090317-blm-loc-1bikelaw

In this September 2016 file photo, McLean County Wheelers volunteer Cheri Raymond of Bloomington prepares to equip a bicycle with free front and rear lights at the Light the Night event. This year's light giveaway Thursday will come against the backdrop of legal changes related to bicycles.

PANTAGRAPH FILE PHOTO

NORMAL — Replacing the rear reflector on your bicycle with a light, riding your bicycle on a shoulder and (under certain conditions) passing a bicycle in a no-passing zone all will become legal on Jan. 1 under a bill signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner.

“The new legislation legalizes some common motorist and bicyclist traffic practices,” said Ed Barsotti, chief programs officer for Ride Illinois, the bicycle advocacy group that proposed the changes. “The intent is to make the roads safer while improving car-bicycle interactions.”

Michael Gorman, a member of the Bike BloNo board, said the new law will improve safety for bicyclists and motorists.

“Before this, riding on the shoulder was illegal, even though in reality on many rural roads that is the safest place to ride,” said Gorman.

The legislation adds bicycles to the list of vehicles that are allowed to travel on the shoulder. Others already permitted include emergency vehicles, farm tractors and maintenance vehicles doing highway or related work.

Ride Illinois officials noted that, although riding on the shoulder will be permitted, cyclists are not required to do so, as there are situations where riding on the shoulder is not advisable.

The ability of motorists to pass cyclists in a no-passing zone comes with restrictions. It can only be done when the bicycle is traveling at a speed less than the posted speed limit, the driver is able to pass the bicycle without exceeding the speed limit and there is sufficient distance to the motor vehicle to meet overtaking and passing requirements.

One problem with the current law is that motorists sometimes pass too closely to the cyclists — violating the requirement of leaving at least a 3-foot buffer — while trying to squeeze into the same lane to obey the no-passing law, said Ride Illinois.

Safety is also the motivation behind Bike BloNo's partnership with the town of Normal and Connect Transit to give away free front and rear bike lights from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Trail East parking lot at College Avenue and Constitution Boulevard.

The annual Light the Night event has been going on for several years and includes free bicycle checks by Vitesse Cycle Shop. Gorman said the lights meet legal requirements for riding at night, enabling others to see you. A blinking red light attracts more attention than a steady light or reflector, he said. Some cyclists use the front and rear lights even while riding during the day, he added.

Eight states and the city of Chicago allow either a light or rear reflector for bicycles under their vehicle codes.

Just don't remove the red reflector on your bicycle until after the new law takes effect Jan. 1.

House Bill 1784 isn't the only bike-related bill Rauner has signed. He also signed legislation designating cycling as “the official exercise of Illinois.”

Follow Lenore Sobota on Twitter: @pg_sobota

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