Pa. bill to demand cyclists wear reflective vests at night getting thrown under bus

 A cyclist rolls by the Constitution Center Friday afternoon. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A cyclist rolls by the Constitution Center Friday afternoon. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

A Pennsylvania lawmaker is proposing a bill requiring cyclists across the state to wear reflective clothing when biking at night.

The proposal is coming under fire from bike advocates, who say the well-intentioned effort could ultimately discourage many from taking to the roads on two wheels.

Under Pennsylvania state law, cyclists are already required to bike with a front light and a rear reflector. (Children are required to wear helmets while biking, but adults can legally bike without one.)

State Rep. Anthony DeLuca, a Democrat from the Pittsburgh area, wants to go further and mandate reflective clothing, like a vest, jacket or shirt.

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“It’s like when you go out hunting,” DeLuca said. “Maybe you don’t need all that hunting gear. Maybe you don’t need the reflective gear so you don’t get shot. Maybe just a hat would be enough. But they do wear it, don’t they?”

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia says the key to safer roads is better infrastructure, like bike lanes and protected bike lanes, not reflective vests.

“If people are forced to wear something while they are riding a bike, they are less likely to ride a bike and it essentially deters people from doing so,” Spokesman Randy Lobasso said.

Bike advocates in Pittsburgh are expressing similar skepticism.

“Criminalizing the wearing of normal clothing while riding a bicycle is unacceptable, and if this bill becomes law it’s our deep concern that people who walk will next be forced to don reflective clothing just to take a leisurely stroll in the evening,” Scott Bricker, who heads Bike Pittsburgh, wrote in an open letter.

“If bright front and rear lights/reflectors are not enough, then we also need to look into the operation at night of motorcycles and black-painted automobile,” Bricker wrote.

But DeLuca insists that too many cyclists are eschewing existing light/reflector requirements and wearing dark clothing during night time.

“Some of the roads where I represent are narrow. It only takes a minute for someone to lose control, maybe the bicyclists or the motorist, and you got a tragedy,” DeLuca said. “So if we can make it safer, and more people are gonna be biking, then we oughta do that.”

He said he plans to file an amendment to the bill that would allow police to fine cyclists who violate the proposed reflective clothing requirement.

When’s the last time DeLuca himself took a bike for a spin?

“It’s been a long time, ” he said. “But I ride a bike a lot when I go on vacation.”

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