Bicycling is a way of life for many people in Chicago. Whether you’re avoiding the “L,” or wouldn’t dream of owning a car in the city, getting around on two wheels is a common answer. But the extra freedom can come with extra risk, so it’s important to know when laws are coming along for the ride.

The League of American Bicyclists ranked Illinois 3rd in the nation when it comes to protections for those that use pedal power to get around. The state scored respectively in most categories, but an A- in legislation and enforcement could mean you’ll have a better chance at compensation than other places in the country.

Exceptional laws

The report card gave high marks for enacting protective laws, avoiding unnecessary restrictions and regulating driver behaviors. This combination can make it clear when a bicycle is in the right:

  • Passing: Even though you may share a lane with other cars, the law spells out the proper procedure for passing. Cars that attempt to overtake you must give a wide berth. There needs to be a safe distance of at least three feet, and the car can’t get over until they’re well ahead of you.
  • Sharing: While etiquette advises you to stay to the right while biking on the street, you get some leeway when there isn’t enough room to operate safely. Obstacles like truck mirrors and opening car doors can present hazards to riders, and in such times bicycles may be able to claim the width of their traffic lane.
  • Hounding: You should be free from overly aggressive behavior from drivers. Criminal law could come into play with motor vehicle operators that get too close or threaten you. Depending on the consequences, the charges may even reach into felony territory.

You could find the help you need after an accident when the fault falls on someone else’s shoulders. Knowing the traffic laws could be the first step toward assigning blame, so make sure you’re aware of who’s staying in the lines.