Philly Reps. Support Misguided ‘Bicycle Fashion’ Bill

by | August 5, 2015 | Action Center | 5 comments

A reflective vest

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.

Rep. Mark Cohen contact info
Rep. Curtis Thomas contact info 
Rep. Thomas Murt 

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  1. Barbara

    Adding additional requirements to bicycling does not close equity gaps – rather, it adds another barrier to entry. Whenever laws like this get brought up, I always wonder two things: Who is this law designed for? Does it also apply to more casual riders who use bike share?

    There are many other issues to tackle when it comes to improving bikeability and creating a sustainable bike culture. Adding barriers to participate is not productive or encouraging.

    Barbara Jacobson
    Programs Director
    Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition

  2. Andrew Levitt

    I wonder what the legal status is of traffic laws that are passed and then never followed or enforced. Is that a normal thing for laws or is it unique to traffic laws? The laws for bike lights and bells and 4-foot passing and yielding to crossing pedestrians all seem to be good sensible laws, it’s a shame they don’t enjoy the same status as actual laws. I suppose the upside is that silly laws like this proposed one aren’t really that big of a deal.

    • Jake Thompson

      Even if the law isn’t enforced actively, it will cause a problem when determining fault in the case of an incident. If a crash occurs between a driver and a cyclist in which the driver is physically at fault, the law could place the cyclist at fault for not wearing a reflective vest. This is why it is a bad law. It’s victim blaming.

  3. Aaron B

    Andrew, I think the real issue is that Law Enforcement now have more tools to selectively enforce and discriminate.

    Like so many other discriminatory practices, I’d wager if you looked at bicycle ticketing you’d see disproportionate enforcement among minorities and in poor neighborhoods.

  4. John

    The real issue here is, in addition to encouraging people to contact the Philly sponsors of this bill. Does the BCGP have any specific plans they are going to do regarding this bill?


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