Illinois three foot law

Illinois enacted a three foot passing law in 2007. That didn’t help David and Cindy Combs, the disabled couple from Champaign, IL who were hit by a driver as they rode their tandem bicycle to choir practice on Monday afternoon. Cindy, age 53, was killed in the crash. Her widower David remains in critical condition.

The Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette published a moving story on the couple this morning. In spite of their disabilities, they maintained a high degree of independence, in large part due to their bicycle built for two.

[Developmental Service Director Dale] Morrissey said Mrs. Combs was blind and rode on the back of the bike supplying pedal power to her husband, who was sighted.

“They literally rode thousands of miles a year,” he said, adding that in bad weather, they rode the C-U Mass Transit District buses.

MTD Driver Valerie Lockett of Urbana called Cindy and David Combs “intertwined.”

“She was high-functioning, just blind. She had a quick wit and was just hilarious,” Lockett said. “He loved her so much. He took care of her and doted on her. It was beautiful. It really was. They were just waiting to get back on that bike.”

Sue in Champaign was interviewed for the News-Gazette story and asked, “What kind of society would we be if people like Dave and Cindy didn’t have a way to get where they need to go?”

Jennifer in Chicago has her own outraged take on road rights and disability.

Caught up in the middle (or perhaps flung carelessly outside) the raging vitriol between cyclists and motorists are people who literally cannot drive. I refer to persons with disabilities who are prohibited from obtaining drivers’ licenses on the basis of those same disabilities. Telling someone who, say, is legally blind or has epilepsy, and therefore uses a bicycle to get around, to get a car or get off the road is shockingly ignorant at best and heartlessly cruel at worst.




Finally, Carlton editorializes on “road ownership” from his side of the Atlantic ocean. On cyclists who have the nerve to delay motorists for a handful of seconds….

Grabbing that real estate isn’t a cyclist demonstrating ownership of the road, it’s more like a fleeting rental.

We have no exoskeletons, we know our place. Why? Because cars and trucks are bigger than us, we’re really in no position to pick fights with vehicles many times our mass and many times faster than us (in the sales brochures, if not always in urban reality) and many times more bruising and crushing than us. A car roof may get the odd slap now and again, from cyclists who may have just had their life threatened, but, in the grand scheme of things, puny flesh and blood can do little against armoured speed.

Of course, we’re fleet of foot and can jiggle through gaps cars can’t, so is this why it’s said we own the roads, because we can percolate? Probably not. That’s just an irritation for the driver who has been sold a dream of ‘the freedom of the road’ but never gets it because there are too many other road-dreamers out there too.

Sue has an old photo of David and Cindy riding the tandem.

According to news reports, the driver of the vehicle that hit the Combs, Errol Maul, was not ticketed for violating 625 Illinois Compiled Statues 5/11-703(d), which says:

The operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle or individual proceeding in the same direction on a highway shall leave a safe distance, but not less than 3 feet, when passing the bicycle or individual and shall maintain that distance until safely past the overtaken bicycle or individual.


  1. Why are they just ticketing this person? I don’t know the law in Illinois so this is just an inquiry. Do they just ticket drivers when they run over pedestrians? Do they just ticket drivers when through their neglagence they kill some other automobile driver? Why are Cyclist seen as lesser human? This is not just for Illinois either. I have been noticing this trend everywhere.

  2. cause it was an accident….
    regardless of how this was caused by his inattention.
    in general if you kill someone with a car as long as you didn’t mean to it’s ok and will remain so until they actually hold people responsible for driving unsafely

  3. TGhe definition of ‘reckless’ driving in Illinois uses as an example: driving over RR tracks in an attempt to go airborne.

    So here’s my poster:

    Get airborne over RR tracks : REckless Driving (put possible penalties here)

    (there’s gotta be a better way to say this) Take your eyes entirely off the road for long enough to kill somebody: improper use of lane. $1000 fine and back on the road again.

    What is cited as an example is: drives over an incline in the road, such as a railroad crossing, with the intent of making the vehicle airborne.

    So. Here is my thought:

    The person seeking airborne-ness was *not* seeking to endanger others. S/he was simply placing the desires of the moment before the responsibility of operating a motor vehicle in a way that one would expect to be dangerous.

    Be it granted that in the past, Mr. Maul would not be considered acting in willful and wanton way, because looking at a map was not something one would expect to be dangerous — and it’s just not as likely to be something done by a teenage male, and people don’t mind when we convict them.

    However, laws change as we gain more knowledge. We — the general public — have been made aware that distracted driving is very dangerous. That impulse to drive very quickly and that impulse to look at the map were the impulses of the moment, and they were held to be more important than the lives of everybody else on the road. I’m sorry, but reading a map or whatever Mr. Maul was doing was a whole lot more dangerous than going over railroad tracks at high speed. I’ll bet you anything that driver would be looking at the road.

    TImes are also changing in that our society is using its roads more often for transportaiton modes other than single occupancy motor vehicles. Especially as gas prices go up and more people are shunted into living on a whole lot less, there will be more people using bicycles and their feet on our roadways, since that is the infrastructure we have. I don’t say this to be dramatic — it’s the truth. How many of us are going to die there, because the people who are *supposed* to protect us can’t be bothered?

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