HB 1214: Mandating the Personal Choice of Bicyclists

by Tony Helland

House Bill 1214 would require bicyclists to wear reflective or fluorescent gear on the roads. This legislation also makes failure to wear that bright clothing a Class 2 misdemeanor.

Though this bill was probably seated in good intentions, it falls short of encouraging recreational bicycling and alternative, non-motorized transport. There are much better ways to foster a safe shared road environment than mandating the clothing choice of bicyclists. A more appropriate means to get this bill’s intention accomplished would be an awareness campaign aimed at cyclists about good riding behavior, clothing, and techniques. Instead, HB1214 offers us a misdemeanor penalty for violation. It can also be argued that this bill shifts the responsibility for safe road use. It shifts this responsibility from larger, heavier automobiles with a greater potential for accidents and injury to bicycles that occupy a fraction of the roadway and weigh next to nothing in comparison.

1214 would also make cycling less accessible. If all cyclists are to wear this type of technical, high-visibility clothing, the use of bicycles appears more like a specialized sport rather than a viable means of transport. To some, this clothing may also speak to the perceived dangers of cycling. If bicyclists are made to dress like getting hit is inevitable who will want to ride?

There is then the cost associated with mandating one’s clothing. I haven’t ever worn hi-vis garments while cycling through town. Nor have I ever felt threatened or worried that passing cars can’t see me. What you wear while biking is a personal choice and should be left that way. When I began biking as my primary means of getting around, I told myself that I wouldn’t be a moving traffic sign for automobiles; letting a bright yellow wind breaker scream “Hey! Watch out!” That just isn’t me and that’s my personal choice. A cyclist, like any other road user, should be able to wear whatever he or she wishes when using the road.

I don’t see this one-size-fits-all kind of legislation getting far, but I look forward to the committee comments. HB1214 was sent to the House Transportation Committee.

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Comments

  1. I’ve read the bill and don’t quite get it. I assume by “highway” they mean any road that a car might drive on. What is the point of wearing “fluorescent or reflective” clothing during the day? The fluorescent character of the clothing will likely not cause the rider to stand out any more in bright daylight, and I don’t think reflecting clothes would do much either. At night, however, these are helpful and I could see a law requiring them.

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