When darkness falls in Minneapolis, Tony Randgaard writes on Twin Cities Daily Planet, bicyclists are hitting the streets without the safety equipment to help them be seen.
He conducted a survey over four days, documenting 90 bicycle riders in Minneapolis. He recorded bicycle equipment — helmet, lights, reflective gear etc. — and found that 42 percent rode after dark with a front light as required by law. More than half were not wearing a helmet and only 6 percent wore any reflective equipment.
Randgaard suggests that’s one of the reasons bicycle fatalities are increasing.
A review of Minnesota bike laws reveals that the state is one of 29 that have no helmet laws of any kind. It is important to note that Minnesota (as well as Minneapolis-St Paul) does indeed mandate lights after dusk or during periods of insufficient light.
Front lights must be illuminated and visible at a distance of 500 feet. The state is also on par with industry (ANSI) standards for the rear reflector which manufacturers install behind the seat. This reflector can be static or flashing. The state does not require reflective equipment or apparel.
A closer look at U.S. military regulations displays several alarming contrasts with the State of Minnesota biking laws.
Air Force, Navy and Marine bases mandate reflective vests, belts or jackets be worn after twilight.
All military installations require helmets be worn by all riders.
Military regulations do not cede the right of way to bikers. Unlike the Cities, if a bike path (or sidewalk) is available, the biker is required to move off the roadway.
On the Portland side, what are they doing differently from Minnesota and the Twin Cities? Unlike Minnesota, Oregon is one of 21 states with a mandatory helmet law for riders under 16 years of age.
Although research is mixed, a Journal of Pediatrics ten- year study tracked a 20 percent reduction in injuries, in states adopting this measure. In addition, the City of Portland web-site prominently communicates its bike light policy, even going as far as to publish a legal guide about liability.
There is a section warning bikers they can be cited or arrested when deemed to be invisible during a night time accident.
Randgaard says his survey “highlights a lawless ‘Wild West’ environment with city bikers ignoring or unaware of the current law.”