Thursday, February 8, 2007

Columbus City Bike Laws: Part 3

Today we're going to get into some stuff that is truly important for bike commuters, and not only for staying out of trouble with the law. No, today's law discusssion will help you stay out of trouble with someone's fender: we'll be discussing Columbus regulations on lights and reflectors. Let's start.

2173.05 Signal devices on bicycle.

(A) Every bicycle when in use at the times specified in Section 2137.02 of the Columbus City Code, shall be equipped with the following:
First, it makes sense to define these times: the times specified in Section 2137.02 are "the time from sunset to sunrise, and at any other time when there are unfavorable atmospheric conditions or when there is not sufficient natural light to render discernible persons, vehicles and substantial objects on the street at a distance of one thousand (1,000) feet ahead." So, basically, night time, and when it's foggy, rainy, etc. - any time of poor visibility.
(1) A lamp on the front that shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred (500) feet to the front;
So first: you need a headlight.
(2) A red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the Ohio Director of Public Safety that shall be visible from all distances from one hundred (100) feet to six hundred (600) feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle;
And a rear reflector. Your bike PROBABLY came with one that is suitable.
(3) A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of five hundred (500) feet to the rear shall be used in addition to the red reflector;
Okay, and you also need a rear light, and this is IN ADDITION TO the reflector.
(4) An essentially colorless reflector on the front of a type approved by the Ohio Director;
Similarly, you need a front reflector to go along with your headlight.
(5) Either with tires with retroreflective sidewalls or with an essentially colorless or amber reflector mounted on the spokes of the front wheel and an essentially colorless or red reflector mounted on the spokes of the rear wheel. Each reflector shall be visible on each side of the wheel from a distance of six hundred (600) feet when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle. Retroreflective tires or reflectors shall be of a type approved by the Ohio Director.
So your tires need to have reflective sidewalls, or you need your spokes to contain reflectors as well. Yellow/amber up front, and red in back.
(b) No person shall operate a bicycle unless it is equipped with a bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least one hundred (100) feet, except that a bicycle shall not be equipped with nor shall any person use upon a bicycle any siren or whistle.
Interesting... not only do you need a bell or something similar, but you CAN'T use a siren or whistle. One book I read suggested using a whistle, so I guess that's not going to work in Columbus.
(c) Every bicycle shall be equipped with an adequate brake when used on a street or highway.
Duh.... make sure your brakes work! Even a Hummer driver could figure that one out. Of course, the law is written to be foolproof, so those Hummer drivers can keep themselves legal, too.
(d) Except as otherwise provided in this division, whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one (1) predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two (2) or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree. (ORC 4511.56) Ord. 1170-75; Ord. 2120-03 § 1 (part).)
And the punishments. So, to sum up, you need:
  1. a headlight
  2. a white front reflector
  3. a red rear light
  4. a red rear reflector
  5. an amber reflector on your front spokes.
  6. a red reflector on your rear spokes
  7. brakes that work.
Pretty simple. I'm a little bit surprised by the requirement for both lights and reflectors on the front and back, honestly... you'd think one would work as well as the other. I would guess that this is another Hummer driver rule: just requiring the lights doesn't mean that the rider is going to remember to have them turned ON. Guess I need to put my reflectors back on... I actually removed mine when I got my lights for my bike.

Now here's the next section, also on lights and reflectors:

2173.06 Lights and reflector on bicycle; brakes.

(a) Every bicycle when in use at the times specified in Section 2137.02 shall be equipped with a lamp on the front that shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred (500) feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the Director of Highway Safety and shall be visible from all distances from one hundred (100) feet to six hundred (600) feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle and a lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of five hundred (500) feet to the rear shall be used in addition to the red reflector.
(b) No person shall operate a bicycle unless such bicycle is equipped with an adequate brake which will enable the operator to make the brake wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement. (ORC 4511.56; Ord. 1170-75.)
Hmmm...wait a moment. Doesn't this seem a bit contradictory? Section .05 above states that you need front and rear lights, front and rear reflectors, and spoke reflectors; while section .06 states the need for only a front light and rear light and reflectors.

So.... I emailed the Columbus Division of Police to ask about this discrepancy. Their response was pretty darned simple!
2173.06 was repealed on January 1, 2004 so .05 is the correct section.
Doesn't get much easier than that. So the more comprehensive code in .05 is correct, and .06 can be ignored.

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