Thursday, February 9, 2012

Want to run a stoplight? Buy a motorcycle!

Over the past several decades, the motorcyclist of Illinois have had the opportunity to ride by some relatively unregulated motorcycle safety laws thanks to different motorcycle rights organizations.  "Freedom of choice," "Let those who ride decide," or "Educate, don't legislate," are the words spoken by those who seek minimal intervention on the backs of state legislators.

As an example, motorcyclists have had the choice whether or not to wear a helmet in Illinois for decades.  Illinois has most recently become one of 12 states in the United States that will now allow motorcyclists to run red lights...legally!  House Bill 2860 is now officially on the books.  Effective January 1st, this new law allows motorcyclists to proceed with caution through an intersection if the light fails to turn green “within a reasonable period of time” due to a signal malfunction or simply because the vehicle does not have enough mass to trip a magnetic ground sensor. 

This new law seemed to many to be a free pass to motorcyclists to run red lights.  Others though the new law finally addressed the issues some motorcyclist have at red lights.  Any way you look at the new law, police discretion will be needed in order to fairly enforce the law.  The "reasonable period of time" really leaves this law too vague.

Due to the law being too vague, Governor Quinn immediately vetoed the bill, but it was soon over ridden by the Illinois House and Senate.  The Governor felt that the law was too vague and that it would be taken advantage of.  One persons "reasonable period of time" would most certainly be different from another's.

More recently, a new House Bill 2528 was brought to the senate in an effort to clarify what "a reasonable amount of time" is.  It has been reported that this new time figure will be around 120 seconds (2 minutes).  Additionally, this new bill has stipulations in it that the new red light law will not be applicable in communities with more than two million residents.  If you are a motorcycle rider from a larger community, like Chicago, you will be required to wait at those stop lights as  usual.

Like every law, this one has people who will abuse it.  The need for this law, in my opinion is quite minimal.  There are many different alternatives to having a need to run a red light, especially since many motorcyclists are involved in accident in and near intersections.  There are companies that make heavy duty magnets that a person can secure to their motorcycle that will break the magnetic field at a traffic actuated signal.  There are riding techniques that can be utilized to help break the magnetic field at a traffic actuated signal, thus making waiting at a stop minimal. 
As a motorcyclist for over 30 years, I will wait patiently at those red lights if needed.  It has never been a problem for me and I don't expect it will be in the future.  After all, my drive to ride a motorcycle is the relaxation and the joy of the ride, not necessarily how fast i can get there.

To learn to ride a motorcycle safely and learn riding techniques to help you activate a red light, I would suggest enrolling in a motorcycle safety course.  The classes are free and Illinois State University offers them!  Check them out on the web at:



  1. I am also a motorcycle rider and have been riding since I was sixteen. I love this new law and really cannot wait to put it into action. I used to hate it when my dad and I would pull up to a light and wait there for 5 minutes, and still it would never turn green. We would have to then wait for someone to come behind us, pull up and then frantically wave for them to move closer to trip the magnets. Half of the time they thought we were crazy and would flick us off. No matter what we did certain lights would never turn green for us. Nothing we put on the bikes helped, and we would even pull the stand out and push it down on where we thought the sensors were but still it would not work. I am excited to use this new law.

  2. Like Erik and Aaron, I am a motorcycle rider. I have only ridden in areas with less than 2 million residents which means this bill would apply to me. As Erik said, the bill does not mean much to the pleasure rider who rides for enjoyment anyways. We enjoy all the time on our bikes we can get. I have experienced lights that may be frustrating and take an excess amount of time to change but I do not think they are something that needs a law applied to them. I completely agree that even with Bill 2528, which specifically states a reasonable amount of time as 120 seconds, the law is too vague. Police officers will be required to use a large amount of discetion and vigilance when enforcing this law. No doubt, this law will be abused and become a horrible issue. I love the idea of law makers helping out the motorcycle community and it needs to happen more often. However, this law in not exactly what we needed. As for Aaron's comment, I have never heard of puting anything on the bike itself to trip the sensor but it might be something I look into!

  3. I think this law just like everything else will have people that abuse it. I do believe however that it is a good idea. I grew up riding dirt bikes and while I personally do not ride a street bike, I have family that does. I have been in my truck before and pulled up to a red light where a bike was waiting only to have the guy on the bike pull over so I can pull up far enough to trip the light. It is just an oversight that wasn't thought of when designing the light system. I agree that the "reasonable amount of time" was vague, but I would think that a minute or two would be sufficient. We'll have to wait and see if this leads to trouble but in my opinion I think it is a fair law.

  4. Like some others have said, I think that the biggest problem with this law is that it will cause more injuries and deaths to motorcycle riders, and it will also be abused. It's good that the law is being modified to clarify what a "reasonable amount of time" is - but the potential for abuse is still strong. In terms of enforcing the law, it will also be difficult. What will have to happen - will police officers have a stopwatch in their car and if the motorcycle moves before 2 minutes is reached, then there is probable cause for a stop? This seems like it's kind of crazy to me... I think that the law as it is will be a major problem - people will "forget" that they are driving their car instead of their motorcycle, as well as tons of other excuses for running red lights. I think that a much better solution to this problem would have been to reprogram the traffic lights - I would assume that they can be set to automatically change after a certain amount of time whether the sensor is set off or not.

  5. Interesting post. I can see both sides of the spectrum with this law. It is interesting to think that they can run red lights legally, but where the problem is going to occur is within the interpretation of "within a reasonable period of time." I could see this leading to some problems. We know people are going to take advantage of this law and run red lights when the situation does not call for it and when the situation is dangerous for them to do so. It is understandable that a light motorcycle would not be able to trigger the censors at a light, but allowing such a vague law to exist and leaving it up to interpretation like they did is only going to lead to problems.

  6. This new law is good and bad. Yes people will abues it (if they know about it), which I can say that I did not know about this law before I read this review. While other that have been sitting at a light for ever waiting for the light to change, this will be a nice break. I too have been rideing motorcycles for several years. I started when I was 8 years old riding dirt bike. On several occations I have sat at a red light for long periods of time and Yes have even ran the red light before this new law came about.

  7. I do not like this law at all. The way it is worded is very badly. "A reasonable amount of time" is just so vague and it will be taken advantage of by some people. I'm not saying that the law shouldn't have been made, I just think that they should phrase it better. I just hope that this law does not cause more accidents with motorcyclists.