Keeping You and Your Bike Street Legal in Chicago

bike lights and reflectors

Chicago is a great city for cyclists, both casual and serious, even in our harsh winters. But did you know that you can make biking a safer and overall better experience for everyone – fellow cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists alike – simply by familiarizing yourself with the Chicago bike laws? Generally, cyclists are subject to the same laws as anyone else using the road, but the laws take special consideration to help keep the ride safe and enjoyable.

Lane Usage

When a bike lane is available, use it! If no bike lane is available, the Chicago bike laws urge you to ride as close as possible to the right-hand curb with a few exceptions:

• When passing another bike or vehicle traveling in the same direction
• When preparing for a left turn
• When necessary to avoid an object or when the lane is too narrow to safely use
• When approaching an authorized right turn
• When traveling on a one-way highway with two or more marked lanes
• Biking on sidewalks by persons over the age of 12 is generally prohibited

Hand Signals

Vehicles have the benefit of indicators for turning, but a cyclist must employ hand signals to help ensure turns can be executed safely.
• Left and right turns: hand and arm extended horizontally toward the intended direction
• Stopping or slowing down: Hand and arm extended downward

Knowing when to signal is equally important. Signaling too early or too late both cause confusion among others on the road. Try to signal no less than 100 feet before the turn as well as while you are stopped waiting to turn.

Lights and Reflectors

Biking can be dangerous – especially at night – when the cyclist is not easy to see in the hustle and busy of city traffic. It is important to keep yourself visible on the road. In addition to wearing light-colored clothing when possible, the Chicago bike laws have special guidelines to keep you safe.

• Night riding requires a front lamp outfitted with a white light than can be seen from at least 500 feet from the front of your bike
• Night riding also requires a red reflector outfitted on the rear of your bike that is visible from 100-600 feet away


Although registration of a bike is not required the way it is for cars, the Chicago Police Department encourages you to register your bike with the city. The registration is free and its main purpose is to assist the police in recovering your bike if it is ever stolen. Click here to register your bike with the city today.

The City does remove bikes it believes to be abandoned, but before doing so, it will place a placard on a bike stating the intention to remove it. It is not until the bike goes unmoved for seven days that it will be removed. If your bike disappears overnight or in just a few days without notice, it was likely stolen, and you should call 311 to report it. If you previously registered your bike with the City, the chances are greater that your bike will be recovered and you’ll be back on the road!

We Can Help

At Village Cycle Center we have everything you need to make sure your bike is street legal, so stop by and we can help.

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