Tag Archives: double standard

Why Bicycle Light Laws are a Bad Idea, Part II

By Dom Nozzi

August 8, 2017

In an earlier blog, I had written about why laws requiring bicyclists to use lights at night are problematic. The following essay are further thoughts I have on the topic.

To begin with, I strongly agree that bike lights are a very important way to be safe when riding a bicycle at night. I use a light nearly every time I ride at night.

This is not a question of whether bicycle lights dramatically improve safety for cyclists at night. Clearly they do. The question is whether a law requiring cyclists to use a light at night is a good idea.IMG_8731

A question was asked on the Boulder CO “Thursday Cruiser Bike Ride” (a mass weekly bike ride which seeks to maximize the number of cyclists riding on Thursday after work) as to why some cyclists don’t use a light on these nighttime rides. I believe responsible cyclists will, when necessary, use lights, wear a helmet, and stop at intersections. I understand the safety importance. I also believe in each of those three cases, a law does almost nothing to increase the use of lights, use of a helmet, or stopping at an intersection (largely because all three can be done safely in many cycling situations, or for reasons I note below). We already have laws for certain things that distinguish between actions that are so dangerous (to oneself and others) that a law requires it, and situations that are considered relatively safe and the law therefore makes an exception (a boating life preserver, for example).

On the other hand, our society makes it very difficult, impossible, inconvenient, illegal, and dangerous in countless ways to ride a bike. There are so many of these discouragement factors that I’m shocked that ANYONE bicycles regularly. For the vast majority of people in the US, the very rare cyclist seen on American roads strikes nearly all Americans as a person who is completely out of his or her mind.

I don’t at all agree, as some claim, that lights can be attached to a bicycle and forgotten about. In America, here are very frequent worries:

  1. Bike batteries notoriously run low on electricity.
  2. Bike lights are very quickly and easily (and therefore often) stolen – particularly if they are high enough in quality to be reliable. Bike lights need to be easy enough to put on and take off a bike so that they are reasonably convenient. They are therefore inherently prone to theft. For this reason, at least in America, it is a bad idea to leave lights attached to a bike.
  3. Bike lights are very notorious for breaking down to the point where they don’t work. Often due to cheap construction, collisions with walls, racks, legs, rust or corrosion in rain, etc.
  4. It is easy to forget to bring along a light to attach to your bike (many don’t keep a light attached due to reasonable fear of theft or rain). Given how often a cyclist must attach a light to their bike for each night ride, I wonder how “convenient” a motorist would find it if they had to attach a portable front a rear light to their car each time they drove at night? And each time they went into and out of a store or restaurant each night?
  5. It is common for a cyclist to start a ride in daylight hours and not anticipate being out late enough to need to ride later in the dark. This is never a problem a motorist has to worry about.

Each of these circumstances happen quite frequently for a cyclist, and almost never, if ever, for a motorist.

So a bike light law regularly exposes a cyclist to a stiff fine, inconvenience, financial costs, and the burden of dealing with purchase and maintenance of the light.

Again, there are already a huge number of ways in which our society strongly discourages cycling.

Given the fact that responsible cyclists already ride safely and irresponsible cyclists are unlikely to be influenced by a law, why add another reason to discourage cycling?




Filed under Politics, Town and Transportation Planning

Should Bicycle Lights be Required when Bicycling at Night?

By Dom Nozzi

August 7, 2017

Using a law to require safety gear such as bike lights seems like a good idea at first glance. But there are many reasons why such a requirement is problematic.

Many cyclists don’t use lights because they easily break. Or rust from rain. Or batteries lose power. Or the lights are stolen. Or it is easy to forget them (particularly when you start a ride during daylight yet the ride unexpectedly ends at night). Or they are sometimes expensive. Or they get lost in the house or garage.

Bicycling is already much more inconvenient or difficult than driving a car in our pro-car society, and this requirement adds to that imbalance (thereby encouraging more driving and less cycling). For this reason, a bike light requirement worsens public safety and harms public health by reducing the frequency of bicycling – or punishing cycling by the increased threat of having to pay a steep fine.lights

Requiring lights is a form of victim-blaming. Instead of blaming the victim, we should be promoting effective safety tactics such as safety in numbers (ie, increasing the number of cyclists), and insisting that streets be designed to obligate slower, more attentive driving by motorists (engineers have almost single-mindedly designed roads for high speeds and inattentiveness for over a century).

Note that I am NOT suggesting that bicyclists not use lights at night. There are very strong reasons why bicyclists should use lights at night.

The question I am asking here is not whether bicyclists should use lights at night. Of course they should. The question, rather, is whether we should use the power of law to require the use of lights.

What I am suggesting in this essay is that mandatory rules for bicyclists to use lights are counterproductive.

All of the above also applies to bike helmets. I am okay with people voluntarily choosing to wear a helmet, but I strongly object to mandatory bike helmet laws. Studies show that when such laws are adopted, bicycling frequency goes down, for the reasons I point out above.

Let us avoid a double standard when it comes to safety and convenience. If our society does not have the wisdom or leadership to avoid a mandatory light or helmet requirement for bicyclists, we should require motorists to abide by the same rules. Motorists must wear a helmet while driving (after all, head injuries are far more likely when driving a car), and must carry out to their car and attach car portable headlights and brake lights each time they drive a car.

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Filed under Politics, Town and Transportation Planning

My Thoughts on the Milo Yiannopoulos Speech at the University of Colorado at Boulder


By Dom Nozzi

January 26, 2017

I watched the livestream of the Milo Yiannopoulos speech on my laptop. I didn’t have a problem with much of what he said, despite my leftist political leanings and his reputation for being a racist, sexist, fascist.

He said a number of things I liked (attacking the Politically Correct police, for example). I thought he was a subpar speaker (nervous laughing was common, reading too much from downloadwritten notes, and an over-the-top ego, for example). I enjoyed his disdain for the many (not all) fun-hating, man-hating, sex-negative, attractivenss-shaming feminists.

I wish I could have chatted with him to ask about what seemed like enormous inconsistencies: has it not been the case that his conservative brethren almost single-mindedly attack sex-for-fun (sex only good for making babies), contraception, sex in the media, and gay rights? He attacked the Boulder sugar tax, despite his love for capitalism (taxes use capitalist price signals, in contrast to socialist command economy prohibitions). He repeatedly called for evidence-based argumentation, and frequently pointed out his dislike of obesity, yet did not acknowledge the overwhelming evidence that sugar taxes effectively reduce obesity. Despite the protests, I did not find his remarks to be in any way sexist or racist. He did not strike me as being particularly intellectual. I was thankful that he was allowed to speak at CU. And wish he spoke at Mackey Auditorium, where a larger audience could have attended.

I loved his putting down Boulder as a pathetic excuse for a real city (I’m sure he was at least partly referring to the sterile suburban character here).

Overall, I am enraged that the supposedly freedom- and speech-loving and diversity-loving political left in Boulder felt it necessary to engage in an effort to use fascist censorship to stop what they considered to be undesirable speech.

Is that not what the left has always (and rightfully) attacked the right for doing?

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