Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Souto wants lights on all bikes

Updated
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.

5 comments:

Eduardo E said...

Stores can also get around this by installing the cheapest of cheap lights on the bike. I bought a real cheap red blinky light for about $5.99 and an even cheaper white light. However, I don't use them for biking since, I use them for running.

For the bike, I spent about $50 bucks total for my lights. Cateye in the front and PlanetBike in the rear...

vey said...

"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."

Certain businesses seem to employ the lower income riders. Perhaps those businesses could be identified and education could take place there. Could just need a poster in the break room in English and Spanish.

JHop said...

A poster at the job site might help, at least at larger job sites. Would be hard to justify posters where only two or three people work anyway. Could someone organize door-to-door visits in commercial districts?

vey said...

"Would be hard to justify posters where only two or three people work anyway."

Where two or three ride their bicycles to work there? I don't think so. Since there is a large turnover at these places, there would new eyes to see the poster.

I've also thought about ID'ing the riders through their managers and giving them a light. "Be Seen" lights don't cost much.

But the real problem is that companies would fear liability. Suppose they said "no" and later one of their workers was killed? Or suppose they said "yes" and the poster was put up and one of their workers was killed. Either way, a smart lawyer would figure out a way to pin it on them.

That's why they would have a reason not to co-operate.

Anonymous said...

I fear the legislation has a more sinister motive. In the Grove, crime watch folks said that cops are using the "no light" as a way to get "questionable" folks out of the wealthier neighborhoods.