Hearing Tuesday on bill requiring MO bicyclists to wear a reflective vest

Representative John Cauthorn, Boone County, has introduced a bill, HB 1937, that would require all bicyclists to wear a reflective vest when cycling on state roads or highways.

Missouri Capitol
Missouri Capitol

The proposed language is very simple:

307.184. Every person riding a bicycle upon a state road or highway shall wear a reflective vest.

Despite its simplicity and the fact that the sponsor has couched this as an attempt to improve bicyclist safety, this is in fact a law that will be counterproductive--it will discourage bicycling and reduce bicyclist safety.

It will have a discouraging effect on bicycling across Missouri--for individuals, for group rides, for fund raising rides, for races, for training, and for transportational bicycling and commuting.

We will be discussing HB 1937 with legislators during Capitol Day, April 2nd, 2012.

 HB 1937 Hearing Tuesday, April 3rd, Noon 

For that reason, we are strongly encouraging all organizations, businesses, and clubs that hold rides or bicycle events in Missouri, or depend on bicycling for their business, for fund raising, or as part of their organizational purpose, to join us in Jefferson City Tuesday to testify against HB 1937 at the House Committee Hearing

  • House Transportation Committee hearin on HB 1937
  • Tuesday, April 3rd, Upon morning recess (usually about 12 noon)
  • House Hearing Room 7

At the hearing, any individual with an interest in the bill will be allowed to speak for or against the bill.  It is best to keep your remarks brief and to the point.  Identify yourself, where you are from, and any organization you represent. 

Please contact director@mobikefed.org or 816-695-6736 to coordinate.

Contact the bill sponsor to oppose HB 1937

If you cannot attend the meeting in person you may contact the sponsor, Representative John Cauthorn, or members of the Transportation Committee:

Please be polite and persuasive when you contact our legislators.  Formal letters from organizations and businesses will carry a lot of weight - they can be delivered by mail, email, or fax.

Sample/suggested message:

Subject: I oppose HB 1937

Representative Cauthorn,

I appreciate your interest in bicycle safety and support of bicycling in Missouri.  [Briefly tell why bicycling is important to you.]

I believe that HB 1937, requiring bicyclists to wear reflective vest on state roads and highways, will be counterproductive.  It will discourage bicycling in Missouri and will reduce safety for bicyclists.

Current Missouri law already requires reflectors for bicyclists.  HB 1937 is confusing, a non-standard requirement that no other state or city has, and will do nothing to improve visibility in daytime, when most bicyclists ride on state roads and highways.  Requiring us to wear a certain specific article of clothing infringes on our personal right to wear the clothing we prefer, and will discourage bicycling at a time when high fuel prices and our interest in health is encouraging more Missourians to bicycle.

Millions of Missourians bicycle each year.  It is an important part of our communities and our economy. We do not want Missouri to gain a reputation as a place that discourages bicycling, which is enjoyed by tens of millions of Americans each year.

I encourage you to work with the Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation and other bicycle organizations and businesses across Missouri to work for legislation that will truly improve safety for bicyclists and motorists.

Below is MoBikeFed's summary of HB 1937 and the issues--also available as a PDF download. A more general handout details the economic effect of bicycling in Missouri--showing the consequences that discouraging bicycling in Missouri will have.

 

HB 1937 – Requiring Bicyclists to Wear a Reflective Vest

 

The Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation and our allied groups and organizations take bicyclist safety very seriously. For this reason, we oppose HB 1937. The reasons—

Economic development

  • Bicycling is a $1.2 billion industry in Missouri, 14,365 jobs, 120 bike shops (small, locally owned businesses),plus retail, tourism, travel, hotels, sporting goods, clothing, restaurants. We do not want to discourage bicycling and endanger economic growth in this sector.
  • Seven nationally recognized cross-country bicycle routes, used by thousands of cross-country bicyclists each year, pass through Missouri, putting $7 million annually into Missouri’s economy. These routes are primarily on state roads and highways. How will we inform these thousands of bicycle tourists about the vest, which is not required in any other state?  Where will they purchase a vest?  Will it brand Missouri as an anti-bicycling state which they will choose to avoid entirely?

Bicyclist visibility and safety is better considered under current law

  • Reflective vests are already allowed under Missouri law—vests or other reflectors are required after sundown, the only time when reflectors help with visibility.
  • The terms “reflectivity” and “vest” are not defined in HB 1937;“reflective vests” could be worn that will meet the letter of the law yet not increase visibility in any way.
  • Current law (307.185 RSMo) already requires reflectorsthat meet definite standards for visibility; HB 1937 has no standard for visibility and so has no visibility benefit.
  • For many types of bicycles and situations, a reflective vest does not create any visibility at all. Current Missouri law requires reflectors that provide visibility to the front, rear, and sides under specific conditions, an already-existing and superior requirement.
  • Fixing the above three problems to define reflectivity and require visibility from all directions and all types of bicycles will make HB 1937 look a lot like the existing 307.185.
  • A reflective vest will not create any extra visibility whatsoever under daylight conditions,when most bicycling on state highways occurs.
  • Specifying specific clothing will meet resistance; noncompliance will be huge. Choice of clothing is a very personal decision and a requirement for the general public to wear a particular article of clothing will be viewed as infringing very strongly on personal freedom and choice.  Current law requires visibility; the means of achieving that required visibility—whether through clothing or some other way--are left to the individual.

Discouraging bicycling and unintentionally reducing safety

  • Most bicyclists already dress for high visibility - but not necessarily by wearing a vest, because a vest is not necessarily the most effective way to improve visibility.  For the majority of bicyclists who already dress for visibility during the day and already have reflectors/lights at night, this bill will actually reduce their visibility and add an annoying and onerous burden.  Those who don't already dress for high visibility are likely to simply ignore the law.
  • Onerous, non-standard requirements decrease the amount of bicyclingat a time when for health, economic, and practical reasons, Missouri should be encouraging more bicycling. The health benefits of bicycling outweigh the safety dangers by a factor of 20.
  • Safety for bicyclists is tied directly to the amount of bicycling: More bicycling means greater safety (per mile ridden)and less bicycling means more injuries/fatalities per mile ridden. Onerous and ineffective requirements  discourage bicycling, reduce the amount of bicycling, and so reduce safety as well as community health.
  • Non-standard:Current Missouri requirements for reflectors and lighting are similar to laws in all 50 states and most cities and counties. They are standard, proven, and easily complied with by all bicyclists and bicycles.  The reflective vest is not required anywhere in the U.S.
  • Unenforceable:Police rarely enforce existing bicycle laws and regulations, many of which have very strong, proven safety benefits.  Will they spend their valuable time enforcing a non-standard law with no proven safety benefit?
  • Confusing:“State roads and highways” wend through every city, town, and county in Missouri.  The average person does not know when he or she is on, or crossing, a state road or highway vs. city or county road. 
  • Will require the reflective vest on nearly all bicycle trips—even on trails.  Most bicycle trips, including trips on within city limits or on trails, require at least some portion along or across state roads or highways.
  • Most bicycle owners—80%—are  casual bicyclists and requiring purchase and maintenance of additional, specific equipment only discourages casual bicyclists from bicycling at all.

 

What could really make a difference in improving bicycle safety in Missouri?

  • Improve/modernize Missouri’s existing reflector and lighting requirementsfor bicyclists, 307.185,  to make them state-of-the-art .
  • A statewide visibility campaign for bicyclists– which would create a far larger effect on bicyclist behavior than an unenforceable law. A small appropriation will have a huge safety benefit—most probably far larger than passing any statute, which is likely to remain unknown by the vast majority of casual bicyclists.
  • Bicyclist and motorist education– proven to dramatically improve bicyclist safety.
  • Public outreach and safety campaigns.
  • Law enforcement training and enforcement of existing lawsaccording to best practices for bicyclists.
  • Improve our roads--for instance, by adding shoulders to state highways.Bicycle and pedestrian businesses and organizations will strongly support moving in this direction, which benefits motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians and is proven to dramatically improve safety and extend the lifetime of roads.

 

HB 1937 – Requiring Bicyclists to Wear a Reflective Vest

 Proposed language: “307.184. Every person riding a bicycle upon a state road or highway shall wear a reflective vest.”

 

Current Missouri Law:

307.185. Every bicycle and motorized bicycle when in use on a street or highway during the period from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise shall be equipped with the following:

(1) A front-facing lamp on the front or carried by the rider which shall emit a white light visible at night under normal atmospheric conditions on a straight, level, unlighted roadway at five hundred feet;

(2) A rear-facing red reflector, at least two square inches in reflective surface area, or a rear-facing red lamp, on the rear which shall be visible at night under normal atmospheric conditions on a straight, level, unlighted roadway when viewed by a vehicle driver under the lower beams of vehicle headlights at six hundred feet;

(3) Reflective material and/or lights on any part of the bicyclist's pedals, crank arms, shoes or lower leg, visible from the front and the rear at night under normal atmospheric conditions on a straight, level, unlighted roadway when viewed by a vehicle driver under the lawful lower beams of vehicle headlights at two hundred feet; and

(4) Reflective material and/or lights visible on each side of the bicycle or bicyclist and visible at night under normal atmospheric conditions on a straight, level, unlighted roadway when viewed by a vehicle driver under the lawful lower beams of vehicle headlights at three hundred feet. The provisions of this subdivision shall not apply to motorized bicycles which comply with National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration regulations relating to reflectors on motorized bicycles.

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