The other day I was having coffee with one of my friends who happens to be an Officer with a very large metropolitan police department. We’ll call him “Officer Ben.”I had some questions for him regarding laws that apply to bicyclists as well as safety tips. I figured he’d be a great source for this info since he’s on the streets. Some of the items listed below are things you might get a ticket for or suggestions on keeping you safe while riding.
1. Don’t ride the opposite direction of traffic.
2. Front head light. This must be at least 300 feet visible. Rear red light that is visible at 500 feet.
-Reflectors are not sufficient
-Wear reflective clothing or high-visibility vests/shirts. Don’t wear dark clothing when riding at night.
-Pedals must have yellow, wheels/spokes with white, rear red and white front reflectors.
-Officer Ben recommends blinking lights to make you more visible to cars on the road.
3. Brakes-All bicycles MUST have some sort of braking system. Fixie riders, if a cop pulls you over and your bike does not have some sort of brake setup, you will get a ticket. The argument that you can stop the bike with your legs or skip stopping will not fly.
4. Tall Bikes-As a bicyclist, you must be able to come to a stop and put one foot down.
5. Cell phone-Remember, a bicycle is considered a “vehicle” and if you’re caught on your phone, it will yield the same fees as if you were driving a car while on the phone.
6. Traffic violations-If you don’t stop at red lights, stop signs, erratic lane changes or any thing that shows you broke a law, a cop will pull you over.
7. Hand signals-Remember to use your hand signals. A cop can pull you over if you aren’t using them. I may add that if you’re riding your bike, you make a lane change or turn and you don’t use the signals, which causes a car to swerve from hitting you, you could be cited.
8. Stereo-If you’re one of those riders that like to blast their stereo while riding a bike and the noise volume can be heard 50 feet away, you can be cited.
9. Riding on the sidewalk without “due care.” In California a law recently passed where it is permissible for a bicyclist to ride on the sidewalk with due care. This means if conditions on the street is unsafe to ride a bike, the person can use the sidewalk, but they have to be careful and be mindful of the people on it. You can’t be doing sprints on the sidewalk while there are hundreds of people walking on it.
10. Hands-You have to at least have ONE HAND on the handlebar at all times.
11. If a cop sees you’ve got a gun, you will be pulled over.
12. Look suspicious-If you or your bike fits a description of a crime, you will be stopped.
13. Record your bike’s serial numbers.
14. Have pictures of you with your bike on your cell phone. Have serial number(s) of your bikes on your phone.
15. Carry pepper spray on you or on your bike…you never know!
16. Have the number to PD’s Dispatch Department for each city you are commuting through on your cell phone.
17. Headphones-If you have both ear buds in, you will get stopped. Best thing to do is either not ride with it or just have one ear bud on. It’s important that you hear emergency vehicles approaching.
18. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Be cautious.
19. Don’t start fights. It’s not worth it.
20. Don’t do anything stupid.
Well there you have it a list of 20 different things to help you avoid getting tickets and keeping you safe. I’d like to thank Officer Ben for taking the time to talk with us. Keep in mind, quite a bit of the things we mentioned has much to do with the individual Officer that pulls you over. Your attitude will also make a difference. I also have to mention, laws in each city and state are different. Some of the things I mentioned here could be totally legal in your city/state and vice versa. It pays to become familiar with the applicable laws in your locale — most are available online through your city’s/state’s government website. Be safe out there!