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Is Illinois becoming a safer state for bicyclists?

Many Illinois residents enjoy bicycling as a commuting option or a recreational activity. Many times, cycling will take them on roads where they share space with cars, and at times this can lead to accidents that cause significant injuries.

States can take certain steps to make sure bicyclists are able to use the road safely with motor vehicles. In fact, the League of American Bicyclists ranks all 50 states to determine their safety. As of the most recent ranking, which was in 2017, Illinois ranks No. 16.

Weaknesses in Illinois bike policy

While this is an overall good rating, the report card the league provides highlights some key issues the state faces, which could contribute to many bicycle-and-car accidents. The biggest concern is in the category Infrastructure & Funding, where Illinois ranks No. 45. The state is behind when it comes to planning for the building of bicycle and pedestrian facilities, as well as allocating specific funds for this purpose.

Additionally, though Illinois is a leader in providing legal protections for bicyclists and punishing dangerous drivers – ranking No. 1 overall in this category – the Illinois Supreme Court ruled in Boub v. Township of Wayne that state municipalities are not liable for a bicyclist’s damages caused by road conditions if the road is not specifically designated for cycling. The league believes this allows municipalities to avoid legal consequences by not planning their infrastructure for bicycling.

How has the state progressed?

The league issued this ranking in 2017, and in 2018 the league did not update their rankings but instead issued progress reports for each state. According to the league, Illinois is progressing well.

The state is one of seven to take all five of the league’s Bicycle Friendly Actions, which are:

  • Implementing a Complete Streets policy
  • Passing a Safe Passing Law that specifically requires cars to leave at least three feet of space between themselves and bicyclists
  • Creating a statewide bike plan in the last decade
  • Including a Bicycle Safety Emphasis Area
  • Using 2 percent or more of federal funds on bicycling and pedestrians in the past five fiscal years

The funding action was one Illinois achieved thanks to a spike in funding in fiscal year 2017. The state also adopted HB 4799, which requires school districts to adopt policies for bicycling education for kindergarten to eighth grade.

It’s great to see the state make progress when it comes to bicycle safety and education. Hopefully these trends will continue and help reduce bicycle accidents and injuries in the future.

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