Friday, June 22, 2012

Riding in East Orange? Come with bells on

Word comes to WalkBikeJersey from our friends at the Brick City Bike Collective, that the East Orange Police are enforcing the following New Jersey state law: 
39:4-11. Audible signal 

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 feet, except that a bicycle shall not be equipped with nor shall any person use upon a bicycle any siren or whistle.

Amended by L.1951, c. 23, p. 70, s. 12.
Darryle of the BCBC told us that, "That is why I got pulled over. He said he stopped me because I didn't have a bell. It wasn't like he stopped me for something else, and wrote me up for the bell in the process, it was only because I didn't have a bell."  Luckily for Darryle, he was only given a warning.

In New York City, the police often use the bell requirement as an excuse to pull over and ticket otherwise law abiding cyclists.  It would appear that the New Jersey law is being used for essentially the same purpose. A much better use of limited New Jersey law enforcement resources would be for officers to pull over cyclists who operate their bicycles illegally and dangerously, or ride at night without lights.  Riding without a bell is none of that.

While a bicycle bell is a polite way to notify pedestrians that a bicycle is approaching, bells are totally useless when warning cars drivers or superfluous as ones voice is often just as effective when warning pedestrians and usually much louder than a bell. 

When looked at it in this light, it is clear that this 1951 law is truly archaic and needs to be repealed as it provides no real safety benefit and is only ever used by police as a means to pull over well behaved cyclists.

On a side note:
A BIG tip of the ol' bike helmet to the Mexican / Central American guy who passed and then dropped me on a climb in Atlantic Highlands on Wednesday.  He had a decent road bike but what was truly  amazing was that he was wearing jeans a long sleeve t-shirt in the midday heat!!! Obviously riding for transportation. I was in my finest Italian kit, shoes and bike (yes, everything Italian) and I just couldn't keep up and I'm in pretty damn good shape.  I told him how impressed I was and rooted him on.  He laughed and was soon gone.

I'm totally not worthy.


Max Power said...

Maybe if the bell sounded like a ringing cellphone, drivers might notice you.

Bob E. said...

While pulling over unsafe cyclists would be a good use of resources, an even better one would be to start enforcing laws that apply to motor-vehicle drivers -- like speeding, cell-phone usage, etc.

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