December 21st marks the Winter Solstice for 2021. The Winter Solstice occurs when the North Pole is tilted the farthest from the sun and there is the least amount of daylight. After the Winter Solstice the days slowly get longer until then end of January when we gain two minutes of sunlight each day. While that doesn’t sound that far away, there are some long and dark nights ahead of us. 

These long nights in winter mean that Illinois bicyclists who commute to work via their bikes will be riding home in the dark. It is important to note that a headlight not only gives you greater visibility while riding and makes you more visible to drivers, but it is also the law throughout Illinois. 
Bicyclists riding at nighttime must have the following on their bikes according to Illinois Bicycle Law:

  1. A lamp on the front that emits a white light that can be seen for 500 feet; and
  2. A red reflector visible from 100 to 600 feet by a car with its headlights on.

 The law from the Illinois Vehicle Code reads as follows: 

625 ILCS 5/11‑1507) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11‑1507) Lamps and other equipment on bicycles.

(a) Every bicycle when in use at nighttime shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the Department which shall be visible from all distances from 100 feet to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector.

Curiously, this Section of the Illinois Vehicle Code provides that a red light visible from 500 feet may be used in conjunction with the rear red reflector. This is somewhat awkward because it would make sense to allow a red light visible from 500 feet instead of a red reflector that may only be visible from as little as 100 feet. 
I’ll give the drafters of this law the benefit of the doubt and conclude that this addition was to encourage bicyclists to use red lights on their bikes yet, at the same time, realize that many cyclists might only have the usual red reflector available. Illinois law (as well as sound safety measures) require the use of a headlight and a reflector and at least encourages the use of a rear red light. With these long winter nights ahead, the use of a headlight and a taillight will get you home safely – and legally in Illinois.

About Keating Law Offices

Keating Law Offices’ experienced bicycle accident lawyers have a long record of case results for clients and are considered national leaders in bicycle law. We are also bicyclists who are very active in Chicago’s cycling community. We put a lot of milesA on our bikes, support bike advocacy groups, and sponsor road bike and cyclocross bike races in Illinois.

Attorney Michael Keating is well known in Illinois as a leading legal authority on cyclists’ rights. He serves as the Chair of the American Association of Justice’s Bicycle Litigation Committee. Mike has been the featured speaker on bicycle law at legal seminars and published articles about bike safety in legal journals. Recognized as a leading authority on bicycle law, Mike has been interviewed on NBC, ABC, FOX and CBS news, as well as in numerous print publications including the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin.
Michael Keating

Michael Keating founded Keating Law Offices in 2008 with the mission of representing individuals and families whose lives have been affected due to the negligence of others. Since that time, he has continuously obtained results on behalf of his clients in courtrooms throughout…

Michael Keating founded Keating Law Offices in 2008 with the mission of representing individuals and families whose lives have been affected due to the negligence of others. Since that time, he has continuously obtained results on behalf of his clients in courtrooms throughout Illinois. He has been the attorney on hundreds of successful cases involving transportation negligence, nursing home negligence and abuse, and premises liability cases. The firm has recovered tens of millions of dollars on behalf of its clients and their families for cases involving personal injury and wrongful death.