Poll: The law and reflective clothing

In a recent mailing list discussion, somebody proposed a law in which reflective or high visibility clothing for cyclists should be mandatory.

As far as I know, New Hampshire is the only state with this requirement — NH RSA 265:144Special Rules for Bicycles” states, in part, “A bicyclist shall wear at least one item of reflective outerwear apparel, such as a reflective vest, jacket, or helmet strip, during the period from 1/2 hour after sunset to 1/2 hour before sunrise.


Cyclist riding with reflective safety vest

What do you think? Is this a reasonable law or not?

Should night time reflective clothing be mandatory for cyclists?

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20 Comments

  • May 11, 2010 - 12:14 pm | Permalink

    There's a similar law in France, fwiw.

    All cyclists outside of urban areas, in poor visibility or at night must wear hi-viz with reflectives.

    Details here (see the inset) http://www.thisfrenchlife.com/thisfrenchlife/20

  • murchball
    May 11, 2010 - 12:17 pm | Permalink

    Interesting that NH requires reflective clothing for cyclists but doesn't require seatbelts for motorists or helmets for motorcyclists.

  • dukiebiddle
    May 11, 2010 - 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Absurd. I'll wear reflective clothing the day cars are required to paint their rear ends in reflective paint. I have a Radbot 1000 tail light. If anything, it's too bright and might hurt the eyes of drivers behind me. NOBODY can miss me from behind. Clown outfits are unnecessary.

  • May 11, 2010 - 12:40 pm | Permalink

    wow, I didn't know that little bit about NH but I guess that makes sense for the “Live Free or Die” state.

  • May 11, 2010 - 12:41 pm | Permalink

    This is yet another way to blame cyclists in a crash situation. French law is different and they have different patterns of enforcement. The only way you see laws for cyclists enforced is when one is dead. Then they try to find ways to make it the cyclists fault.

  • peteathome
    May 11, 2010 - 2:27 pm | Permalink

    They need to require a headlight and rear reflector on bikes ridden after dark. That's all. These add much more visibility than reflective clothing, which only glows when in a headlight beam. A bike headlight lets cars at right angles to it see it long before the rider enters the headlights of the car.

    Really, a stupid law that shows a lack of understanding of visibility.

  • Chester
    May 11, 2010 - 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Ditto Peteathome: if you're going to mandate anything, then mandate active lights.

    I feel ambivalent about the issue, overall, though. On one hand, I'm not a fan of it being illegal to ride at night with lights/reflectives (even though I ride with lights as personal policy). And, as Dukiebiddle suggests, I'm not a fan of how laws like this imply that a cyclist without lights/reflectors is to blame for being hit at night.

    On the other hand, everyone *should* have lights/reflectors. Even putting aside one's own safety, a well-lit cyclist improves road safety for everyone around him.

  • Kyle
    May 11, 2010 - 3:23 pm | Permalink

    In Utah, cyclists (and longboarders) have to have either reflective clothing (something like 110 square inches???) or a visible head and tail light. I know because I was ticketed for this while longboarding. (turned headlight off for 15 seconds while stopped alongside road so as to not annoy oncoming traffic.)

  • bryantp
    May 11, 2010 - 3:34 pm | Permalink

    Riders should do this at a minimum – I'd rather see a light law. Yes, I ride and I ride a lot. But, I also drive and I've barely missed riders on a number of occasions because they were visible at night. To me, a rider, that would be incredibly traumatic. Of course, to the Ninja rider, it would be more so.

    BTW – I'd like to see a bike harassment law also and see it enforced. But, all these laws won't help without more cops and better educated cops (on bike issues).

  • May 11, 2010 - 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Yikes, you're right! Utah has a reflective material law as well at 41-6a-1114: Every bicycle when in use [at night] shall be equipped with (a) reflective material of sufficient size and reflectivity to be visible from both sides for 500 feet when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle; or (b) in lieu of reflective material, a lighted lamp visible from both sides from a distance of at least 500 feet.

    Bummer about that ticket while on the skateboard!

  • Andy
    May 11, 2010 - 5:42 pm | Permalink

    It's not a cycling issue, it's a driving issue. If a driver can't see and react in reasonable time to a person riding a bike or crossing the street, than they are simply going too fast. How about ticketing bad drivers that can so easily hit a gas pedal instead of ticketing cyclists that don't buy special clothing and use their own effort to get places? I'd like to see laws that eventually make the “better” transportation options easier, and make SOV-driving difficult.

  • May 11, 2010 - 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Oh yeah. I'll wear a glow in the dark vest. Sure. NOT.

    Now, if there are some reflective Prada sandals out there we are talking about something completely different.

  • BB
    May 12, 2010 - 7:19 am | Permalink

    The one problem I see if a legal cyclist somehow can't produce the item. They are now illegal. Keep in mind you could loose the item, have it stolen, or etc. So having the bare minimum and expecting people to protect themselves with safety enhancements is the way to go.

  • May 12, 2010 - 8:58 am | Permalink

    Require lights, not clothing. Another way to make cyclists a special group that needs special clothing.

  • May 12, 2010 - 10:19 am | Permalink

    We have a light law in Columbus – front and rear lights during periods of reduced visibility. But I agree with the posters who think that there needs to be less impetus on forcing the cyclists to be more conspicuous and MORE on making drivers slow down and drive safely.

  • bikesgonewild
    May 12, 2010 - 11:40 am | Permalink

    …the issue is about being seen so it's foolish to ascribe it to matters of clothing…or for that matter even expecting us to drape our bikes in 'x' number of square inches of reflective material…

    …that being said, there are no excuses for we cyclists to not be seen when “blinky” lights are as cheap as they are…

    …the “ninja” thing doesn't fly…selfish practice in this day & age…

  • May 23, 2010 - 9:06 am | Permalink

    Depends on context, I do wear hi viz clothing when visibility is poor, but in a well lit city/town, its not really necessary. Same with lights, I use small winking lights in city/town, but have a much brighter headlamp for use in the country, which is doubtless visible well over 500ft. The main problem with 'safety' legislation is that it is often abused as a way of earning income, or just to intimidating people. In the UK, lights are mandatory at night, as are on-bike reflectors. Special clothing and helmets are not mandatory (except in Jersey).

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  • Brimstone
    July 17, 2010 - 7:23 pm | Permalink

    No law. The more bikers who wear hi-vis, the more drivers become desensitized to hi-viz. I LIKE sticking out in my funky yellow stuff. I LIKE getting attention from drivers. If there were more riders like me, I wouldn't be as noticed. Let the ninjas ride covertly. Don't interfere with Natural Slelection.

    After safe bike lanes are required on all roads
    After bike stands with attached chains are required in all parking lots
    After all drivers, including cops, are required to know biking rules of the road
    Then maybe fashion policing

    All U.S. sold bikes must come with refelctors. Just up that law and instead require the reflectors to have passive inductive flashing LED's in them. Problem solved forever for $15 per bike.

  • January 7, 2014 - 2:23 pm | Permalink

    • I used to live in rural New Hampshire. Paved roads are a barely-tolerated form of socialism there, and shoulders are gravel. I had many white-knuckle experiences with motorists in my short time there.

    California requires reflectors on pedals, but in my experience these are always the first parts to break off. I put adhesive reflective stuff on the pedals (regular and clipless) to make them more lastingly street legal, but mostly I wear reflective pants straps. Sometimes I forget and leave them on all day.

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