On Friday, July 6th Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed legislation that looks to solve a common problem that many motorcyclists face on a regular basis. The new law enables riders to proceed through a red light after at least two minutes have passed without a change in the light.
Not surprisingly, roadways must also be clear in order for motorcyclists to proceed. The legislation was originally drafted because automatic traffic lights sometimes have difficulty detecting motorcycles.
The enactment of the bill is a long-time coming for Illinois motorcycle riders. The bill was first introduced in the Illinois legislature in February 2011, but faced several setbacks in its quest to become law.
Governor Quinn originally vetoed the bill after it passed the General Assembly, citing that it “endangers our motorists.” Despite Quinn’s sentiments, both the House and Senate overrode the veto, helping the proposal become law.
In Quinn’s defense, the initial stated that motorcyclists could go through a red light after a “reasonably amount of time” had elapsed, but did not offer any specific amount of time. The bill was later amended, specifying that riders must wait for at least two minutes before attempting to travel though a red light.
Although the new law marks a victory for Illinois motorcyclists, not all riders will be able to rejoice. Unfortunately, the legislation does not apply to the city of Chicago. The law stipulates that only communities containing fewer than two million residents qualify, hence prohibiting Chicago. Currently the third most-populous city in the United States, Chicago has approximately 2.7 million residents.
The initial drafting of the legislation, as well as its passage owes a depth of gratitude to ABATE of Illinois. ABATE, which stands for “A Brotherhood Aimed Toward Education,” is a motorcycle advocacy group that aims to protect a “safe, unrestricted motorcycling environment.”
Originally started by Easyriders magazine in 1971, ABATE was first incorporated in Illinois in 1975. Over this time, the Illinois chapter has helped to defeat 55 helmet laws and played a role in overriding 4 Governor’s vetoes (including Gov. Quinn).
In response to the bill’s initial passage in November 2011, Bob Myers, Legislative Coordinator of ABATE of Illinois released the following statement warning riders:
"I highly suggest that when Jan 1, 2012 arrives that everyone do the 120 second wait on those Traffic Lights that don't work so as to get in the habit. I also Highly Recommend that we don't abuse and take advantage of this privilege. Use it only when it is legal to do so. Please tell all your friends and all other bikers to respect what we have been given."
Myers continued to caution motorcyclists adding, "This privilege can be taken away even quicker than getting it. We must not have a spike in accidents, injuries and fatalities so that the Nay Sayers like the Governor, IDOT, and the ISP don't say "I Told You So" to the General Assembly I am sure there will some tickets issued till all law enforcement offices have the correct info but they will be thrown out.”
Other than Illinois, 11 states have similar red-light motorcycle laws on the books. The other states are Minnesota, Tennessee, Arkansas, Idaho, Wisconsin, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Kansas.