We have encountered several bicycle injury cases where we could have gotten a great result for our client, if only he or she had been using a light on their bicycle. Of course, it is possible that those clients would never have needed to call an attorney if they’d had a light, which would have been even better. But in many of the cases, I think the accident was going to happen with or without a bike light, and the cyclist’s lack of a light just gave the driver of the car who caused the accident a free pass for an injury claim.
California Law Requires Bike Lights at Night
California Vehicle Code Section 21201 requires that any bicycle being operated during a time of “darkness” shall be equipped with a white light on the front of the bicycle, that is visible for 300 feet. Most bike lights meet this standard, even those that are very small, such as a Knog. This same section of the law requires reflectors on the pedals, and on the rear of the bike. “Darkness” is defined by Vehicle Code Section 280 as that time beginning one half hour after sunset. In my experience, this is long after the great majority of people driving cars have turned on their lights.
California Vehicle Code Section 280
But Section 280 has a second part, defining the time of “darkness,” (when lights must be used), to also include “any other time when visibility is not sufficient to render clearly discernible any person or vehicle on the highway at a distance of 1,000 feet.” Thus a cyclist can be deemed in violation of the light requirement even before 30 minutes after sundown, if an officer thinks that other factors-trees overhead, fog, etc.-reduce the available light and impair visibility.
I have not heard of the police in San Francisco, Oakland, or any other major cities in the Bay Area ticketing bike riders for lack of a light, but we are so vulnerable when we bike at night, that as a cyclist in San Francisco, I think we should do everything we can to stay visible. The biking pros take it a step further, with additional flashing lights, reflectorized shoes or coats, etc. As a personal injury attorney, I hate to see a client injured in a bike accident lose a case due to the lack of a light.
The lawyers at Callaway & Wolf have handled many bike accident cases around the Bay Area, including ones in Marin, San Francisco, and Alameda counties. Contact a bike accident lawyer at Callaway & Wolf for a free consultation.