Why are lights so essential for bikes? The reasons are the same as those for cars, trucks, and other vehicles. They provide better visibility of the road during darkness. And perhaps more importantly, lights on bikes also make the bicyclist visible on dark roads or during inclement weather, times when bicycles are most vulnerable to collisions.
According to the California Office of Traffic Safety, the City of Santa Cruz has unfortunately been the location of some of the highest rates of collisions involving bicycles. In 2009, Santa Cruz ranked 3rd in the state in bicycle collisions and in 2010 Santa Cruz ranked 4th in bicycle collisions. Recently there have been multiple serious collisions with bicycles in which the lack of a bike light was a factor.
According the California Vehicle Code section 21201 (d)(1) during darkness and when the bicycle is in motion, a bicycle or bicyclist is required to have a white light illuminating the roadway in front of the bicyclist and visible from a distance of 300 ft to the front and sides of the bicycle. The sections 21201 (d)(2) through (d)(4) further require a bicycle to have a red reflector to the rear, visible for 500 ft., yellow or white reflectors on the pedals – visible to the front and rear for 200 ft., and reflectors front and rear of the center of the bike (most commonly on the wheels). Vehicle code section 21201(e) allows the head light to be attached to the rider instead of the bicycle itself.
Bike lights are available at local reputable bike shops and on line for as little as $10. Remember to ensure that the bike light you’re considering meets CVC requirements prior to your purchase.
Hopefully with greater compliance with the bike light law we can achieve a lower level of bicycle related collisions and thereby reduce injuries to bike riders.