Bells on bikes: Dayton may eliminate ‘ticky-tack’ law today

Dayton is expected to amend a city law requiring bicycles to have bells, a regulation some people have criticized as unfriendly or a “ticky-tack” pretext for a police stop.

Today, Dayton commissioners are expected to have the second reading of an ordinance that eliminates the requirement that bikes operating in the city have bells attached.

The proposed ordinance says the current law is “burdensome” and adds unnecessary costs.

MORE: Dayton’s pot decriminalization: Here’s how police were told to respond

Bike bell laws police people in a way that’s unnecessary and does not support the public good or safety, said Laura Estandia, executive director of Bike Miami Valley, which advocates for bicycling in the region.

“A lot of people are surprised to find it is a requirement, when in fact vocalizing that you are passing someone should be sufficient,” she said.

People do not realize when they buy a bike that having a bell is required in certain jurisdictions, and there’s no state law mandating their use, she said.

MORE: Firearm background checks rise after Dayton shooting

Since 2017, Dayton police have cited about 67 people for bicycle bell violations, according to police data.

Bike-bell laws give police officers a reason to stop or pull someone over, but they are not equally enforced in all parts of the city, said Montgomery County Public Defender Theresa Haire.

Racing, touring and mountain bikes almost never have bicycle bells, but riders with nice or fancy gear are highly unlikely to be stopped or cited by police for missing the equipment, Haire said.

“I am an avid bike rider … and I was never, ever pulled over for not having a bike bell, and none of my teammates were,” she said. “I never knew anyone who was pulled over for it.”

But, she said, “In certain parts of Dayton, when people are on not-so-nice bikes and not wearing bike-racing gear, they get pulled over.”

People stopped for missing bike bells regularly are not charged with the violation if police find evidence of other unlawful activity, Haire said.

“It’ll be mentioned in the police report, but they don’t even bother charging because it is such a ‘ticky-tack,’ little violation,” she said.

MORE: Dayton officers who stopped mass shooter receive Medal of Valor from President Trump

Bells are an added expense and some people do not have easy access to the products, Estandia said, and city’s proposed law is equitable and allows bikes to have bells instead of requiring their use.

“There is nothing that says requiring a bike bell improves cycling safety, which should be the driving force behind any law,” she said.

City of Dayton code requires bicycles to have a bell or other device capable of giving an audible signal that can be heard at least 100 feet away. Sirens and whistles are prohibited.

About the Author