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Illinois Ranks Best In U.S. For Cycling Laws, But Among Worst For Bike Infrastructure Funding: Report

By Stephen Gossett in News on Nov 2, 2017 4:55PM

Photo Credit: John W. Iwanski

Illinois fares decently overall in terms bike-friendliness, but a lack of state funding for cycling infrastructure is a glaring fault, according to a new report.

The League of American Bicyclists ranked each state in terms of bike-friendliness and slotted Illinois 16th overall. The state ranked No. 3 in the Midwest.

The report ranks each state in terms of five categories: Infrastructure & Funding, Education & Encouragement, Legislation & Enforcement, Policies & Programs, Evaluation & Planning. Illinois led the pack in terms of Legislation and Enforcement, ranking best in the nation; but it plummets in terms of Infrastructure and Funding, ranking a mere 45th overall.

The report salutes Illinois "strong legal protections for bicyclists and strong laws against dangerous driver behavior, including distracted driving." It spotlights a law that was passed last year—and drafted with the assistance of local cycling attorney Michael Keating—that explicitly clarifies that Illinois bicyclists have the same legal rights on the road as vehicles. But the report also expresses concern about a potential "asterisk" raised by the case of Boub vs. Township of Wayne, which determined in 1998 that municipalities are not liable for the damages suffered by cyclists on the poorly maintained roadways.

At the polar end of the spectrum, the report docked the state for failure to provide dedicated bike-infrastructure funding, a lack of state-funded bike lanes and a lack of reporting that federal funds were used for cycling projects.

League of American Bicyclists

"Outside of the Legislation & Enforcement category, Illinois is mostly an average state. It’s poor performance in the Infrastructure & Funding category may reflect budgetary problems that go far beyond transportation," the report states.

Cycling advocacy organization Active Transportation Alliance points out that Illinois' bike transportation plan was released back in 2014 but still languishes in terms of implementation.

At a more local level, the city of Chicago has been praised as a leader in bike-friendliness. It was notably named the most bike-friendly city in the country last year, by Bicycling magazine, with that ranking pointing out the city's Divvy expansion and robust cycling advocacy network. The city released its long-awaited Vision Zero initiative, the plan to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries within nine years, this summer—though the strategy is not without its critics. A 50-year-old cyclist was fatally struck by a driver in Garfield Ridge just yesterday morning. Lisa Schalk was at least the fourth cyclist killed on the road in Chicago in 2017.