yield the right-of-way to an oncoming bicyclist. The judge ruled that the right-of-way laws in the Illinois Vehicle Code did not apply to bicyclists. The traffic citation at issue was related to the fatal May 18, 2015 collision between the motorist and Dennis E. Jurs of Hampshire. This collision resulted in the death of Mr. Jurs. The judge cited non-traffic related cases that held that a bicycle was not a “vehicle” under certain legal definitions. The judge then dismissed the charges against the motorist involved in the fatal collision.

The family of Dennis E. Jurs brought the issue of this lack of clarity in the law to the attention of State Representative Anna Moeller. Attorney Michael S. Keating of Keating Law Offices in Chicago, Illinois, who represents the Estate of Dennis E. Jurs in the civil case related to the crash along with co-counsel F. John Steffen of Steffen & Kelly, P.C. in Elgin, Illinois, helped draft the legislation. State Representative Moeller sponsored “Dennis’s Law” which passed through both the Illinois House of Representative and the Illinois State Senate with only one vote against it and 164 votes in favor of the change.

Dennis's Law Also Honors The Life Of The Late Dennis Jurs

Dennis E. Jurs was an extremely experienced 68-years old bicycle rider at the time of his death. Mr. Jurs was a United States Army veteran who served in Vietnam where he was injured by a land mine. Mr. Jurs thereafter became very active in cycling in Illinois. He took up cycling at 30 years of age as a way to rehabilitate the leg injuries he suffered while serving in Vietnam. Mr. Jurs was a member of the Illinois-based bicycle racing team, Team MACK, and was an organizer for years of the well-known Four Bridges Bicycle Race in Elgin, Illinois.