Motorcycles may get OK to go through red lights

2011-05-25T17:06:00Z 2011-05-26T19:14:25Z Motorcycles may get OK to go through red lightsBy Kurt Erickson | kurt.erickson@lee.net pantagraph.com

SPRINGFIELD -- Motorcycle riders could go straight on red under a proposal rumbling through the General Assembly.

In action Wednesday, the Illinois Senate voted 43-12 in favor of allowing the driver of a motorcycle to proceed through a red light which fails to turn green within a "reasonable period of time."

Motorcycle rights groups say motorcycle riders can sometimes get stuck at a red light for several light cycles because the lighter weight of the two-wheel vehicles won't trigger sensors that cause stoplights to change at some intersections.

A number of senators who ride motorcycles said getting stuck at red lights equipped with the sensors is not uncommon.

"I ride a motorcycle, so I have been there before," said state Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, who sponsored the legislation.

Forby said he was forced to wait through two light cycles at an intersection in Herrin until a car pulled up to the intersection and finally triggered the sensors to change to green.

In order to garner support for the measure, Forby agreed to exempt Chicago from the proposed law.

State Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, said motorcycle riders can simply legally turn right on red and travel a few extra blocks to avoid the wait.

"Why can't the motorcyclist turn right?" Righter asked. "I'm all for convenience. but this puts them in greater danger."

Law enforcement officials also are opposed.

"We just think this is really problematic," said Darrin Clark of the Illinois State Police.

State Sen. Donne Trotter, D-Chicago, who also rides a motorcycle, said motorcycle riders often pay more attention to their surroundings than car and truck drivers and will therefore be careful when entering an intersection.

"We're not texting because we have both our hands on the handlebars. We know what's going on all the time," Trotter said. "We know what you all are doing in your cars. You are listening to kids, eating potato chips, talking on the cell phone and doing all that craziness."

State Sen. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga, also backed the measure, saying he's been stuck in similar situations while he was riding his motorcycle.

"I think this is a sensible bill," Cultra said.

The measure now heads back to the House for final approval.

The legislation is House Bill 2860.

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