Thursday, May 9, 2013

What Are the New Proposed Bike Laws in Chicago?

There has been a great deal of media attention to the new proposed laws in Chicago as they relate to bicycles. The proposed changes as they affect bicyclist are something of a "double edged sword." The changes absolute clarify the legal language so that it is clear that bicycles are protected. Beyond the language, penalties for violating the Code in a way that interferes with a bicyclist or causes a bicycle accident or collision are sharply increased. On the other side, bicyclists themselves face bigger financial penalties for violated Chicago's traffic rules as they apply to bicycles.

Attorney Mike Keating of Keating Law Offices is a former staff attorney for the Illinois House of Representatives where he was the Staff Attorney for the Judiciary - Civil Law Committee and the State Government Committee. Attorney Keating analyzed Mayor Emanuel's proposed amendments that the Mayor filed on May 8, 2013 at the request of CDOT Commissioner Gabe Klein. Attorney Keating's legislative analysis is as follows: 

Amendment to 9-4-025 Bicycle Safety Violation - Penalty

Current Law: The penalty for interfering with a bicyclist while turning, riding in the bike lane or passing, was $150.00 total. The penalty for causing a collision while turning, riding in the bike lane or passing was $500.00. The penalty for not exercising due care and interfering with a bicyclist was $150.00; the same act that results in a collision was potentially $500.00. The penalty for interfering with a bicyclist with a car door could result in a penalty of $150.00, a dooring that results in a collision could be a penalty of $500.00.

Amendment: Not yielding the right of way to a bicyclist while turning, riding in the bike lane, or not yielding the right of way while passing or otherwise interferes with a bicyclist could result in a fine of $150.00 for EACH offense. The same acts that result in a collision results in a mandatory fine of $500.00 . A dooring that interferes with a bicycle will carry a mandatory fine of $300.00; causing a collision in a dooring would result in a mandatory fine of $1,000.00.

Amendment to 9-40-060 Driving, standing or parking on bicycle paths or lanes prohibited

Current Law: No vehicle may impede a bike path or lane.

Amendment: Language is added to clarify that a bus may stop in a bike lane at a bus stop to loan and unload passengers, if the bus has an emergency, or during overnight hours as necessary in an intersection if it is easier to load or unload passengers at that location.

Amendment to 9-48-050 Buses - Stopping, standing and parking

Current Law: Only buses may operate in designated bike lanes.

Amendment: If a lane is marked for buses AND bicycles, then the bus must yield to the bicycle until it is safe to pass the bicycle and the bicyclist.

Amendment to 9-52-010 Rights and duties

Current Law: A person riding a bicycle who violates the Chicago Municipal Code would be fined $25.00.

Amendment: A bicyclist, unless specifically provided elsewhere in the Code, would face a fine of $50.00 to $200.00 for each offense.

Amendment to 9-52-020 Riding bicycles on sidewalks

Current Law: Bicyclists over the age of 12 should not ride on sidewalks.

Amendment: Bicyclists of any age may ride on the sidewalks outside of the Loop if the sidewalks is marked as a bicycle route, is used to enter the nearest street or to get to a bicycle sharing station.

Amendment to 9-52-040 Yielding right-of-way

Current Law: A bicyclist should ride as near as is practicable to the right side of the road.

Amendment: A bicyclist may ride as near as is practicable AND safe to the right side, meaning a bicyclist can move to the left to pass another bicycle, in order to turn left, to avoid hazards, or to navigate a right turn. A bicyclist may also pass on the right of a slower moving motor vehicle or bike. However, if a vehicle (i.e. cab) is letting out passengers from its right side, the bicyclist must yield to pedestrians or pass on the left. If the street is a one-way street with two or more lanes, the bicyclist may also ride alongside the left side of that one-way street. 

Amendment to 9-52-045 Bicycle operator's signals - Hand and arm - Manner

Current Law: This specific section as it pertains to bicycles is new.

Amendment: Adds precise language, specific to bicycles, as to the required hand and arm signals for a bicyclist. A left turn is with the left hand and arm extended horizontally; A right turn is the left hand and arm extended upward or right hand and arm extended horizontally; a stop of slow down is the left or right hand and arm extended downward.

Amendment to 9-24-030 Crosswalks - Pedestrians to have right-of-way

Current Law: Pedestrians have the right-of-way over vehicles at a plainly marked crosswalk at an intersection or between intersections.

Amendment: Pedestrians have the right-of-way over vehicles (including bicycles) at any crosswalk, plainly marked or not.

Amendment to 9-60-050 Pedestrian to yield right-of-way when

Current Law: Pedestrians had to yield right-of-way to vehicles unless crossing in a marked crosswalk.

Amendment: Pedestrians have the right-of-way over vehicles (including bicycles) anytime they are in a crosswalk, whether or not that crosswalk is marked.

Keating Law Offices is a law firm based in Chicago, Illinois that serves clients throughout Illinois. The firm of trial lawyers concentrates part of its practice on representing injured bicyclists and advocating for bicyclists in Chicago, the suburbs, and throughout the entire State of Illinois. Attorney Michael S. Keating is to ascend to the Chair of the Bicycle Litigation Committee for the national trial lawyers' association, the American Association for Justice this year. The firm may be reach at 312-239-6787. For more information, please visit