When it comes to legislating bikes, there are a lot of bad ideas out there. Things like licensing bicyclists, banning fixed gear bikes, forcing people on bicycles to move over to the side of the road, into the door lane, so cars can get by—we’ve seen and heard it all from government officials.
And now you can add this to the list: A bill in the state government which would force people on bikes to wear reflective clothing at night.
The bill, which has been followed by our friends at Bike Pittsburgh since its inception, recently moved to the Pennsylvania House Transportation Committee. According to Bike PGH’s statement on this legislation,
Fewer people biking means that biking is less safe for everyone.
The apparel guidelines that HB 1361 imposes are also redundant to Pennsylvania’s current night riding requirements per the vehicle code, and are not proven to provide an additional benefit to people who bicycle. Current Pennsylvania laws require people on bikes to have a rear reflector and front light.
We feel that better enforcement of the existing laws are needed, not new requirements.
Putting burdens like more reflective clothing on bicyclists riding at night deters new cyclists from riding and, as noted by Bike Pittsburgh, could lead to new selective enforcement and harassment by police—similar to criticisms of “Broken Windows” policing.
This is bad legislation and we are against it.
What’s especially bizarre here (as already noted) is that people on bikes are already required to have a light on the front and back of their bike between sunset and sunrise, making the entire point of the legislation a bit moot. Safety precautions like reflective clothing at night, helmets, etc. are great, but they should not be required of all bicyclists.
Of the ten co-sponsors of the legislation, three represent parts of Philadelphia: State Reps. Cohen, Thomas, and Murt.
We encourage you to send these representatives emails, letting them know how you feel about this perhaps well-intentioned, but bad, legislation.