Two cyclists riding down a paved path next to automobile traffic.

Bicycling continues to be a popular form of travel and recreation for Americans. The Bureau of Transportation Statistics recently reported an over 600 percent increase in spending on bicycles and accessories from March 2020 to March 2023. It is the third most popular outdoor activity in the United States, according to Statista.

States across the country have taken notice of bicycling’s popularity. In recent years, some states have passed various laws to make bicycling safer for cyclists and motorists. These laws’ effectiveness depends on those who use the road knowing and following the requirements of these laws.

Safe Passing Laws

The majority of states have enacted some form of a Safe Passing Law designed to protect bicyclists. These laws create a minimum safe distance that cars and trucks must give to bicyclists when they overtake them on the road. This common maneuver can be dangerous for bicyclists if the motorist does not leave enough space between their vehicle and the bicyclist.

These laws vary in the number of feet a passing motorist must give the bicyclist. For example, Illinois follows the Model Safe Passing Law by requiring motorists to give bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when overtaking them. Neighboring Indiana’s safe passing law also requires a minimum three-foot clearance.

However, other states have different requirements. New Jersey, for example, mandates that motorists give bicyclists at least four feet of distance when passing them. Nearby Missouri’s law simply states that motorists are to give bicyclists a “safe distance” when passing without defining what this term means.

Mandatory Helmet Laws

Bicyclists can reduce the chance of severe head and brain injuries in the event of a wreck by wearing a properly fitted helmet while riding. The majority of states and hundreds of cities require some or all bicyclists to wear helmets, and some of these laws allow a non-compliant bicyclist to be fined for violating them.

For example, Illinois, Kentucky, and Missouri have laws requiring riders of all ages to wear helmets when bicycling. However, Indiana and twelve other states still have not passed any helmet law that mandates riders of any age to wear helmets.

Other states, like California and Alabama, only require young riders under a certain age to wear helmets.

Stop-as-Yield Laws for Bicyclists

A few states have enacted “Stop-As-Yield” laws allowing bicyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs. These laws allow bicyclists to pass through dangerous intersections when it is safe to do so instead of having bicyclists come to a complete stop. Allowing for this type of movement keeps bicyclists from coming into close proximity with motorists.

Idaho was the first state to enact this type of law in 1982. Since then, only seven other states have passed such laws as of March 2022. Oklahoma, North Dakota, and Utah became the three most recent states to enact stop-as-yield laws when they passed their respective measures in 2021.

Bicycling Under the Influence

While bicycles are different from motor vehicles in several significant ways, they are both dangerous to operate under the influence of alcohol or drugs. As a result, some states and localities penalize bicyclists who are riding their electric or self-propelled bicycles while under the influence of an intoxicating substance.

Illinois does not define a bicycle as a “vehicle” for purposes of its DUI statute, and there is no separate law in the Land of Lincoln criminalizing riding under the influence. However, Georgia does criminalize this practice statewide. Although no state law in Kansas prohibits biking under the influence, local ordinances in Wichita criminalize it.

Whether it is explicitly prohibited or not, it is not advised to attempt to ride a bike while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Even if you are reasonably careful, such substances can impair your ability to see and avoid reckless motorists nearby.

Turn to an Experienced Bicycle Accident Lawyer if You Have Been Injured

Laws like Safe Passing Laws and Stop-As-Yield laws may be passed with the best of intentions, but their effectiveness ultimately rests on motorists and bicyclists who must follow them. Drivers of cars and trucks who ignore or are ignorant of these laws can cause great harm to you or a loved one if you are on a bicycle.

Along with severe harm comes significant financial and emotional costs. You and your family deserve compensation for these losses when they result from a motorist’s carelessness.

Turn to your Central Illinois personal injury lawyers at the Law Offices of Glenn & West, LLC for help, and let us assist you in getting the financial damages you deserve.