Lighting the Way

It’s a small bill, but it’s indicative of the ascendency of bikes.

Assembly Bill 668 would require that bikes operated on most multi-use state trails (but not mountain bike trails) be equipped with lights on the front and rear. It’s a common sense rule that the Bike Fed supports.

But the reason it’s even an issue is a good one. Simply put, more people are biking at different times of the year. The advent of fat bikes especially means more people are biking on trails and coming into contact with other users. Most notably, in the winter they’re sharing the trail with snowmobilers and, in fact, it was the Wisconsin Snowmobile Association that requested the bill.

Front and rear lights may soon be required when riding on certain multi-use state trails during hours of darkness.

While we’ve had a recent shot of real Midwestern winter in southern Wisconsin during the last week and a half, it has otherwise been another snowless season. Trails that once supported many weekends of snowmobiling may now sit vacant for months on end due to global climate change. Bikes could be the answer to keep the trails in use and the tourism industry healthy.

So, making yourself visible on a multi-use trail is the safe thing for you, but it’s also the courteous thing to do for other users. And the very fact that the bill has even been introduced is an indication that cycling is an expanding part of the tourism industry.

The bill was voted out of committee last week and we expect it to pass both houses by the time the legislature adjourns next month.

About Dave Cieslewicz, Director Emeritus

Dave Cieslewicz served two terms as mayor of Madison where he set the city on a path for Platinum status as one of the best biking cities in North America. Before that he started his own nonprofit, 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, which focuses on land use and transportation policy. He has been an adjunct professor at the UW Madison's Department of Urban and Regional Planning where he teaches a class called Bikes, Pedestrians and Cities. He pronounces his name chess LEV ich, but nobody else does.

4 thoughts on “Lighting the Way

  1. Agreed, I think it’s a good bill because it’s a good idea, which then begs the question “why do we need a bill to mandate common sense?” Well, because there are as many arguments against lighting one’s bike as there are for it. But they tend to rise to the level and sophistication of “slowing me down because of extra weight and wind profile.”

    But Dave’s commentary is spot on. It’s the courtesy aspect for a shared resource. That millisecond flash of your light in someone else’s eye could avert serious damage or even death.

  2. From a bicycling equity standpoint I think we should be thinking about whether this will restrict some riders from using our trails or, worse penalize them if they are using our trails and make them less likely to use a bike in the future. You may say “hey lights are cheap you can get a light anywhere” but if you add in the extra complication of maybe not having a credit card, or maybe the bike shop is not in your neighborhood or not open in the hours you are off work. Bicycling might be the only form of transportation to and from work for many people, and when you’re making less than $10 an hour every hour at work helps. While I support safety whole heartedly I would encourage us all to think about ways that we might be able to help people who cannot afford lights have lights so that we can all be safer.

  3. Well, as long as they are at it, they should ban flashing front lights. These serve no purpose other than to annoy anyone unfortunate enough to be in front of the bike. Typically, you notice the bike and rider first, then come to realize you have a strobe flashing in your face. These flashers are distracting and do not improve visibility at all, something I have noticed day or night when walking, riding, or even driving. If you want fellow trail users to hate and resent the presence of cyclists, use a front strobe.

  4. I for one have always been surprised that the current requirement at night is a bike needs a white front light and a red rear reflector. Visibility is so necessary. To the person who stated that this may cause people not to use a bike at night. I say yes lights are cheap and growing as a kid a cheap flashlight and duck tape always worked. its not pretty or the best option but there is always an option. for a rear red light same thing but with a red balloon over the light. again not the best solution but there are ways to make it work. Also companies could help with giveaways. Helmets are given out because they make others safer. Why not lights too!

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