According to Illinois law, bicycles and cars are both classified as types of vehicles. For the most part, there is an expectation that motor vehicles and human-propelled vehicles share the same spaces and follow the same traffic laws. Like motor vehicles, bicycles travel on the right side of the road and generally need to stay off of sidewalks. They must abide by all traffic signals and signs, as well as the verbal or signal instructions of police officers conducting traffic. Cyclists need to stay sober and maintain their focus on their surroundings to stay safe and traffic.
Yet, despite all of the rules that are the same for all types of vehicles, there are some rules that are different. How do the laws for cyclists differ from the laws for those in motor vehicles in Illinois?
Technically, anyone operating a vehicle on public roads will be liable for the damages they cause to others. However, given that bicycles are so much smaller than motor vehicles and generally cause far less damage in the event of a collision, Illinois does not mandate insurance for cyclists the way that it does for motor vehicles. People can purchase specialized cycling insurance, but many people do not. A cyclist without insurance could face a lawsuit if they hurt someone but will not face allegations that they violated state law.
It is of the utmost importance that those about to conduct a maneuver in traffic do their best to alert others to their intentions. In a motor vehicle, a driver merely needs to press a lever to initiate their turn signal to let everyone else nearby know that they are about to turn or go around a corner. If they apply their brakes, everyone behind them will know because of the lights. Most bicycles do not come with illuminated signals, which means that cyclists will need to use hand signals to indicate an intent to turn or slow while in traffic. Cyclists can also pay to install aftermarket accessories that perform largely the same function as factory-installed turn signals in motor vehicles.
Safety device requirements
Illinois Law requires that everyone in a motor vehicle of any age utilize appropriate safety restraints. Police officers can and frequently do issue citations to those who do not use safety restraints because the failure to use them is often one of the factors that contribute to fatal collisions. The same is true of helmet use, but police officers cannot stop or cite cyclists for failing to wear a helmet in traffic unless they are minors in a municipality with local rules.
Learning about how the traffic laws in Illinois treat cyclists and motor vehicle operators differently may help people better comply with the law and reduce their chances of being the party at fault for a crash.