Portland Century - August 18th

Noted lawyer Ray Thomas opposes bill that would mandate rear bike lights

Posted by on May 6th, 2015 at 1:18 pm

Ray Thomas.
(Photo J. Maus/BikePortland)

When Oregon House Representative John Davis proposed making reflective clothing mandatory while bicycling, many people understandably scoffed at the idea. Thankfully, he too apparently realized the absurdity of government intervention into apparel choices and quickly gutted his bill and stuffed it with something else.

Davis’ clothing idea quickly morphed into a bill (HB 3255) that would mandate rear lights on all bicycles (current law calls for only a rear reflector). That seemed like a good idea to me at first glance; but after hearing Portland-based lawyer and bike law expert Ray Thomas‘ opposition to it, I’ve changed my mind.

Thomas called me yesterday to say he was actively working to stop the bill. He has several significant concerns about how the new equipment requirement would impact bicycle riders in Oregon.

Thomas has sent an email to the six members of the Senate Committee on Business and Transportation where the bill currently sits while it awaits a hearing.

Here are the salient points of Thomas’ argument (as taken from his email):

This means that every person and child riding a bike bought from their local bike shop or Fred Meyer store would be in violation of the law if they rode the bike at dusk in their neighborhood without having bought and installed a rear red light, even though every new bicycle purchased in the state of Oregon is already required by federal law to have 8 reflectors installed on it, including 3 reflectors (red to rear, yellow on each pedal) that are activated by the approaching headlights of an overtaking motor vehicle. If these Oregonians are hit by a careless driver HB 3255 would provide a full legal defense to the driver even though the riders had more than adequate rear reflectors already required by Oregon and federal law.

HB 3255 is a bad idea because it heightens Oregon’s requirements of bicycle riders such that it makes all bikes illegal to ride that are presently in a legal state of trim with a white light to the front. Even the safety conscious and conservative Uniform Vehicle Code only requires a red reflector, which is also already Oregon law. ALL bikes when purchased are required by federal law from the CPSC to have an 8 reflector system that includes both rear red reflectors and rear facing pedal reflectors and spoke reflectors.

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And what HB 3255 would do is make it even more difficult to comply with Oregon vehicle law for those least likely to know about it or able to afford the modifications the law would require for every Oregon bicycle in order for it to be legally operated.

And how will the new law be used? To heap comparative negligence or fault onto a bicycle rider when they get run down by an overtaking motorist who was failing to give them the existing legal minimum passing distance? Who will pay for a statewide TV media buy to inform Oregonians that their bicycles are illegal without rear red lights? How could the fiscal have a big zero on it in the legislature? Did anyone tell legislators that the cost of responsibly informing every Oregonian who rides a bike is going to be in the many thousands of dollars? What about all the ODOT Oregon Driver Manuals and Oregon Bicyclist Manuals that are in classrooms and school libraries that would now be wrong because they tell people that it is legal to ride with a rear red reflector like the one that is already on the rear of their bike?

What is being confused here is the difference between what is a preferred safe riding practice (rear red lights at night) and the legal minimum necessary to ride lawfully at night. Safety advocates uniformly suggest that bikes have rear red lights at best, but at least a rear red reflector. But a preferred safe riding practice should not be transformed into a legal requirement any more than that it should be a state law that only cars with side passenger air bags can be legally operated on Oregon roads.

In his email, Thomas also made the point that if this law passed, many people would discard their existing rear reflectors. Then, if their light stopped working for some reason (batteries or malfunction), they would be left with no visibility aids at all.

When the man who wrote the book on Oregon bicycle law (literally) and has helped craft many existing ones comes out this strongly against a bill, we think it’s worth taking seriously.

HB 3255 has already passed the House by a vote of 44-14. There is no committee hearing scheduled yet (might be worth noting that the House committee it breezed through was vice-chaired by Rep. Davis). We’ll keep you posted.

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182 Comments
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    But a preferred safe riding practice should not be transformed into a legal requirement any more than that it should be a state law that only cars with side passenger air bags can be legally operated on Oregon roads.

    I feel like this is really a false analogy. All motor vehicles operated on Oregon roads are required to have taillights, and it should be no different for bikes operated after dark.

    Reflectors only work when light is pointed directly at them. This won’t help if a driver forgets to turn on their headlights (seen it many times), nor will it help if a vehicle is approaching from an angle such that their headlights don’t hit the reflectors.

    Bike lights are relatively cheap, and if you’re already going to the effort of buying a front light to ride legally at night, you might as well get a rear light at the same time.

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      Cheif May 6, 2015 at 1:56 pm

      No new bicycle should be sold without integrated lighting, front or rear.

      No laws should be created mandating this however.

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      soren May 6, 2015 at 2:12 pm

      “All motor vehicles operated on Oregon roads are required to have taillights, and it should be no different for bikes operated after dark.”

      I don’t drive my bike. I am also tired of laws that put the safety onus on vulnerable traffic.

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        paikiala May 6, 2015 at 3:55 pm

        By law, you operate a non-motorized vehicle like a person in a car operates a motorized vehicle, so, yeah, you drive your bike even more than a person in a car drives the car.

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          soren May 7, 2015 at 7:52 am

          I’ll remember that when I next “drive” on a sidewalk, shared path, bike path, or mup, paikiala.

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          Joseph E May 7, 2015 at 8:32 am

          “Drive” comes from carriages pulled by horses, which were “driven” in front. Bikes are like a single person riding on top of a horse: you “ride” a horse in that situation, thus you “ride” a bicycle.

          Drive: Old English drīfan ‘urge (a person or animal) to go forward,’ of Germanic origin; related to Dutch drijven and German treiben .

          Ride: Old English rīdan, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch rijden and German reiten; sit on and control the movement of (an animal, especially a horse), typically as a recreation or sport.

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      Bjorn May 6, 2015 at 2:20 pm

      Cars that were sold prior to the seatbelt mandate are not required to have seatbelts. Cars with only one tail light and no turn signals are not required to add either. I think what Ray was saying with his analogy is that we should not mandate safety upgrades for bicycles, especially ones that really aren’t nice for safety, like side airbags, but not necessary.

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      SD May 6, 2015 at 3:30 pm

      Not as much of a false analogy as comparing car tail lights to bike tail lights.

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      Randall S. May 6, 2015 at 5:02 pm

      Front and rear lights aren’t visible from the side. If you’re going through the hassle of buying a front and rear light, why not just buy left and right lights as well?

      Front, rear, left and right bike lights are typically attached to the bicycle, offering pedestrians no protection. How is a car supposed to see you after you have left your bike? Clearly, pedestrians need to carry lights as well: front, rear, left, and right.

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        My front and rear lights are visible from the side. If you’re going through the hassle of buying a front and rear light, you probably should be considering whether your light has good visibility from various angles.

        Pedestrians don’t typically travel in the same shared road space as cars, and pedestrians go much slower. If we had truly separate infrastructure you could maybe make the argument for not needing rear lights on bikes, but we don’t.

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          Dan May 7, 2015 at 5:13 am

          Oh, sure, rear lights are needed, but that’s not the point. This bill is trying to reduce liability for drivers. If anything, they deserve MORE liability.

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            Charley May 7, 2015 at 7:49 am

            Hit the nail on the head. It’s not about safety, it’s about giving insurance companies an excuse to find cyclists at fault.

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          9watts May 7, 2015 at 9:14 am

          “Pedestrians don’t typically travel in the same shared road space as cars”

          Then how come hundreds of them are killed every year and tens of thousands injured by people piloting automobiles?

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      The Odd Duck May 7, 2015 at 5:00 pm

      On my trike I have spoke reflectors that are about four inches long and you push them on to different spoke. One night as I turn on the outside light with my trike out side the wheels lit up like a fairest-wheel. I far as I am concerned I like extra layer of protection.

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    Mindful Cyclist May 6, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    Personally, I wish bicycle manufacturers were required to put a functional rear and lights on bicycles.

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      colton May 6, 2015 at 2:01 pm

      Hell, quality reflectors would be a good start. Most reflectors I’ve had break and fall off within the first month of use.

      I personally have no use in manufacturers adding lights if they are going to be of similar quality.

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        Adam H. May 6, 2015 at 3:47 pm

        Oh don’t even get me started on those stupid spoke reflectors. I usually end up taking them off or they break off within a month (usually falling somewhere onto the street). My tires have reflective sidewalls, anyway.

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          resopmok May 6, 2015 at 4:37 pm

          Those “stupid” spoke reflectors are actually quite good at announcing one’s presence at an intersection to perpendicular traffic, especially if the intersection is quite dark, like many greenways and bikeways that cross arterials. Not long after I started driving again (I bought a truck to help maintain my house), I noticed what a difference it made in visibility from the driver’s standpoint. I rushed to the bike shop to get two for each wheel, large ones, with nuts and bolts that attach them to the wheel. They’ve been on there all of the past winter, and I credit them to providing better visibility of my bike to cars in at least three otherwise potentially dangerous situations. My front and rear light provide pretty poor side visibility, and though I might like to invest in some type of spoke light, I don’t want to have to remove those as well every time I lock up.

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            richard May 6, 2015 at 5:27 pm

            They’d be more effective if they didn’t break and fall off.

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            Adam H. May 7, 2015 at 10:21 am

            I prefer tires with reflective sidewalls instead of plastic reflectors that break off. Do you find the bikes with the reflective tires to be as noticeable as the ones with the spoke reflectors?

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              El Biciclero May 7, 2015 at 11:47 am

              Reflective sidewalls lose some effectiveness after a couple of rainy commutes.

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                John Lascurettes May 9, 2015 at 10:27 am

                Not in my experience and their retro-reflective properties are usually many times higher than those plastic excuses for spoke reflectors. The sidewall reflectors actually have more total surface area than the spoke reflectors too so they have more chance of catching a beam of headlight coming from the side. Also, a bike stopped at an intersection is more immediately recognizable as a bike when the reflective pattern is a big 700 cm circle and not a reflector that could just as well be attached to a telephone pole.

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              resopmok May 8, 2015 at 9:46 am

              My tires also have reflective sidewalls, but biciclero is right that they get smudged with road grime pretty quickly and essentially lose their effectiveness. IMO the key is to find reflectors that are a bit better than the small, stock ones that most wheels come with. The plastic clip that attaches them is usually pretty flimsy and breaks easily. The ones I found all attach with a bolt and nut, making them adjustable and less likely to just snap off, and are also quite large in surface area. I dug through the reflector bins at a few LBSs that have their focus on repair and commuter bikes, but I suspect that too many people like me will deplete their supplies relatively quickly.. Anyway, I agree that the general quality of the wheel reflectors is pretty bad, but they are still an oft overlooked, effective safety measure that provide good side visibility.

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                John Lascurettes May 9, 2015 at 10:29 am

                Something is different with my experience and yours. I haven’t had a bike with rim brakes in almost 8 years, so maybe that’s where your grime is coming from? Because I ride with sidewall reflector tires year round and have found that their efficacy is barely affected by actual road grime or grit.

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                resopmok May 10, 2015 at 9:38 am

                Yes it seems likely that the dust shed from my rim brakes, when mixing with water and centrifugal force of the spinning wheel, coats the sidewall of the tire with a virtually irremovable grime. I don’t really clean my bike religiously like some folks either, so it builds up pretty quickly. Also I would note that while the overall surface area of the reflective sidewall may be higher, it is just a thin line around the whole tire which gives less impression of movement and therefore, in my experience is less noticeable.

                All this is pretty anecdotal, and I’m not too sure that any one reflective surface is the best solution, and none of them are as good as a light designed specifically for side visibility would be. I think we can all agree though that something is better than nothing, and more better than less.

                Down the street from me is a bike shop owned by a fellow who made an A-frame sign for his shop with a big pile of used reflectors. He noted though, that still didn’t prevent an individual from hitting the sign with their car.. Perhaps the driver’s mistake wasn’t a visibility issue..

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    rain waters May 6, 2015 at 1:55 pm

    You might as well lease an SUV for that matter.

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    Chris Anderson May 6, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    Do the BTA or other advocacy organizations have a stance on this? I see it as being a lot like the kids helmet law — mostly something cops can use as an excuse to pick on the less fortunate / educated. It’d be interesting to do a deep dive on the kids helmet citations in Oregon and see what kinds of equity issues are present. I bet this law would have a similar enforcement pattern.

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      Chris Anderson May 6, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      You can watch the BTA roll over at 17 minutes into this hearing video. Seriously reconsidering my membership. http://oregon.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=8933

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        Dan May 6, 2015 at 3:22 pm

        OMG.

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        Pete May 6, 2015 at 4:45 pm

        Wow. He really didn’t say anything of substance for or against, did he?

        Regarding the kid’s helmet law, in practice I’ve seen our police force (Santa Clara, CA) use it as a pretty effective educational outreach tool. When we’ve had funding in the past they’ve done ‘stings’ with a diversion program, essentially giving children a ‘ticket’ to attend training at a sponsoring LBS where they are also fitted with a free helmet. These days our funding tends to go more towards crosswalk stings though, even though we haven’t officially signed up for Vision Zero (like our neighbor San Jose has: http://www.cyclelicio.us/2015/san-jose-vision-zero-report-2015 – ignore my usual sarcasm there).

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      encephalopath May 6, 2015 at 6:29 pm

      It will get used as an excuse to harass the homeless and minorities just like mandatory registration and helmet laws.

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    Patrick Barber May 6, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    Mr. Thomas’ is an interesting perspective, but my big takeaway from this article is that I will now begin to describe the condition of my bicycle in terms of its “state of trim.” Classy!

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    ~n May 6, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Thank you, Ray Thomas!

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    oliver May 6, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    You’re talking about marginally increasing rider safety from a minority of negligent motor vehicle operators.

    This proposed law cannot be taken at face value, it’s primary objective is to increase barriers to cycling while concurrently reducing liability to negligent drivers.

    I don’t ride without lights (because I don’t have reflectors), but if pointing my helmet light directly into the passenger cabin of vehicles threatening to turn into my path isn’t always enough to stop them, cheap tail-lights aren’t enough to stop the distracted from driving into the back of people on bikes either.

    It just gives them the legal right to do it.

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    Eric May 6, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    44 members of the house have never ridden a bike?

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    Joshua Cohen May 6, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    Unlike motor vehicles, most red taillights now installed on bicycles are removable, and have an on-off switch. Even if it was operating correctly at the time of a collision, there are a number of things that might happen before an investigating officer arrives that could cause that red light to turn off or disappear altogether.

    This bill sets up a very simple way for a vehicle operator (and their insurer) to place blame on the injured party: just say the rear light wasn’t on, and unless there are a host of witnesses that say otherwise, you’ve got your legal defense.

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      Bjorn May 6, 2015 at 2:22 pm

      Oh and by the way I have read about cases where the impact of the crash broke and or dislodged a front light and the cop wrote it up as no light even though the cyclist had a working front light when they were hit, this just doubles the odds of that.

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        J_R May 6, 2015 at 2:29 pm

        I’m seem to remember that about ten years ago, a judge from somewhere in southern Oregon who was on a training ride for an upcoming Cycle Oregon week when he was struck by a car. The investigating officer concluded, based on evaluating the wrecked bike, that the bike was not in gear and that the rider probably lost control and was the cause of the crash. I think that’s before he learned the rider was a judge.

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          Adam H. May 6, 2015 at 3:52 pm

          the bike was not in gear

          What does that even mean? The chain had popped off the cassette? Even if that were the case, it would not prevent the brakes from functioning.

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            J_R May 7, 2015 at 6:56 am

            I agree. The officer’s conclusion makes no sense. What I was trying to point out is that the officer, for whatever reason, assigned blame to the cyclist for the crash rather than concluding that his imagined evidence (“bike not being in gear”) was the result of the collision.

            I can see this same officer, responding to a night time crash, look around and not finding a still glowing tail light affixed to the bike, conclude that the cyclist didn’t have one at the time of the collision. He might ignore the shards of plastic of the light that had been crushed under the wheels of the car or conclude that the blinking light found 30 feet away in the weeds had fallen off another bike some days before.

            If this law passes, I anticipate a common question asked by the motorist’s attorney in court will be “Officer, did you find the legally-required rear tail light on the bicycle in question and are you certain it was operating at the time of this unfortunate accident?”

            The Oregonian will gladly expand its car-versus-bike campaign to include “the cyclist was/was not wearing a helmet, but did not have a rear tail light.” Of course, there will be no mention in the article about whether the collision occurred before or after sunset.

            I wish I had thought about the blame the victim issues before this passed the House.

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      El Biciclero May 6, 2015 at 4:16 pm

      This right here. It’s already (I’m assuming) difficult to prove compliance with lighting requirements after a crash in which one’s light is destroyed; this bill would make it twice as hard.

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    Dan May 6, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    John Davis not interested in protecting cyclists. He is interested in protecting drivers.

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      caesar May 6, 2015 at 5:30 pm

      Yes, but did you listen to his testimony? He comes across as so suave, so nice, so concerned, so very like-able. He’s a smooth talker, he is.

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        Pete May 6, 2015 at 11:48 pm

        Some of his coworkers even ride their bikes to work!

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    m May 6, 2015 at 2:39 pm

    Are all bikes currently required to be sold with a front light?

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      Todd Boulanger May 6, 2015 at 2:53 pm

      This is why you see the silly stickers on may big box bikes that warn the rider to ‘not ride at night’, etc.

      I would expect that if this law were passed AND if it did not allow for grandfathering in pre-law bicycles (like the car example given by Ray) then police officers would have a much easier tool for pulling over cyclists to look at other issues but using a pretence to do “safety checks”. We have heard of many similar situations to riding while “_____fill in the blank____” in Vancouver WA with the local all ages helmet law we have.

      It is very interesting historical reading to read about how the state vehicle codes for bicycles were effected by CPSC / Schwinn politics in the late 1960s/ early 197ps bike boom. Versus say how the German law influenced the equipping of bicycles (on the other “extreme”).

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        m May 6, 2015 at 3:56 pm

        Sorry, but I don’t think Mr. Thomas’ argument even passes the smell test. And he probably knows it. He doesn’t like it because it will make it harder for him to win lawsuits and therefore earn money as a plaintiff’s attorney, not because he is concerned about bike safety. As it stands now, bikes aren’t required to have a front light at the point of sale, but front lights are required by existing law to be ridden ride at night/dusk. This change is a common sense practical solution that has a similar logic to the front light requirement already in place. A super-majority of bike riding likely happens during daylight hours so this won’t be an issue for most people. Lights can be purchased for less that $10.

        It seems we like to talk about Vision Zero only when it is convenient. This is a no-brainer idea that will most definitely save lives.

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          Pete May 6, 2015 at 5:06 pm

          “…not because he is concerned about bike safety.”

          Ray Thomas not concerned about bike safety… that’s rich! How long have you been in Oregon?

          Lights for bicycles are a different beast than lighting on cars. My impression from listening to the testimony (in Chris Anderson’s link above) is that you have representatives who don’t understand this, and believe that the $6 light that his father-in-law found at a big-box store suffices for adequate visibility on a rider who may potentially be moving anywhere from 5 MPH to, say, 25 MPH on a bike. I personally switched lights for my wife, when she was nearly broadsided when a driver ran a stop sign, from a 700-lumen Niterider to an 800-lumen Light & Motion – not because it’s brighter but because it has side markers. (We also equipped her with reflective sidewalls which are extremely effective. How do I know that, by the way? Because I’ve been involved in after-dark visibility workshops for bicyclists where we video and measure such things).

          This bill as written does nothing to quantify the lighting specifications required for the visibility requirements, and even the representative’s own statements misrepresent the investment required to achieve proper 360-degree visibility on a bike at night.

          Nathan Hinkle may be able to address this best, but I don’t know of any $10 light that can be seen from 600′ away. I have a 60-lumen rechargeable rear taillight that’s the brightest we’ve ever seen, but it needs to be charged frequently when running in its brightest mode.

          In my opinion this bill opens up a host of new problems, while the most effective solution here is actually through education, not legislation and enforcement.

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            m May 6, 2015 at 5:35 pm

            I was referring to this particular issue not in general. He has done many good things for bike safety but I think he is definitely wrong on this issue. When you say the bill doesn’t quantify the standard, I believe they use a 500 ft visibility requirement, the same as the existing law for the front of the bike. Should a certain lumens # be required?

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              Pete May 6, 2015 at 11:59 pm

              “Should a certain lumens # be required?”

              Can you tell me exactly how many lumens a taillight requires to be seen from 600′ away? I can tell you that when I’m riding and come up to many, many other riders, it’s only when I’m really close to them that I notice their little blinky taillight is actually on. I could buy a really nice light if I had a dollar for the number of times I’ve told people they should look into replacing their battery soon.

              I’m willing to bet the majority of taillights out there can barely be seen at the distance of a football field, which is a little over half the distance that this law requires.

              Guess it’s time for me to break out the GoPro again…

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                Lumens measures total output in all directions, and can’t be directly used to determine beam distance. A lightbulb in your home puts out about 800 lumens, but spreads its light very differently from how an 800 lumen bike headlight does. Beam distance on the other hand can be measured and there’s actually a standard way to do so. As a rule of thumb though, anything < ~25 lumens won't have enough output to be useful at any significant distance. A car's taillights typically put out around 200-300 lumens, though spread out over a much larger surface area and typically a less focused output beam than a bike light.

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                Pete May 7, 2015 at 10:02 am

                When I get a chance I’ll video walking towards my $35 60-lumen taillight next to my car from 600′ away in the dark. I think I know a park where I’ll be able to set this up.

                600 feet is a pretty long distance. Just for comparison, I decided to look up car stopping distance estimates for various speeds in feet, and coincidentally one of the first charts to pop up was on this site:
                http://bikeportland.org/2010/09/01/in-london-20s-plenty-fast-enough-38816

                I understand beamforming and brightness, but the average consumer shopping for a light is given price, output (in lumens), features, and sometimes estimated battery life. The analogies with automobiles that keep getting brought up are oversimplified. The brightness and beam patterns on cars have been standardized for decades. When I was younger, you couldn’t keep a car on the road unless it passed an annual inspection, one test of which was the headlight aiming and brightness on both low and high beams. A car’s lights are typically either working or they’re not. Sometimes dirt can interfere, but rarely does a low battery cause their ‘visibility’ at a set distance to drop off radically.

                I’m a strong advocate for riding highly visibly, but I just believe this bill is not thought out well and opening up a can of worms. I’m also alarmed at the recent spate of bills targeting ‘bicycle safety’, as if there’s a sudden epidemic of cars hitting bicyclists on roadways across the country. An increase, yes, but if they’re going to address the problem effectively a better place to start is at the DMV (for both bicyclist and driver education, as many bicyclists already drive).

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            You’re right that the very cheapest lights (and a disappointing number of expensive lights) don’t have adequate side visibility, and also correct that a $10 light isn’t significantly visible from a distance. It’s easy to get a $25 light though which is rechargeable and visible from a good distance.

            The current legislation regarding reflectors includes a qualifier on distance from which the light must be visible. The problem though is that “visible” is subjective. Does it have to be visible in dense fog? What constitutes “visible” anyways… just that it’s in your field of vision if you look for it? For this reason I think saying the light must be visible from a certain distance is impractical.

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              Pete May 7, 2015 at 4:06 pm

              BTW I’m really sorry, not intending to pick on you but rather make a point in this comment: http://bikeportland.org/2015/05/06/lawyer-ray-thomas-really-doesnt-like-bill-make-rear-bike-lights-mandatory-142810#comment-6374175

              Your site provides a really valuable service – thank you. If this bill passes you’ve got some homework to do, though… 😉

              P.S. I love your suggestion about combining the steady and flashing taillights. I typically run an Axiom 60 on the seatpost in steady mode and Radbot 1000 flashing midway up the seat stay.

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                Inspired by the discussion here I did a quick measurement and back-of-the-envelope calculation with a Cygolite Hotshot, one of the most popular and affordable USB-rechargeable taillights. At 600 ft, the brightness would be about 0.17 lux. For comparison, the approximate brightness of the full moon on a clear night is about 0.25 lux. Light intensity falls off with the square of the distance, so the difference between 300 ft and 600 ft is (1/4) the brightness, not (1/2) the brightness.

                I don’t have any table of the effective visible distance for taillights because “visible” is a very subjective term, and is not clearly defined in the current reflector law nor the proposed taillight law. Visibility depends on weather conditions, contrast with the ambient lighting environment, whether the light is flashing or not (flashing lights are perceived by the brain as being brighter than a steady light of equal intensity), and many other factors.

                The ANSI FL-1 Standard is used to quantify performance of bike lights, flash lights, and other similar products. This standard specifies a measurement technique for “beam distance”, which is what I used for the measurement above. They define beam distance as the distance at which you would measure 0.25 lux. For the Cygolite Hotshot measured above, that would be at 480 ft. However, this standard was written for lights designed to see with, not be seen by, so it’s not necessarily appropriate to directly compare the two. For headlights I do use this test and you can find plots of beam distance vs. battery runtime for many of the lights I’ve reviewed. It’s just important to keep in mind that “beam distance” as defined by the standard does not equal “visible distance”. Perhaps it would be useful to report this anyways, at least as a number to compare lights to each other, even if it doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about the actual distance from which a light can be seen.

                Just to give you a point of reference, the beam distance for the Light & Motion Urban 800 was 142 m, or 465 ft. However, I guarantee you can see that light from much further than 465 ft away. Perhaps come summer when I have a bit more time, I’ll actually go out to a long empty stretch of road and take some pictures/videos of different lights from a really long distance, so people can compare effective visibility.

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                Meant to reply to a different one of your posts, but oh well.

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          Bjorn May 6, 2015 at 5:33 pm

          I take it you have never been seriously injured when hit by a car?

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          Chris I May 7, 2015 at 6:38 am

          You’re probably right; it will make it harder for him to win lawsuits. For example, you are riding home one night with your state-approved rear light. A texting SUV driver creams you, destroying your bike and sending you to the hospital. Because you are incapacitated, and there were no other witnesses, the driver states to the responding police that you “had no visible rear light”. The police may not cite you, but the SUV driver’s insurance will not pay you a dime, and if you hire a lawyer like Mr. Thomas, you will lose in court.

          Now do you understand why he opposes this law?

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            El Biciclero May 7, 2015 at 3:26 pm

            “The police may not cite you…”

            Depends on the jurisdiction, I suppose.

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    SD May 6, 2015 at 2:48 pm

    It is great that Thomas mentions the use of resources that are required for responsibly administering this law. Those resources would be much better spent augmenting efforts to increase the use of bike lights instead of criminalizing current behavior.

    It is mental laziness to think that making a law will lead to the desired outcome without significant costs. The costs associated with this law will be regressive fees/ tickets that people who don’t have lights will not be able to afford to pay. In other words, the harshness of the penalty will be inversely proportional to income. The assumption in this case, unless there is data, would be that the majority of people without rear lights have lower incomes.

    Laws like this are currently abused by police routinely. This was recently brought to light in Florida, where the over enforcement of bike laws has become institutionalized and are unequally used against minorities. It is important to remember that if someone can’t pay their ticket, there are associated fees that accumulate and can have serious consequences. Laws like this are not benign.

    As Thomas mentions as well, which cannot be understated, blame will immediately shift to the cyclist in a collision, whether it is warranted or not.

    The net effect of this law will be negative. It would be better to provide people with lights who do not already have them. If you wanted to encourage people to bike, you would give them lights.
    If, on the other hand, you want to appeal to a base that primarily drives cars and is either worried about hitting a cyclist or is simply annoyed by the inconvenience of sharing the road you propose a law that criminalizes and restricts cyclists behavior.

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    Lester Burnham May 6, 2015 at 3:02 pm

    Again, if only there were as much effort put into keeping motorists off cellphones. Sigh.

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    Mike Reams May 6, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    Sounds like two great libertarian arguments.

    Just because a behavior is desirable is not justification for making it mandatory.

    The law and its intentions may be good but, we must consider its actual benefit and at what cost that benefit comes.

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    dan May 6, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    I will get on board with the back light requirement as long as the law also stipulates that driver who runs down a cyclist using a rear red light is 100% at fault and will lose their license for a minimum of 5 years.

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      Cheif May 6, 2015 at 3:41 pm

      And since the only way to ensure someone who has had their license revoked won’t just drive anyway is to incarcerate them, five year jail sentences in addition.

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      Dwaine Dibbly May 6, 2015 at 5:37 pm

      Somebody get this into an amendment, please!

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    gutterbunnybikes May 6, 2015 at 3:35 pm

    One point left out, and of utmost importance, is that most the bicycle safety laws are disproportionately enforced on minorities, and are often used by police to harass them.

    If the goal is to get to a 20%+ bike share anytime soon, getting people of all ethnicities on bicycles is perhaps one of the biggest obstacles to achieving that goal.

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      SD May 6, 2015 at 9:50 pm

      This is a crucial point that was not discussed in the hearing on the video. No one could possibly believe that police throughout the state of Oregon would enforce petty, but costly, laws like this evenly. Not to mention that this could easily be a precedent for other states.

      http://streetsblog.net/2015/04/21/tampa-cops-bike-safety-campaign-reeks-of-racial-profiling/

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      Lee Smith May 8, 2015 at 11:45 am

      What are you talking about? The police don’t enforce any of the bicycle laws on the books now even when the bicycle rider breaks the law right in front of him. I have seen it myself.

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    Adam H. May 6, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    This is true of practically every new law. It changes the rules on something and people have to adapt. However, I do appose this law if there is no requirement that bike shops include a rear light with every bike purchase.

    Is there any other purchase that requires a purchase of a secondary item that was not included with the original item to be legal? Imagine if cars didn’t come with headlights and the driver was responsible for purchasing them separately and installing them. Why is this also not absurd when applied to bikes?

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      El Biciclero May 6, 2015 at 4:29 pm

      “Is there any other purchase that requires a purchase of a secondary item that was not included with the original item to be legal?”

      Bikes.

      Very few new bikes come with front lights, which are currently required for night riding. But this law would increase the amount of aftermarket outlay for required equipment, would open new legal avenues for drivers to deny responsibility for running over bicyclists, and requires less-reliable equipment over more-reliable (granted, the definition of “reliable” is subject to some interpretation).

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      m May 6, 2015 at 4:39 pm

      Because most riding happens during daylight hours, I think requiring lights at the point of sale is a bad idea and an unnecessary cost. I am a fair weather daylight commuter. My bike doesn’t have any lights.

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        esther2 May 8, 2015 at 9:24 pm

        the law doesn’t. it requires a visible red light displayed at night. doesn’t say it has to be on at point of sale or even on the bike.

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      davemess May 6, 2015 at 4:44 pm

      Motorcycle helmets in states where they are required.

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      Pete May 6, 2015 at 5:15 pm

      Further, it would be up to the driver to shop around and figure out how much to spend on which brand and model that might actually meet the visibility specifications (measured in feet, that is, not amps or lumens). Car owner must constantly make certain their lighting batteries are always charged or replaced – remember, a bike doesn’t have a big gas-powered generator and alternator. LEO would inherit the burden of ensuring that an arbitrary motorist’s light has the required legal output… heck, I see LOTS of cars with burnt-out brake and signal lights (when Californians actually use those… but I digress).

      A simple cause and effect analysis of this bill should be enough to shut it down, but I’m not inspired by the mockery and ignorance I hear in the video testimony linked to above.

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    Steve Scarich May 6, 2015 at 3:47 pm

    I think using a rear blinky light is a great idea; I have been doing it day and night for about 5 years. That said, I don’t think they should be mandated. And, most of the blinkies that I see are pretty useless. When I am driving, I realize it takes one of the really good ones to get my attention. I have become somewhat of an expert, having gone through close to ten, looking for the best one. Unfortunately, the best one I have found is really big and bulky and ruins the look of my $4000 racing like (:

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      Cheif May 6, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      Your lights shouldn’t be blinking anyway.

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        Andy K May 11, 2015 at 10:24 am

        Do not obey Cheif. Please use safety equipment that is legal *and* meets your own personal safety standards. In other words, Strobe away!

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      soren May 6, 2015 at 4:48 pm

      50 gms of 160 lumen goodness with brake light functionality:

      http://www.lupine.de/eng/products/rear-tail-lights/rotlicht

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        El Biciclero May 7, 2015 at 3:32 pm

        …for only $125!

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          soren May 7, 2015 at 8:18 pm

          well if you have a $4000 bike…

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            El Biciclero May 8, 2015 at 8:54 am

            True enough…

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    Dave May 6, 2015 at 4:30 pm

    Joshua Cohen
    Unlike motor vehicles, most red taillights now installed on bicycles are removable, and have an on-off switch. Even if it was operating correctly at the time of a collision, there are a number of things that might happen before an investigating officer arrives that could cause that red light to turn off or disappear altogether.
    This bill sets up a very simple way for a vehicle operator (and their insurer) to place blame on the injured party: just say the rear light wasn’t on, and unless there are a host of witnesses that say otherwise, you’ve got your legal defense.
    Recommended 16

    Very, very few bikes are made with dedicated locations for any kind of lighting; except for Dutch city bikes and “contsructeur” integrated sport and touring bikes I can’t think of any at all. And, it would be real interesting to see if enforcement was, um, colored in any way.

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    richard May 6, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    I’m with Adam H. I prefer the reflective sidewalls or probably most anything other than what the dealers slap on to meet the minimum requirements.

    The cheap junk the dealers use is probably better at being seen while it lasts, but the other stuff actually stays on the bike long enough to be useful.

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    Bjorn May 6, 2015 at 5:36 pm

    The other outcome of this will be that if you forget to remove your lights and one of the many theives in portland that the PPB seems powerless to deal with takes them, and you are then pulled over on your way home you will likely recieve two tickets one for each light, for a total of twice as much money as you would under the current rules.

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      Carrie May 6, 2015 at 9:29 pm

      I had this exact thought as I had to ride home after dark with no front light last week because someone stole mine (yes, I forgot and left it on my bike. Parked/locked on a sidewalk in Sellwood).

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      Lee Smith May 8, 2015 at 12:00 pm

      It’s a class D traffic infraction right now which is a parking ticket and you can read it here.

      http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/815.280

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    Osric May 6, 2015 at 5:40 pm

    While I disagree with this bill for lots of the same reasons as the commenters above, I want to point out something… I’m always hearing how wonderful infrastructure is in Copenhagen, but I rarely hear about the equipment on their bikes. If you look at one in detail, it usually has dynamo-powered front & rear lights and reflective sidewalls on the tires. Why aren’t bike advocates here advocating for having those European safety features built-in on our bikes?

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      Joseph E May 7, 2015 at 8:37 am

      I would advocate for that. It’s much more sensible to require lights at the point of sale rather than enforcing the requirement later.

      Imagine if you could buy a car without headlights!

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    gutterbunnybikes May 6, 2015 at 5:46 pm

    Also I gotta ask. One of my bikes run on a vintage dynohub, the result is that the lights go off when I’m stopped or going really slow. How would that apply?

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      Lynne May 7, 2015 at 3:52 pm

      In a word – standlight. Modern dyno lights have a capacitor, so the light stays on for a few minutes while stopped.

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    Todd Boulanger May 6, 2015 at 5:50 pm

    Hey Mark (Ginsberg) drop me an email – I have an idea for an event – if you still read BP.

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    encephalopath May 6, 2015 at 6:30 pm

    It will get used as an excuse to harass the homeless and minorities just like mandatory registration and helmet laws.

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    SD May 6, 2015 at 9:37 pm

    Jonathan, please correct me if I am wrong, but the penalty is $250.
    After following the link to the bill, I found that it is $250.
    If this is true, anytime this bill is mentioned it should be stated that the fine is $250. This is unbelievable and unnafordable for many people who rely on cycling for transportation.

    https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2015R1/Downloads/MeasureDocument/HB3255/A-Engrossed

    Whenever a law is introduced that restricts or penalizes the current lawful behavior of a minority, there should be sufficient objective evidence that the benefits of the law would clearly outweigh the harm caused by the law.

    Where is the evidence that this law will improve safety over the existing law? How many accidents have occured because a cyclist did not have a rear red light visible to 600 ft? How will the effectiveness of this law be measured?

    So far, I have seen nothing from Davis or supporters of this law that goes beyond the reasoning of an average 6 to 7 year old child.

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      El Biciclero May 7, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      $250 is the max fine for this violation. The new requirement is added to the text of a law that creates an offense which is a “Class D traffic violation”. The “presumptive fine” amount, which is the usual fine assessed is $110.

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        SD May 7, 2015 at 7:31 pm

        Thanks. Still too much.

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    wsbob May 6, 2015 at 10:40 pm

    “…HB 3255 is a bad idea because it heightens Oregon’s requirements of bicycle riders such that it makes all bikes illegal to ride that are presently in a legal state of trim with a white light to the front. …” Ray Thomas

    As ‘m’ upthread wrote:

    “…As it stands now, bikes aren’t required to have a front light at the point of sale, but front lights are required by existing law to be ridden ride at night/dusk. …”

    The bill, amending an existing law, would require an additional light, making two lights total required visibility equipment, with the already required front light for biking between dusk and dawn. If they’re not riding their bikes on the street between dusk and dawn, kids and other people’s bikes would not be illegal.

    I believe, though I don’t know for certain, that word of mouth about lighting required for biking in Oregon, is very good. Because it represents good customer relations and sales, bike shop employees are going to have an incentive to tell their customers about a requirement of a tail light, if 3255 becomes law.

    Definitely, the requirement of an additional light for biking is an increase in the expense and effort involved in maintaining and operating a bike. Got to fork out some bucks for a tail light; I’d say, if it’s used fairly often, don’t go super cheap: about $20-$30 should do it, unless you want to go ‘de-luxe’. Got to keep the batteries charged up too, if the light is a battery type.

    With the required front light, people riding at night, already have, or should be making an effort to have, the routine down. This is part of being a responsible, legitimate road user, which most advocates of biking seem to generally consider to be a worthy objective.

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    Serious question. For the people who are so adamantly against this proposal, do you also think that front lights shouldn’t be required on bicycles after dark?

    If you do think front lights ought to be required, what is the difference to you between requiring front vs. rear lights?

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      Dan May 7, 2015 at 5:21 am

      I don’t think front lights should be required after dark, and I often ride around my neighborhood without one. I stay away from cars when doing so, mostly meaning around the side streets and bike paths. I hope I’m not ticketed for it — it’s darn relaxing.

      That said, I’m about to depart on my commute, and will be using two front lights and two rear lights, both with side visibility.

      I don’t believe this is a ‘lights vs no lights’ debate. I think this is just another way to put more responsibility on cyclists and less on drivers. Mr Davis has it backwards.

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        davemess May 7, 2015 at 5:26 pm

        So is there any way to make it a “lights vs no lights” debate, and get a legal rear light requirement?

        I can’t imagine anyone is going to argue that a reflector is more effective than a light.

        So how does this move forward?

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        Lee Smith May 8, 2015 at 12:05 pm

        Then you are breaking current law, which you can read here.

        http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/815.280

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      soren May 7, 2015 at 8:02 am

      I have ridden without lighting a few times in Portland. I even managed to make it home without dying.

      My neighborhood positively teams with bike ninjas and I have absolutely no problem seeing them when I drive. IMO, ninjas are a huge benefit for others because they encourage people to drive slowly and cautiously. Just imagine how safe it would be to ride at night if ninja mode share was 10%!

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        Dan May 7, 2015 at 8:10 am

        We have lots of ninja joggers at 5am. It keeps you on your toes. Heightened awareness is a good thing!

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      Chris Anderson May 7, 2015 at 8:10 am

      Serious answer: the legislation / conversation makes me and my family less safe on the road, by expanding the list of excuses available to drivers, and making it significantly harder for bike crash victims to prove they were riding with legal trim.

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        9watts May 7, 2015 at 9:24 am

        Ding, ding! Chris wins the cookie.

        In a perfect world, Nathan Hinkle, we’d all bike, have lots of lumens, people driving would not run into or over us because they are paying attention, cops wouldn’t profile anyone, and there would be no poor people or people who don’t understand English who might bike at dusk. But we don’t live in that world. At least I’m pretty sure I don’t.
        To introduce a law like this into our messy, imperfect, biased, violent society is to invite injustice, punitive enforcement, more opportunities for Car-head to twist the fault finding efforts in crashes, etc. No thanks.

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        Lee Smith May 8, 2015 at 12:08 pm

        Please read this.

        http://www.oregonlaws.org/ors/815.280

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      SD May 7, 2015 at 8:26 am

      When you look over your shoulder or in your rear view mirror, an object behind you has greater visibility if it is generating light. This would also be the case for pedestrian walking toward an oncoming object, i.e. person (without a flashlight) walking toward an oncoming bicycle with a front light.

      When you are overtaking an object, the light that you generate with your front light will be reflected back to you by the rear reflector.

      The light in the front is better for visibility because there is not necessarily light directed toward the front of a bicycle that could be reflected back.

      This is the convention and also serves the purpose (primarily for cars) of illuminating the road and other non light-emitting objects.

      Most rear red lights would not be a significant improvement over the current requirements. In some cases rear lights could be worse if they are small and not reflective.

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      Joseph E May 7, 2015 at 8:36 am

      Front lights protect vulnerable pedestrians. They let people see a bike coming when they are walking, so they don’t step out right into a bike. Therefore, bikes need a white headlight to protect other vulnerable street users.

      Red taillights are there to protect the bike rider and make it easier for drivers to see bikes. Important, but not worth making into a law.

      (I actually would support a law requiring all bikes to be sold with headlights and taillights, similar to the German and Dutch laws for city bikes, with an exception for expensive racing bikes.)

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        wsbob May 7, 2015 at 9:25 am

        I believe the thinking behind the required front light for use of bikes on the road between dusk and dawn, is for the safety of the person riding the bike, but also, for all road users as well.

        The front light on a bike, helps other road users such as those driving motor vehicles, be aware of people on the road riding bikes. An example would be two road users, one on a bike, the other driving a car, approaching each other from opposite directions: the person driving is preparing to make a left turn. The person driving needs to be able to readily see the person approaching them on the bike, in order to avoid the ‘left hook’ situation.

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      Pete May 7, 2015 at 10:27 am

      I think the difference at this point in time is that front lights are already required. We see a percentage of people who don’t comply, just like we see people who don’t obey speed limits, use turn signals, etc. There’s no equivalency between any of them, and this bill doesn’t debate usage of a front light, only rear. Instead, the main questions are:

      1) What problem is this bill trying to solve?
      2) Will it effectively solve that problem?
      3) Are there other, more effective ways of solving the problem?
      4) Does the bill create new problems?

      Personally I think the bill is great in principle but not well thought out. Representatives who clearly have little or no experience bicycling on roadways, either in the light or the dark, shouldn’t be introducing legislation governing such activities. Technology-related bills aren’t introduced without expensive studies utilizing expert consultants in those technologies. The testimony I see in the video above doesn’t address many of the issues or situations discussed in these comments alone, whether social, economic, or technical. I don’t see a level of due diligence that I’d like to see in any legislative action, and I think that’s what Ray addresses here. Honestly, before this I was probably more like Jonathan… yeah, not so bad an idea.

      As a disclaimer, I’ve been hit by a ninja bicyclist riding the wrong way in the dark so I have my own bias about front lights, and as you know from my other comment they’re not a panacea for nighttime visibility either.

      Lastly, you have a much higher likelihood of buying a white light that can be seen at 500′ than finding a red light visible at 600′, yes?

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      El Biciclero May 7, 2015 at 4:29 pm

      I’m not saying what I think ought to be required by law, because bike riding can be much more “context-sensitive” than driving, i.e., I can ride in parks, on the street, on MUPs, on the beach, etc., under varying conditions and at such varying speeds that lights may or may not be “required” for safety.

      But to answer your second question, the two main differences I see between front and rear lights are 1) a front light can help me see where I am going, not just make me visible to others, and 2) closing speeds head-on are faster than closing speeds in an overtaking situation.

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    Grandpa May 7, 2015 at 6:27 am

    Do the police want to be spending their time chasing down bike light scofflaws? Does the society at large want law enforcement resources spent this way? I think not.

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      El Biciclero May 7, 2015 at 4:31 pm

      No. I don’t think anyone cares about enforcement except for cops that want a pretext for stopping someone. What the General Public—and insurance companies—care about is not having to pay attention and not being responsible for running over bicyclists.

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    Gram Shipley May 7, 2015 at 8:17 am

    Many of the comments on this topic seem to forget a major point, that most new bike purchases do not happen at a bike shop, but at a big box store or other medium to large retailer.

    That is relevant because the person who buys a new bike at a box store is far less likely to receive education on the rights, rules and responsibilities (legal, and otherwise) that come along with operating their new bike on the road. These folks might not even know they needed to buy lights for their bike until they are pulled over and given a ticket that in all likelihood exceeds the price of a bike AND front and rear lights at said box store.

    All functioning parts of this law are bad, even if the general thought behind it is well-meaning.

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    Eric May 7, 2015 at 8:53 am

    I don’t have a rear light on my commuter bike. But I do have a good one on my person. How would the law be applied to me?

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      Charley Gee May 7, 2015 at 9:10 am

      Eric, the law allows lights to be attached to a bicycle or its rider. So long as the light is red and visible from the rear from a distance of 600 feet you would be in compliance with the new law if it passes.

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        PdxMark May 7, 2015 at 9:56 am

        … visible from 600’… an interesting twist… I wonder about the high percentage of lights that are not well-aligned… either on the person/backpack or frame-mounted. A whole new paranoid thought is that a cyclist with a bright, but mis-aligned light would be in violation…

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    wsbob May 7, 2015 at 8:58 am

    “…HB 3255 is a bad idea because it heightens Oregon’s requirements of bicycle riders such that it makes all bikes illegal to ride that are presently in a legal state of trim with a white
    light to the front. …” Ray Thomas

    As ‘m’ upthread wrote:

    “…As it stands now, bikes aren’t required to have a front light at the point of sale, but front lights are required by existing law to be ridden ride at night/dusk. …”

    The bill, amending an existing law, would require an additional light, making two lights total required visibility equipment, with the already required front light for biking between dusk and dawn. If they’re not riding their bikes on the street between dusk and dawn, kids and other people’s bikes would not be illegal.

    I believe, though I don’t know for certain, that word of mouth about lighting required for biking in Oregon, is very good. Because it represents good customer relations and sales, bike shop employees are going to have an incentive to tell their customers about a requirement of a tail light, if 3255 becomes law.

    Definitely, the requirement of an additional light for biking is an increase in the expense and effort involved in maintaining and operating a bike. Got to fork out some bucks for a tail light; I’d say, if it’s used fairly often, don’t go super cheap: about $20-$30 should do it, unless you want to go ‘de-luxe’. Got to keep the batteries charged up too, if the light is a battery type.

    With the required front light, people riding at night, already have, or should be making an effort to have, the routine down. This is part of being a responsible, legitimate road user, which most advocates of biking seem to generally consider to be a worthy objective.

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    cariel May 7, 2015 at 9:26 am

    I don’t get the opposition to the lights. As another commentator mentioned above, look at the beloved Portland model, Copenhagen, with their dynamo-powered front and rear lights? Do you know why they have such lights? Because the have a law mandating a front and rear lights on bicycles– just like the Netherlands, Germany, France, etc.,etc. etc. This actually seems like a step in the right direction for taking cycling seriously. If you want masses of cyclists on the streets day and night, we need to be seen.

    However, I am opposed to providing the driver with a full legal defense in absence of a rear light. It should remain a case-by-case basis based on the facts of the incident. In all likelihood, a lack of proper rear lighting could be considered contributory negligence (I could see a lawyer successfully pitching that to a jury full of drivers/non-cyclists), but it shouldn’t automatically provide a complete defense.

    P.S. Germany also prohibits the use of blinking lights on bicycles. Again, if we want masses of people out there on bikes, we don’t need blinkies. Imagine if everyone (motorists and bicycles) used them– every street would be a disco scene. Turn off your blinkies, people!!

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      Dan May 7, 2015 at 10:50 am

      1) You’re misreading (or not reading) if you think there is an opposition to lights.

      2) If you know of a study to indicate solid red lights are safer than blinking ones, I’d like to read it. I’m open to change.

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        cariel May 7, 2015 at 2:11 pm

        1. There is an opposition to making rear lights a legal requirement.

        2. And my point about the biinkies is that the front ones are blinding, distractive and counterproductive. Other places where cycling is actually perceived as a legitimate form of transportation have banned them. I am not as adverse to the the rear blinkies, but frankly, I think they are also distracting to drivers/riders. In vehicle codes, blinking rear lights are meant for emergencies/hazards– we should be seen and appreciated as a legitimate form of transportation–not some anomaly on the streets.

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          El Biciclero May 7, 2015 at 4:35 pm

          1. I think it’s a good idea to send my kids to private school; should we require everyone to do so?

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            Jonathan May 7, 2015 at 9:20 pm

            What a stupid analogy. Unless, that is, your kids are dangerous to others and so you remove them from public. Public safety laws relate to what is required of members of the public.

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              Dan May 7, 2015 at 11:13 pm

              Beware laws created by drivers for cyclists.

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              El Biciclero May 8, 2015 at 8:45 am

              Only using an extreme example to illustrate a principle: good ideas are not always good laws.

              Bicyclists with rear reflectors are not “dangerous to others” unless they are acting in other reckless ways that having a light wouldn’t change.

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          Pete May 7, 2015 at 11:09 pm

          For the record, my opposition isn’t against making rear lights a legal requirement. It’s to the ambiguity written into this legislation, the unnecessary burden it places on LEO to have to figure out how to interpret it, the lack of clarity it provides the bicyclist to conform to it (and technical difficulties it imposes), and the extenuating circumstances in which it may be accidentally imposed.

          Your car taillight burns out, you get a warning or “fix-it” ticket. You buy an affordable bike taillight that you think can be seen from 600′ but an officer doesn’t perceive that’s really the case, you get fined $250. Your taillight malfunctions, gets stolen, or its battery runs low, you get fined $250 (and tased if you’re Phil Sano ;).

          There are other reasonable arguments against this legislation, and I suspect many of them are from people who use taillights and ride at night… maybe even more than the representative who proposed it. As someone who follows bike-related news closely, I don’t see a prevalence of “I ran this bicyclist down because it was dark, and s/he was in my path of travel but I couldn’t see them from nearly two football fields away”. OTOH, I’ve had plenty of occasions riding right up on safety-conscious cyclists in dimmer situations (i.e. thick trees, winter lighting)… only to discover that their taillights were actually turned on.

          I agree with SD’s comments: having front illumination makes sense, with no compelling reason to actively pursue changing current legal requirements for it. Having rear illumination also makes sense as a best practice, but a federally-mandated rear reflector that can be seen by an overtaking car is a reasonable minimum-viable regulation that can be easily implemented and enforced. Even the most ignorant of consumer (and I don’t mean that insultingly) is compliant ‘out the door’ with any retail bicycle purchase.

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            El Biciclero May 8, 2015 at 9:36 am

            “…I don’t see a prevalence of ‘I ran this bicyclist down because it was dark, and s/he was in my path of travel but I couldn’t see them from nearly two football fields away’.”

            This is my biggest question about this law: what problem are we attempting to solve here? Are bicyclists being rampantly run over at night because they only have a rear reflector? Has some pattern of injustice emerged due to bicyclists having only reflectors and not tail lights?

            Or is the problem more that we coerce cyclists into an invisible position on the roadway, and simultaneously excuse inattentive driving? Is it that poor drivers, upon looking up from their “smart” phones, suddenly notice they are right on top of a cyclist (because they finally realize what that bright red spot in the fuzzy upper limits of their field of view was—the bicyclist’s reflector) and panic, either slamming on the brakes or swerving around. Then as the adrenaline subsides, they reflect on how the situation almost resulted in a major hassle for them, and on how it could have been avoided, and come to the conclusion that the right answer is not, “I shouldn’t have been looking down at my phone”, but rather, “that guy should have had a bright light to grab my attention!”.

            If cyclists are invisible at night because they don’t currently have reflectors, well that’s already a compliance problem with no new law needed. If drivers aren’t paying enough attention to notice currently legal rear reflectors, that’s a driver problem. Should we be solving either one of these problems by making additional legal requirements for bicyclists?

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              Dan May 8, 2015 at 9:57 am

              I don’t think this law would affect 95% of BP posters. I’d guess most of us use rear lights already. This WILL be a great way to target minorities though!

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              Pete May 8, 2015 at 12:47 pm

              Last week I was driving north in the Heights in Hood River, where the speed limit is 25 but a lot of pedestrians have been hit. I tend to do 20 or less there as a result, and was driving at most that speed when the guy to the right of me swerved into my lane a little while coming to an abrupt stop. As I glanced over to the right (natural reaction) I heard a guy scream “STOP!!” at me, turns out from the car in front of him. In the split second it took me to react to the driver behind him swerving at me while stopping (I think he was juggling food), I failed to notice a young boy run out into the crosswalk from behind a parked car from my left.

              Even though the first guy was angrily berating me for speeding (I wasn’t) and not paying attention (I had been, just not to the wrong side of the street at that second), I thanked him and apologized because I was clearly at fault. Frankly I tend to put my arm out the window in a situation like that (when windows are down – fortunately it was warm that day), and I think I’d have noticed that more than the swerving of the driver behind him. Lots of little factors (like that his lane was backed up so he was already stopped), and the boy had run out into the crosswalk, not walked, but I was still completely responsible and breathe a sigh of relief that I didn’t hit him.

              Sorry, don’t know why I used that as an opportunity to get that off my chest (but it helped, thanks). That kid could have been wearing neon day-glow with a flashing red beacon and a clown suit and I’d still not have seen him until he threw his hands at my hood thinking he was about to be hit. The dude that yelled was red-faced pissed at me, probably thinking I was texting away or something.

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            wsbob May 8, 2015 at 10:17 am

            “… my opposition isn’t against making rear lights a legal requirement. It’s to the ambiguity written into this legislation, …” Pete

            There’s no ambiguity: with amendment of the existing law requiring a rear reflector, to requirement of a rear tail light instead, or in addition to a reflector if the person riding so chooses, people riding will either have a tail light or they wont.

            Police officers wont have any greater difficulty checking the performance of tail lights on bike than they do reflectors currently used on bikes; less really, because good tail lights in good operating condition, generally have a more readily visible, brighter light than do reflectors.

            That the illumination tail lights provide is generally brighter and more readily visible than that from reflectors, is a big reason that tail lights for bikes are being considered as required equipment for bikes.

            Aiding the ability of road users, especially people driving, in readily seeing vulnerable road users, is an important step forward to improvement of vulnerable road user safety. Bikes are vehicles, and accordingly, certain equipment for safe use of the road as a vehicle, is required.

            People on foot, or pedestrians, on the other hand, are not vehicles, and don’t generally use the road in the way people driving or riding bikes do; they tend to use sidewalks where available, or simply cross streets rather than walk alongside them to the far right. So pedestrians are not required by law to have lighting equipment on their clothes or person. Still, it’s not uncommon for people on foot to recognize lighting conditions in some situations being unfavorable to their visibility on the part of other road users, and voluntarily equipping themselves with some form of visibility gear.

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              Pete May 9, 2015 at 1:25 pm

              Florida is one of only five states requiring active rear illumination on a bike at night. Not only does Florida lead the nation in cyclist fatalities, with over twice (!) the national average of deaths per capita, but their numbers have worsened over time.

              All other states – including Oregon – allow a rear reflector to be used either in addition to, or instead of active illumination, and most specify visible distances of 300′ (17 states), 500′ (10 states), or 600′ (18 states).

              There is absolutely NO data presented demonstrating that requiring bicyclists to use active rear lighting reduces the number of bicycle-involved collisions on our roadways. We can agree that it’s a great idea all we want, but I fail to see a compelling argument to join Florida, Alaska, Ohio, New Jersey, and New York in believing this is worthy of being signed into law.

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                wsbob May 9, 2015 at 5:35 pm

                “…There is absolutely NO data presented demonstrating that requiring bicyclists to use active rear lighting reduces the number of bicycle-involved collisions on our roadways. We can agree that it’s a great idea all we want, but I fail to see a compelling argument to join Florida, Alaska, Ohio, New Jersey, and New York in believing this is worthy of being signed into law.” Pete

                You don’t see a compelling argument for requiring that people equip their bikes with tail lights for riding between dusk and dawn.

                Plenty of other people, do see the value of such a requirement by way of the simple fact that tail lights generally are brighter and more visible than reflectors, and do a better job of enabling other road users to more readily see people riding bikes. That last bit, ‘readily’, is particularly important, because commonly in collisions and close calls, it’s seconds and split seconds of awareness that factor into whether collisions and close calls occur.

                The superiority in illumination of economically priced, good tail lights, over rear reflectors, is immediately evident to most people having seen examples of each. Having tail lights be required equipment for bikes, is not simply motivated by a hope that their use will affect data noting numbers of bike involved collisions. People just want to be able to see people riding bikes, more readily; and tail lights are one of the easiest ways to help accomplish this.

                I have some reservations about tail lights being required equipment: one, is the environmental consequences of batteries used to power the lights; environmental costs of producing, and then recycling them when exhausted.

                That aside, particularly in increasingly populated urban and suburban areas with correspondingly more congestion on the street, well illuminated bikes seem to me to be of increasing importance. Because of this increasing congestion, biking is becoming a bigger job, as is driving. Better equipped vehicles, ridden and driven by better skilled road users, is essential for safely dealing with road use demands arising as a result of the busy streets they must travel.

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                Pete May 11, 2015 at 1:18 pm

                Your argument continues to establish that using taillights is a safe best practice. No disagreement here. My argument is that this legislature is based on the disproven premise that once law, all bicyclists will suddenly start using effective taillights and stop being hit from behind because fully alert drivers will now have so much more reaction time to prevent collisions.

                The 600′ distance is required by the least number of states under current law, and NO data shows that this specification reduces collisions. Maybe it’s out there, but I looked around and don’t see that any of these distance requirements were set by performing studies to actually determine what’s effective! Of the 5 taillight-mandatory states I mentioned, only Alaska and Florida (!) specify this rigorous a requirement for their taillights, and the other 2 states set it at HALF this distance.

                My frequent experience is in seeing plenty of responsible riders using taillights that they believe are accomplishing this “added visibility” goal, yet can barely be seen by me as I ride up to them from behind – let alone from two football fields away! Yes, I know my vision’s not the greatest, but most of these “affordable” taillights require either frequent battery changes or recharging, or can’t even be seen from that far. Nathan has added some really valuable insight here, but then again it’s for this audience… I’d be surprised to see any BP reader/commenter argue that taillights are less visible than reflectors. Again, that’s not the argument here.

                I’m not personally worried about this becoming law because I ride with a number of fully-charged taillights (in the effective configuration that Nathan recommends). What I’m most concerned about, though, is that the majority of taillights that will be on the road if this law passes – not on the market under ideal testing; different story – will NOT be visible from two football fields away.

                If you REALLY want to improve bicyclist safety in Oregon, do this:

                1) Thank Rep Davis for stepping up to take on bicyclist safety.
                2) Ask for the effectiveness data that his proposal is based upon.
                3) Thank him for the funds you now expect him to dedicate to bicyclist and motorist education.
                4) Ask him to change 2013 ORS 814.420.3(e) from:

                “(3) A person is not in violation of the offense under this section if the person is able to safely move out of the bicycle lane or path for the purpose of:
                (e) Continuing straight at an intersection where the bicycle lane or path is to the right of a lane from which a motor vehicle must turn right.”

                to:

                “(e) Continuing straight anywhere a motor vehicle may turn right.”

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                Pete May 11, 2015 at 1:25 pm

                Strike that…

                “(e) Continuing straight when approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.”

                As in:
                https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/pubs/vctop/vc/d11/c1/a4/21202/

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                wsbob May 11, 2015 at 1:50 pm

                “…My argument is that this legislature is based on the disproven premise that once law, all bicyclists will suddenly start using effective taillights and stop being hit from behind because fully alert drivers will now have so much more reaction time to prevent collisions. …” Pete

                Who is it you believe has been reported as having based this legislature on any such premise? I don’t believe Davis has been reported having said his ideas about the bill are so based. It’s not my feeling that use of tail lights rather than or in addition to reflectors, will necessarily accomplish all the things you cite in the premise you refer to.

                Legally required use of tail lights by people biking, is a modest but significant improvement in visibility measures that can help people biking benefit from perhaps a bit safer use of the road, by way of the fact that a tail light offers an improved level of visibility to road users, over that offered by reflectors.

                Upgrading visibility gear from reflectors to use of tail lights on bikes or people riding them, is a relatively low cost visibility improvement to use of bikes on the road. Personally, I think use of visibility gear, empowers people that bike by having them directly use measures that help them improve their safety on the road, rather than being left to hope that someday maybe, stricter law enforcement of, or testing of people that drive will possibly improve the level of safety people that bike have in using the road.

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                El Biciclero May 11, 2015 at 2:42 pm

                “The 600′ distance is required by the least number of states under current law, and NO data shows that this specification reduces collisions.” –Pete

                Also of note, this requirement to be visible for 600 ft. is exactly the same requirement we have now; only the implementation details have been changed. The only time a bicyclist needs to be seen from the rear is when a motor vehicle is overtaking them. Pedestrians don’t really care if a cyclist is riding away from them, and other bicyclists with legal front lights will see a rear reflector in plenty of time to react in any way necessary. So the only real increase in safety—if we go strictly by the visibility requirements put forth in the bill—will be in cases where an overtaking driver does not have “lawful lower beams” (or high beams) in use on their car at night (a violation on the part of the motorist which we apparently want to put responsibility on the cyclist to mitigate…). Yet the the number of cases in which cyclists will have a harder time proving they were riding legally at the time they were hit will increase to include every night-time collision.

                Given the static nature of the visibility requirements (no change from “all distances up to 600 feet to the rear”) that are actually stated in the law, are we passing a law that we’re hoping will have some kind of serendipitous side (heh) effect of making cyclists visible from the sides, or at least from a wider angle than “to the rear”? Why pass a law that we hope will work, without specifying the requirements that we hope will “just happen”?

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                Pete May 12, 2015 at 12:59 am

                “I don’t believe Davis has been reported having said his ideas about the bill are so based.”

                Why would a legislator introduce a bill without expectation of compliance and enforcement? He is already anticipating educating both the public and police about the details of the most rigorous bicycle equipment requirement in the country with little to no cost impacts. Again, this bill signed into law will place Oregon alongside Alaska and Florida with mandating rear lighting that can be seen from two football fields away. No other states regulate rear ‘visibility’ to that level of stringency.

                “Legally required use of tail lights by people biking, is a modest but significant improvement in visibility measures that can help people biking benefit from perhaps a bit safer use of the road, by way of the fact that a tail light offers an improved level of visibility to road users, over that offered by reflectors.”

                Strike “legally required” and we’re singing in perfect harmony. Add in “legally required rear visibility from 600′ away” and my concerns are that people with low batteries may be ticketed more frequently than desirable, and low income people (who already tend to run with crappy rear lighting if any) will bear the brunt of this new law. We can all run out and buy a Cygolite Hotshot and still may not be easily detected from two football fields away, given Nathan’s discourse above on the inverse-square law and ambiguity built into the term “visible.” And really, that’s no different than the current legal specification for reflectors!

                But all this is really just debate. Fact is, there’s neither an epidemic of bicyclists being ticketed for ineffective rear reflectors, nor are there significant rear collisions due to the lack of rear lighting.

                Instead, what we have is another politician trying to make a name for himself by introducing poorly researched legislation on a subject he seems to know little about. If he was truly concerned about vulnerable road users, he’d have the political backbone to address the broader issues of funding, education, and enforcement, like some other politicians and lawyers I don’t think I need to name.

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                wsbob May 12, 2015 at 11:13 pm

                “…Why would a legislator introduce a bill without expectation of compliance and enforcement? …” Pete

                I think there’s good reason to expect that if this bill is passed by the Oregon legislature and signed into law by the governor, people will go ahead and equip their bikes with tail lights. The incentive to equip bikes with tail lights is strong…and I don’t mean the incentive is strong simply due to concern on the part of people riding bikes, about getting stopped and cited by police officers for not having a tail light:

                Bikes displaying a tail light, are generally more readily visible to other road users, than are bikes only displaying a rear reflector.

                Most people want to be safe in using the road. Their friends and family want them to them to be safe.

                A law requiring bikes be equipped with tail lights for night riding, gives people that are kind of slow to follow through on the recognition that a tail light helps them be seen on a bike better…a little incentive to actually go out and get a tail light on the bike. And, keep it in good working condition; which doesn’t actually take much work at all.

                Passage of this bill into law would likely result in little if any additional expense to police departments to enforce the law. It would essentially be the same as enforcement of the law as it currently stands, except police would be looking to see if bikes were equipped with lights instead of reflectors.

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                Pete May 13, 2015 at 10:55 pm

                Why are you repeating this point that’s not up for debate?

                “Bikes displaying a tail light, are generally more readily visible to other road users, than are bikes only displaying a rear reflector.”

                I truly don’t believe that the most rigorous bicycle equipment legislation in the country should be passed on “generally” – not when you’re putting an enforceable specification on it. I can show you videos of taillights versus reflectors that easily prove your point… but not to 600′.

                We recorded lighting and clothing in a dark parking lot on a clear night by riding 500′ away from a car with low beams on, around in two small circles, and then back. Some of the more expensive headlights were barely seen, yet some lower powered ones were far more “visible” (see Nathan’s discussion on beam patterns). For taillights, almost all were not very discernible at 300′ and barely perceived at 500′, and reflectors were virtually useless (though the ones on pedals could be made out a little better due to motion). Upon reviewing my Radbot 1000s – fresh batteries, one blinking one not – my confidence was deflated… and they were one of the brighter models. The single most visible item at 500′ by far – and we were all quite surprised – were the reflective sidewalls of one participants wheels. They could be seen at that distance better than many of the headlights, and it wasn’t just because they were in motion. (Note that this was a few years ago though and headlights keep getting better).

                Oh how I wish I had this video to show you, but I have a renewed interest in this and plan to be setting up regular lighting workshops here in the south bay this fall.

                We’ll have to agree to disagree on the cost of educating both the public and the police department, let alone all of the “Travel Oregon” victims of your new law. The cost of educating the police on the 600′ reflector requirement was zero because it was never done (as is the case with many bike laws and police, sorry). With taillights and your current public/political sentiment regarding bikes, though, expect backlash. I for one will be riding there with a taillight that I’ll make sure can be seen at 600′ if this law passes, and it will be BLINDING as a result.

                As I no longer vote in Oregon, I urge its registered citizens to think a little more about what seems to be a “good idea” before letting this pass.

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                wsbob May 13, 2015 at 11:38 pm

                Pete at: http://bikeportland.org/2015/05/06/lawyer-ray-thomas-really-doesnt-like-bill-make-rear-bike-lights-mandatory-142810#comment-6384261

                The reason for the “generally” in my suggestion about tail lights compared to reflectors, is that: Tail lights are better than reflectors for visibility, although, I recognize there are some circumstances in which reflectors could on their own unique strengths, prevail over the visibility of tail lights.

                That this is so about reflectors, is why I’d recommend use of both tail lights and reflectors, which is how many people riding have already been equipping their bikes, and or themselves, for years.

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                Pete May 14, 2015 at 10:28 am

                It’s not about reflectors. It’s about passing laws based on perceptions and ideas that have not been thoroughly vetted or researched. Your recommendation to use taillights and reflectors together for visibility makes perfect sense to me (and probably most readers here), and there may even be research supporting its effectiveness, but that’s not what this bill is based upon. Frankly it’s also likely the existing 600′ visibility requirement for reflectors was not properly researched either, but that’s not what’s on the table.

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      soren May 8, 2015 at 8:34 am

      Or we could look at amsterdam where many cyclists have non-functional lights or no lights at all (beater oma/opafiets). I would even dare to argue that strict liability and bike infrastructure has a much, much larger impact on safety than lights, reflectors, hi-viz, or helments.

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    K'Tesh May 7, 2015 at 10:00 am

    As much as I’m for lights and reflectors, I see this bill as another way to keep people from using their bicycles. Really, what’s to prevent you from being pulled over (in daylight) just because you don’t have a tail light? Why not mandate this to pedestrians too? Lights fail, fall off (I’ve had it happen), and sometimes appear to work (at first) only to dim later.

    It’s a stupid bill. It reminds me of the argument that the victim is the blame for the attack just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

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      esther2 May 8, 2015 at 9:24 pm

      the law requires a visible red light at night. so daylight riding doesn’t apply

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    Jonathan Radmacher May 7, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    If you are injured in a car accident and aren’t wearing a seatbelt, you don’t have a right to collect emotional distress damages. Is that punitive? You bet. Does it compel people to act in a safer manner by punishing those who don’t? You bet.
    In terms of compliance, admittedly, I get passed by people while I’m waiting for traffic lights, by idiots with no lights, helmet or brakes — they obviously don’t care about rules or safety. But should our legislature be looking at common-sense ways to make cycling safer? I think so, and I think this is a relatively obvious one.

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      Jonathan Radmacher May 7, 2015 at 3:05 pm

      Correction … if seat belt non-use contributed to the accident, that evidence admissible. Otherwise, non-use of a seatbelt is only a 5% reduction in damages. ORS 31.760.

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      Pete May 7, 2015 at 3:40 pm

      Jonathan, see my comments above. Seatbelts are an irrelevant analogy because you’re either wearing one or you’re not. Even in the highest-impact collisions the belt itself may shred (or burn) to pieces, but the buckle staying latched will still provide evidence that the seatbelt was engaged at the time of impact. The passenger, belt, and pretty much the rest of the car will disintegrate long before that buckle dislodges; that’s by design.

      This is not the case with requiring the consumer to be responsible for selecting (and maintaining) a taillight that may be seen at 600′ away, and then relying upon law enforcement to be able to discern compliance or not in real time.

      Yes, as I mentioned above (victim of a ‘ninja’ rider), I think we’re all on the same page that lights are a great idea. In an ideal world this amendment would have the effect it’s intended to, but your very mention of being passed by riders without lights demonstrates that this original legislation as written (front lighting) is not entirely effective. Amending it with even more ambiguous terms will not improve it, nor will the streets suddenly be rid of ‘ninjas.’

      Here’s a pretty comprehensive list of taillights with a great deal of information and detail on a number of specifications and expectations. Do you see any table of effective visible distance?
      https://www.bikelightdatabase.com/best/taillights

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        Jonathan May 7, 2015 at 9:19 pm

        Your argument against requiring bikes to have lights at night relates to proof in court? You clearly haven’t been to court enough. Issues about proof are rampant regardless of the dispute. Should bikes have lights at night? Yes, obviously. To argue about the nuances about proof in court is silly.

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          El Biciclero May 8, 2015 at 11:21 am

          If you think level of difficulty of proving things in court is a silly argument against this proposed law, you clearly haven’t been hit by cars enough.

          It’s only silly until you have to do it to recover medical costs from an insurance company after you’ve been run over. Even if I complied with this proposed law (which I already do: I use two tail lights and a giant red reflector), chances are high that if I got hit hard enough from behind, my lights—which are attached by clippy brackets so I can easily remove them to change or charge batteries and also so I can keep them with me so they don’t get stolen—would be knocked off and possibly destroyed. You mention the plethora of nit-picky arguments about proof that already happen in court cases, well now there would be that many more:

          1. Light was not found at the scene (because it got knocked into the bushes); how do I prove I even had one? Who is going to investigate thoroughly enough to even look for it?
          2. Light was found at the scene:
          a. …but was destroyed; how do I prove it was working and illuminated prior to the collision?
          b. …on the ground near my bike; how do I prove it had been attached to my bike and not just in a bag or in my pocket?
          c. …intact, but not illuminated; how do I prove it was on prior to the collision, and got “turned off” due to impact?
          d. …intact and illuminated; how do I prove it was on prior to the collision and didn’t just get “turned on” by the impact?

          There are other doubts that could be introduced that would be equally applicable to reflectors, but reflectors are much more likely to stay attached to the bike, making existence more likely provable, and an insurance company lawyer could talk about positioning, visible distance, etc., but there would be no question about whether the reflector was “working” or whether it had been turned on.

          It only takes a whisper of a hint of a possibility that a cyclist was “riding illegally” to convince a judge or jury that an accident was the cyclist’s fault and that they therefore should get no compensation for damages or injuries, and the driver should be excused from all responsibility.

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          Pete May 8, 2015 at 10:21 pm

          Obviously! You’re the one who brought up the irrelevant analogy without reading other commenters’ points about proof in court. I’ve certainly laid out plenty of other detailed reasons why I believe this bill is well-meaning but poorly thought out. You’re welcome to ignore any or all of them, that’s your prerogative.

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      Pete May 7, 2015 at 3:56 pm

      Also I’d argue that people don’t wear seatbelts to collect emotional damage in case of a collision, they wear seatbelts basically because the auto insurance industry lobby put a significant amount of pressure on our federal legislators back in the late 1970s. States repeatedly repealed seatbelt mandates by popular vote in those days. The federal government finally threatened that highway funding for states without this law would be reduced significantly, and within a few years mandatory seatbelt laws were prevalent and the ballot measures to repeal them disappeared. Fast forward to today, younger generations simply take it for granted that wearing a seatbelt is the “smart” thing to do, for the most part. Did your first cars light up warnings or make noise when the lap belts weren’t engaged?

      My mother felt very strongly about her freedom to drive seatbelt-free, even to the day I took her license and car away just a few years ago. She’d buckle the belt to stop the chimes and then sit on top of it. For years I threatened to stop wearing a helmet while biking, windsurfing, or snowboarding… didn’t seem to have much effect, so I guess I know where I stood… 😉

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      SD May 7, 2015 at 4:27 pm

      It is good to bring up seatbelts because when the obligation to wear a seatbelt became a law there was sufficient evidence showing that seatbelts improved safety.

      This is not the case with the proposed law that changes the requirement from a rear reflector to a light. There is no evidence for improved safety. And I would go as far as saying that it is unreasonable to think that this law will prevent more collisions than the current law requiring reflectors.

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    pdxmark May 7, 2015 at 2:14 pm

    How about the bill be amended to include the requirement that all autos be retrofit to have the third, high-placed brake light, with a $250 fine for violation. It’s for safety…

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      Jonathan Radmacher May 7, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      Of course your argument contains the implicit recognition that lights are a key part of safety. Cars have to have all kinds of lights and other safety features.
      What do we all do while riding or walking in the dark, if we see a car with no lights on? We scream like banshees to get the driver to wake up. There’s no reason not to have a light on my bike at night.

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      I’m not sure if you’re joking or serious, but all autos manufactured after September 1985 are required to have a third, high-placed brake light (CHMSL).

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    Tyler May 7, 2015 at 5:37 pm

    I don’t see a difference in the requirement for a front light… so, from over here it seems reasonable.

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      SD May 7, 2015 at 6:52 pm

      The reason the current law is front lights / rear reflectors is because anyone approaching you from behind should be shining their front light on you and your rear reflector if you are in or close to their path.

      However, anyone looking back will not be shining their light on you and will not see you if you don’t have a light. This is especially important if they are turning right across a bike lane. Similarly, if they are coming toward you and in the opposite lane, their light may not be direct enough to reflect off of a reflector and will not see you when turning left.

      Rear red reflectors are perfectly fine and there is no evidence to suggest that they are inferior to red lights in protecting cyclists from being hit by cars from behind.

      I have never had trouble seeing a bike with a reflector at night from behind whether I am in my car or on my bike.

      I choose to ride with a rear red light for extra visibility. However, this law will not create bicycle safety, it will create bicycle liability.

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        Jonathan May 7, 2015 at 7:27 pm

        “This is not a perfect bill” is not a good argument against legislation.

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          SD May 7, 2015 at 7:41 pm

          Hopefully I understand what you are saying.

          I am not saying “this is not a perfect bill.”

          I am saying this is a worthless bill that fails in its stated intent and causes more harm than good.

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            Jonathan May 7, 2015 at 9:16 pm

            Measure of a good bill in this case: should bike lights be required at night? Answer: obviously.

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              Pete May 7, 2015 at 11:13 pm

              I think you’re missing many of the technicalities outlined in a number of these comments (and over-simplifying as a result).

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              Dan May 7, 2015 at 11:23 pm

              Should walkers wear lights at night? Obviously. Cats? Obviously. Buildings are frequently crashed into too, so let’s light them up ’round the clock. Rocks, curbs, mailboxes, street signs.

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                Jonathan Radmacher May 8, 2015 at 9:29 am

                Your argument sounds like it’s coming from a wanna be lawyer who would never make it. “We have lots of problems, so let’s not fix any” is, at a minimum, a terrible way to address public policy.

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                Dan May 8, 2015 at 11:22 am

                Where did you get that quote from? Not something I would ever say, or ever did say.

                I would, however, prioritize measures meant to improve safety for cyclists. And I would rank this below the bill to increase fines for texting drivers, a bill that Rep John Davis voted AGAINST.

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                El Biciclero May 8, 2015 at 11:45 am

                My inference from Dan’s comment was not that we need to “fix” all the visibility “problems” every object in the world apparently has—since just about everything is subject to getting crashed into by a car—but that this bill might be attempting to fix the wrong problem. Visibility of all the things mentioned, AND of currently legally operating bicyclists at night, is not the real problem. People driving around with their eyes and attention otherwise engaged is the problem. More visibility will never be enough. Drivers still crash into other cars all the time; do we need to make cars “more visible”? If more visibility is not the answer, why just hand out another excuse for those causing the real problem? I don’t think this proposed “solution” will result in fewer collisions between cars and bicycles, but it most likely will result in fewer drivers having to take responsibility for running over bicyclists.

                Also, any time someone says the answer is “obvious” or “common sense” without making a real case for it, they are asking for further scrutiny and counter-arguments.

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          El Biciclero May 8, 2015 at 9:48 am

          “Seems like a good idea” is not a good argument for legislation, either.

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      Pete May 7, 2015 at 7:08 pm

      You can buy white bike headlights at 800+ lumens, and they can be seen from 500′. There aren’t many (red) taillights available at even remotely that close in brightness, and the requirement is 600′ from the rear.

      What model taillight do you currently use, by the way?

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    Michelle May 7, 2015 at 8:24 pm

    I don’t believe cops can be trusted in car vs bicycle accidents. Over a year ago I was riding on a sidewalk as there were no bike lanes and going a pedisterian speed. It was dark and I had on 4 front lights and 3 back lights, a yellow reflective jacket, reflective stripes on my pants, reflective pant on my bike and a reflective helmet. I came to an unmarked crosswalk with a stop sign for cars. I was ran over and the driver said she couldn’t see me. Cop stated I was 50% at fault because I failed to yield right of way. I had no stop sign and was going a pedisterian speed in an unmarked crosswalk….but the cop, who witnessed nothing, changed what he heard….even though it was in the report….and put me 100 feet behind where I said I was to “prove” I was going above a pedisterian speed…..and that is all the insurance company went by. Not the other witness statements or the full police report, but what the cop said….because cops have nothing to gain by lying. So, now if all it takes is a cop saying they didn’t see a working rear light to shift blame then it just became impossible to make the guilty parties responsible.

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    littleerik May 7, 2015 at 8:43 pm

    I appreciate this kind of coverage from bikeportland. I know that the stance in the past has been to take an ‘observer’ role. I just want to add one voice in support of bikeportland taking a stance on legislative/political issues and how they effect cyclists in the city (up to and including endorsements of candidates).

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    Dan May 7, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    cariel
    1. There is an opposition to making rear lights a legal requirement.

    Yes, big difference. I am not opposed to eating ice cream, I am opposed to eating ice cream being a legal requirement. I am not opposed to using 85psi in my tires, I am opposed to it being a legal requirement. 5-point seatbelts would improve safety for car occupants — should they be a legal requirement?

    cariel
    2. And my point about the biinkies is that the front ones are blinding, distractive and counterproductive. Other places where cycling is actually perceived as a legitimate form of transportation have banned them.

    I don’t like front blinkies, only because they annoy me when I’m on the bike path. But are they actually safer than solid lights? This is something I would like to see a study on. Do I think that if we ban them, we will be ‘perceived as a legitimate form of transportation’? No.

    cariel
    I am not as adverse to the the rear blinkies, but frankly, I think they are also distracting to drivers/riders.

    But ARE they? Or are they actually more effective? Who knows.

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    esther2 May 8, 2015 at 9:15 pm

    the law says a person operating a bike has to equip it with a tail light. It doesn’t say it needs to be sold with one. This is no different than headlights. It doesn’t need to be fixed to the bike but could be worn on a helmet. Even though that isn’t on the bike its equipped.

    I like the blinkies because I think they alert drivers that there is a bike on the street. They get more attention than a fixed light. As mentioned above, the huge problem is drivers not paying attention. Its harder to ignore blinkies than fixed lights.

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    wsbob May 8, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    “…HB 3255 has already passed the House by a vote of 44-14. …” bikeportland

    That’s a good margin in favor. Quite a few of the legislators apparently have the good common sense to see the benefit in improved safety for people riding bikes on the road, and for all other road users, that passage of this bill into law can provide. Hopefully, we’ll see what the senate and the governor thinks of the bill.

    Bikes are vehicles. Bikes equipped with good visibility gear such as tail lights, helps people riding bikes, to be protected from collisions with other vehicles in use on the road. Tail lights on most counts, are superior in visibility over reflectors; this superiority is a big reason motor vehicles are legally required to have tail lights.

    Bikes, cars, trucks, motorcycles, scooters, are all vehicles. It’s doubtful anyone would seriously propose that the safety motivated legal requirement for tail lights on motor vehicles be downgraded to just reflectors. Legally requiring tail lights on bikes, brings some improvement in the safety of using this mode of transportation on the road.

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      El Biciclero May 11, 2015 at 3:00 pm

      “Legally requiring tail lights on bikes, brings some improvement in the safety of using this mode of transportation on the road.”

      Given that the actual requirements for visibility, i.e., “visible from all distances up to 600 feet to the rear of the bicycle” have not changed, how does this new requirement that a light be the apparatus for providing the same visibility currently required increase safety? Please add a comment here explaining how being visible 600 feet to the rear will make cyclists safer than being visible 600 feet to the rear.

      As I mentioned above, are we hoping for some additional benefit that the law as written doesn’t address? If we’re hoping for side visibility, why not specify a side visibility requirement? Are we merely hoping to stem the epidemic of cyclists run over by drivers not using “lawful lower beams” on their cars at night? If there is such an epidemic, then it seems we should focus our efforts on cracking down on these unlit drivers, rather than changing laws to add more requirements for cyclists.

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        El Biciclero May 13, 2015 at 2:26 pm

        BTW, it sure seemed like reflectors were plenty good enough in the original version of this bill. If adding more reflectors (on clothing) was the original thought Rep. Davis had for increasing cyclist safety—and he thought reflectorized clothing was a good requirement to amend a law with—why suddenly are reflectors not good enough? This just seems more and more like an effort to find something—anything—palatable that will increase the burden on cyclists with the aim of relieving the burden that should be on motorists.

        Gosh darn it! We’ve got to find some way to stick it to those [invisible] scofflaws!

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          wsbob May 14, 2015 at 12:08 am

          “…it sure seemed like reflectors were plenty good enough in the original version of this bill. If adding more reflectors (on clothing) was the original thought Rep. Davis had for increasing cyclist safety—and he thought reflectorized clothing was a good requirement to amend a law with—why suddenly are reflectors not good enough? …” bic

          I haven’t checked, but believe the current law requiring only a reflector on the rear of bikes, was written years, maybe decades ago. If you doubt this, check and let us know what you find out. In earlier times of less traffic on the road, simply a reflector on the back of bikes, despite reflectors’ comparatively limited level of visibility, may have been good enough.

          Times have changed, and so have demands upon roads and road users. Requirement of tail lights on bikes is an upgrade in visibility of people riding bikes, that’s a consequence of changing times and improved technology.

          Never did hear from bikeportland, more details about Davis’s reasons for introducing to legislature, the bill for improvements in visibility gear required of people biking. This weblog’s owner-editor Jonathan Maus, wrote in a comment to an earlier bikeportland story, that he was going to meet up with Davis at Salem, and perhaps get some additional info on this question.

          It’s a safe bet that the bill wasn’t just an idea of Davis’s, out of the blue. I believe there are plenty of people that drive alert and responsibly, that have often noticed that some of the people riding, are very difficult to see on the road. In other words, I’d would not be surprised if prior to putting the bill together, Davis had been getting a bunch of requests from people in his district, to try introduce some change to the law that would have people on bikes become more readily visible, at the very least, to people driving responsibly.

          Time to change the page on this subject folks…and wait to see if the legislature moves forward with the bill. I appreciate the thoughts of everyone having made efforts to offer reasonable points of view about whether requiring tail lights on bikes rather than the current, ‘reflector on the rear’, is a good idea.

          Next related hot story, just read on the Oregonian tonight: Davis quoted colorfully in support of Senate bill 533 ( hope that number is correct.)…the bill that would allow two wheeled vehicles to proceed through ‘dead reds’. That’s in reference to traffic light sensors that fail to detect such vehicles waiting for the red to turn to green.

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      Pete May 13, 2015 at 1:24 pm

      Again, stop with the analogies to cars. Motor vehicles have been destructive since their prevalence first began, resulting in decades and generations of government regulation highly influenced by auto insurance companies trying to protect their profitability and mitigate their losses. They are a completely different beast.

      Yes, all of these safety improvements in cars have been *measured* to be effective, and lobbyists have had to work with scientists to present reliable data to convince lawmakers to put their names behind measures that impact consumers and manufacturers alike. The only data presented here – by you or anyone who’s already voted in favor – is anecdotal.

      There’s no perceived impact to bicyclists because the people voting for it haven’t examined all the details and implications, and the perceived ‘success’ of this law is based on the argument (even yours) that “I can see a bicyclist with a taillight better than I can with a reflector so this is a great idea.”

      We should demand that our legislators do their due diligence before it becomes another situation like the changes to crosswalks laws nearly a decade ago – three changes in three years before getting what they have now. Back up your ‘yes’ vote with data showing at least that these lights are readily visible (after running for hours) from two football fields away. Or one football field. Anything… just document the methodology and resultant measurements! With apologies to the Creationists… base your damned laws on analysis, proven effectiveness, and facts.

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    John Lascurettes May 9, 2015 at 10:34 am

    Even if a rear light becomes a requirement over a reflector for a rider, I’d rather it not be required equipment at time of sale. Case in point, the reflectors that do come on bikes now is of such low quality that nearly everyone already adds their own lighting.

    Side point: it’s odd to me that I see more PDXers riding around with rear red lights than I see riding with operational front white lights.

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      wsbob May 9, 2015 at 5:49 pm

      “Even if a rear light becomes a requirement over a reflector for a rider, I’d rather it not be required equipment at time of sale. …” John Lascurettes

      I think that bike lights, not being required equipment that bike manufacturers must include with the bikes they sell to the public, makes good sense for the present.

      Of course, lights have long been required equipment that motor vehicle manufacturers have been obliged to include in the manufacture and sale of the vehicles they produce. I think though, that in the case of bikes, the technology and design of bikes and lighting equipment is yet to evolve to the point where that requirement can be made of bike manufacturers in the U.S. in a way that would be effective and fair to them and people that buy bikes.

      On the other hand: I keep hearing that…Germany, I think it is…requires all but racing bikes, be sold with front and back lights meeting nationally set illumination standards. Is it the manufacturer that’s required to provide their bikes with lights? I don’t know.

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        9watts May 11, 2015 at 5:13 pm

        Yes. And it has been that way for as long as I’ve been alive. In third grade we took a bicycle riding course which concluded with riding through an impromptu course set up in the school yard. Bicycles there are understood as a form of transportation. We’re still lagging in that respect here.

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    Steven Hickcox May 13, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Nathan Hinkle (The Bike Light Database)

    But a preferred safe riding practice should not be transformed into a legal requirement any more than that it should be a state law that only cars with side passenger air bags can be legally operated on Oregon roads.

    I feel like this is really a false analogy. All motor vehicles operated on Oregon roads are required to have taillights, and it should be no different for bikes operated after dark.Reflectors only work when light is pointed directly at them. This won’t help if a driver forgets to turn on their headlights (seen it many times), nor will it help if a vehicle is approaching from an angle such that their headlights don’t hit the reflectors.Bike lights are relatively cheap, and if you’re already going to the effort of buying a front light to ride legally at night, you might as well get a rear light at the same time.Recommended 16

    Nathan, if bicycle traffic on dedicated roadways equaled that of cars, along with their destruction power, your comparison would be more convincing. However, in just about every conceivable collision between a bicycle and a car results significantly more damage to the bicycle as well as the rider than to the car. Bicycles already have very effective reflectors designed to be seen from all angles, so any oncoming car with working headlights will make the bicycle visible to the driver. But by requiring a tail light, you will be putting the onus onto the potential victim should a driver strike a bicyclist who either doesn’t have a tail light or it isn’t functioning properly. That’s bad policy, albeit good intentions. While bicyclists need to be visible to drivers, drivers need to be responsible when behind the wheel.

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      wsbob May 13, 2015 at 12:35 pm

      “…But by requiring a tail light, you will be putting the onus onto the potential victim should a driver strike a bicyclist who either doesn’t have a tail light or it isn’t functioning properly. …” Steven Hickcox

      The “onus”, or, in plainer terms, ‘the responsibility’ of people riding bikes to legally equip their bikes for visibility from the rear by other road users, already is in place with the legal requirement to equip bikes with reflectors on the rear of the bike or rider.

      Tail lights are mainly an upgrade in visibility performance, over that offered by reflectors. I say, use both tail lights and reflectors. Many people riding, do use both. Neither cost a lot of money, though reflectors are less costly and require little to no maintenance.

      Is it worth the hassle to people riding, to equip their bikes with tail lights? I believe many people think so. Equipped with tail lights, effectively raises to a higher level of visibility, bikes, relative to all the things road users have to keep track of in operating their vehicles. This is something that’s good for vulnerable road users and people that drive responsibly. Not so so good for people driving irresponsibly, and relying on the ‘I didn’t see them’ claim.

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        El Biciclero May 13, 2015 at 2:31 pm

        “…relying on the ‘I didn’t see them’ claim.”

        I’d make a wager right now that this will continue to be a claim of motorists who run over bicyclists.

        Motorist: “I didn’t see him officer! He must not have had his light on.”
        Officer [writing]: “Bicyclist…did…not…have…light…on.” [speaking] “Got it!”

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