If you get around town much, you've surely noticed how many people ride bicycles that have no lights on them. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Javier Souto has noticed, too. He's sponsoring an ordinance that, if adopted, would forbid stores to sell bicycles unless front and rear lights were part of the sale. As you may know, the nationwide requirement is simply that a bike have a white reflector in front and a red one in back. I've written before about how inadequate those reflectors are; they basically don't help unless a light shines directly on them.
The Souto ordinance is on the commission agenda for Tuesday, Feb. 19, as item 4C.
I doubt that the proposal will be very popular at either bike shops or the big-box stores that sell cheaper, less durable gear. For one thing, good lights aren't cheap, which may discourage sales at full-service shops. And the big stores aren't exactly famous for installing extras. Then there's the escape clause; a buyer could be excused from the requirement by signing a statement that the bike would be taken out of the county for use, ridden in Miami-Dade only during daylight hours, or equipped by the buyer with lights the buyer already owns. Stores would have to keep those statements on file for a year.
So what's the solution? Many people ride bikes between home and work because they can't afford a car or public transit isn't convenient. Often they're riding in the dusk or dawn hours. How can we make people aware that they need lights to protect themselves and the income their family depends on? Unfortunately, I don't think many of those riders are reading this blog.
Photo: Bikes at dusk in Coconut Grove, March 2007. Four of the five bikes have no headlight; the flares you see are reflections of my camera's flash. Experienced riders, of course, soon learn that when parking in public it's smart to use detachable lights you can carry with you.