A BikePGH volunteer affixes lights to an unlit bicyclist during one of our Pop-Up Light Giveaways
Bicycle Fashion Bill would place barriers to cycling for everyday transportation
State Representative Anthony DeLuca (Allegheny County District 32) introduced HB 1361 “legislation requiring pedalcycle operators to wear reflective clothing between sunset and sunrise,” to the House Transportation Committee.
The bill would add the following line to the PA Vehicle Code:
(d) Reflective clothing. — Any person operating a pedalcycle between sunset and sunrise shall wear high-visibility safety apparel, which may include a vest, jacket or shirt, that is retroreflective.
The bill, while most likely well-intentioned, would require all bicyclists to wear reflective clothing after dark, basically making it impossible to use a bike for regular transportation because you’d always need to bring your “special” cycling clothes with you. There are many problems with this proposed law, one of which is that it’s completely unnecessary if you have a properly outfitted bicycle according to existing state law. For instance, the bill would put most bike share customers out of compliance despite the bikes themselves being outfitted with front and rear lights and reflective material.
While we absolutely agree that people riding bikes should make themselves as visible as possible at night, this type of legislation is the wrong approach. There are many laws that we can work on with our legislators to make bicycling safer, HB 1361 is not one of them.
Below is our letter to prime sponsor Rep. DeLuca, as well as the Majority and Minority House Transportation Committee Representatives.
Here’s a list of cosponsors, some are in our area.
Reps DeLuca (D-Allegheny), Thomas (D-Philadelphia), Kotick (D-Allegheny), Davis (D-Bucks), McNeill (D-Lehigh), Cohen (D-Philadelphia), Schlossberg (D-Lehigh), Murt (R-Montgomery/Philadelphia), Farina (D-Lackawanna), and D. Costa (D-Allegheny)
Feel free to use any of our talking points to write your own letter.
Hon. John Taylor
214 Ryan Office Building
PO Box 202177
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2177
Hon. William F. Keller
332 Main Capitol Building
PO Box 202184
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2184
Hon. Anthony M. DeLuca
115 Irvis Office Building
PO Box 202032
Harrisburg, PA 17120-2032
Re: Opposition to HB 1361
Dear Representative Taylor, Representative Keller, and Representative DeLuca
It has come to our attention that HB 1361 has made its way to the Transportation Committee of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. HB 1361 requires that bicycle riders wear reflective clothing between sunset and sunrise and will doubtless prove to have unintended, negative consequences for bicycle riders across the state. While we are sure that HB 1361 is well-intentioned, the bill comes across, at best, as a bill to police the fashion of people who ride bikes, and at worst a measure that will lead to unequal enforcement and targeting of our most vulnerable residents. Bike Pittsburgh opposes HB 1361. On behalf of the 2,500 members of Bike Pittsburgh across the Greater Pittsburgh Region, I respectfully ask you to please vote NO on this bill.
Dictating what types of clothing people can wear is intrusive. And by dictating the types of clothing people who ride bicycles wear, this bill will create a major barrier to riding; making cities and towns across the Commonwealth less likely to experience the benefits that come along with fewer people driving. Additionally, our cities have been investing in making cycling safer for more people, and nanny-state laws like this work to sabotage the work that our public works departments and tourism industries have developed. 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. HB 1361 makes it impossible to simply jump on a bike and use it for regular transportation, even if you own a properly lit bicycle, because you would also always have to have your special cycling gear to ride legally. Specifically, the bill will effectively kill the bike share systems that were recently launched in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Even though bike share bikes are outfitted with front and rear running lights and reflectors, a large part of the customer base is people who spontaneously need a bike and probably have not packed special reflective clothing.
Furthermore, this bill puts an undue burden on the many responsible bicyclists who have fully lit bikes with reflectors, but may not want to dress like a disco ball on their way to the office, shopping trips, or a night out on the town. In fact, as written, the bill doesn’t even allow for reflective material on a backpack or helmet to be in compliance. Criminalizing the wearing of normal clothing while riding a bicycle is unacceptable, and if this bill becomes law it’s our deep concern that people who walk will next be forced to don reflective clothing just to take a leisurely stroll in the evening. If bright front and rear lights/reflectors are not enough, then we also need to look into the operation at night of motorcycles and black-painted automobiles.
Finally, we fear that this bill will lead to unequal enforcement and targeting of our lower income residents and especially those that are African American and Latino, by giving police an excuse to pull over someone for their fashion sense. Unequal enforcement of bicycle riding laws has been found in many cities across the United States including Tampa, Florida where 76 percent of all bicycle tickets went to black and brown people although they only made up 26 percent of the population.
There are many state laws that we can work on together to make bicycling and walking safer, any bill requiring that people wear retroreflective clothing is not the type of legislation we will support.
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