BikeCounsel.com Explains Illinois Bicycle Rules of the Road

As more Illinois residents take to the road on bicycles – whether for their daily commutes, an occasional pleasure ride, or serious cycling and physical training – there is a higher risk that cyclists will run afoul of motorists. Nothing will guarantee a bicyclist's safety on busy roads. But by following Illinois bike laws, you can raise the chance of riding home safely.

Illinois Bicycle Laws

Illinois' bicycle laws are the first line of defense against bicycle accidents. They help keep bicyclists safe from, and visible to, motorists sharing the road. When riding on the road, cyclists should obey all traffic laws, signs, and signals.

Where to Ride

Always ride in the same direction as traffic. Riding toward opposing traffic is illegal and dangerous.

Never ride on a limited-access highway or expressway. Look for signs indicating that these roads are for motor vehicles only.

Bicyclists on a shared road should ride as far to the right as practicable – that means safe and reasonable given your surroundings. Don't swerve between parked cars. Instead, ride far enough away from parallel parking so you won't be hit by a car door opening. You do not need to keep to the right if:

  • You are preparing for a left turn;
  • You are passing another vehicle;
  • Hazards like rough surfaces, drains, or debris make the area unsafe;
  • You are traveling straight where there is a right-hand turn lane; or
  • On a one-way road. In this case you can ride on either the right or left side of the roadway. (ILCS 5/11-1505)

Signaling

If you are riding on a road you must signal before you stop or turn.

  • Stop or slow down: Extend your left hand down, palm facing backward.
  • Left Turn: Extend your left hand out horizontally.
  • Right Turn: Extend your left hand up, palm facing forward OR extend your right hand out horizontally. (ILCS 5/11-806)

Sidewalks

In busy areas, it may seem safer to ride on the sidewalk. This is allowed in much of Illinois, but it is illegal to ride on sidewalks in Chicago if you are over 12 years old. Even outside of Chicago, bicyclists should watch out for signs banning bicycles or requiring you to walk your bike in busy pedestrian areas.

If you are sharing a sidewalk with a pedestrian:

  • Always give pedestrians the right of way
  • When approaching from behind, call out or ring your bell to signal you are passing.
  • Follow all pedestrian signs and signals, including crossing signs. (ILCS 5/11-1512)

Riding at Night

Illinois law requires every bicycle to be equipped with lights and reflectors for nighttime use. A white light on the front of your bike must be visible for at least 500 feet. A red reflector on the back of your bike must be visible from between 100 and 600 feet away. You may also use a red light on the back of your bike if it is visible for at least 500 feet. Your bicycle should also come equipped with pedal reflectors, side reflectors, and a colorless front reflector. (ILCS 5/11-1507)

Riding Together

If you are riding with a partner, you can ride side by side unless you are impeding traffic by doing so. (ILCS 5/11-1505.1) Never ride more than one to a bicycle unless it is a tandem. If you are riding with your child, it is up to you to make sure the child follows all Illinois bicycle laws. (ILCS 5/11-1501) Parents may also carry children in a backpack or sling securely fastened to them as they ride.

Bike Parking

It is legal to park your bicycle on the sidewalk as long as it doesn't impede pedestrian traffic. You may also park your bicycle at an angle in designated parking areas along the roadway. Multiple bikes can be parked in the same parking space as long as it doesn't interfere with the normal flow of traffic. (ILCS 5/11-1513)

Drivers' Duties

When motorists are driving near bikes, Illinois law protects the bicyclists by imposing certain duties on the driver. Vehicles must leave 3 feet when passing a bicycle and may not crowd or intimidate a cyclist for riding on the road. When parallel parking, motorists must look for bicyclists before opening their car doors.

Sharing the road as a bicyclist means following all of Illinois bicycle laws to stay safe. Before setting out on the road, familiarize yourself with traffic laws and signs so you can ride right. If you violated the rules of the road – or you were wrongly cited – read more about defending traffic tickets for cyclists.

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