Would you drive your car at night without your lights on? Of course not.
by Steve Herbert
You’d probably get many other drivers flashing their lights at you as a reminder to flip them on, if not pulled over by the police. All too often lately I’m noticing cyclists out after dark without lights. As a year ‘round bicycle commuter, the idea that some would go out in traffic at night without lights is simply incomprehensible. It’s also extremely dangerous and against the law.
Last weekend I observed three cyclists riding on Overland, one with lights but two others, riding as a couple in traffic, without any lights what so ever. At the corner of Sepulveda and Washington nearTitos Tacos, two more were riding without lights, against traffic, on the sidewalk and riding in the crosswalk. These were observed in just a 15-minute errand on a Friday night. Being invisible in traffic is foolish. When I’m out riding at night I want to be as visible as a float in a Disney electric parade. I want motorists and others to note my presence and know I’m there so they don’t hit me. That is just common sense. Common sense unfortunately isn’t all that common any more. It’s also the Law. California Vehicle Code 21201(d) is effectively summarized in Culver City Municipal Code 7.04.300, stating:
Every bicycle upon a roadway or sidewalk at any time from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise, and at any other time when there is not sufficient light to render clearly discernible any person or vehicle on the highway at a distance of 200 feet, shall be equipped with a lamp on the front, which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least 300 feet to the front, and with a red reflector on the rear which shall be visible from all distances from 50 feet to 200 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of 200 feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector.
21201(d) of the California Vehicle code, also references the use of white or yellow reflectors on the pedals, shoes or ankles of the rider visible for 200 feet, and side reflectors on the front and rear or reflectorized tires on the front and rear of the bike.
Keep in mind that lights are cheap, less than the cost of a typical tank of gas and likely much less expensive than the insurance deductible for an emergency room visit. A basic set will start around $25, with fancier & brighter lights going for over $200. Moreover, they are available at just about any bike shop and most large retailers who offer bicycle accessories. With the number of potholes and debris on the road, it’s as important to see well as well as be seen. My headlight can illuminate a solid while light or a flashing light. I typically use an LED flashing light when I’m riding in the daytime to help catch the attention of drivers quicker, and it does. I have a second, brighter LED light with a rechargeable battery pack aimed downward to light the road in front of me when I’m riding home in the dark over the fall & winter months.
On the rear of my bike is a red light which can illuminate a solid light or often a couple of different flashing patterns. In my experience it helps to have some sort of flashing taillight when riding in traffic.
Riding in traffic is challenging enough already. Help yourself and those drivers who encounter you on the road: get lights and turn them on. Be bright, use your lights!