CA Legislative Update: Bike Lights and Three Feet for Safety

bikeatCapitollabel2Here is our regular roundup of California legislation of interest to livable streets advocates. As always, let us know if we missed anything in the comments.

  • Freshman Assemblymember Kansen Chu (D-San Jose) has listened to feedback and amended his bike light bill, A.B. 28. It started out badly, requiring a flashing white rear light on bikes at night, which would have been a recipe for disaster and confused everyone. That was quickly changed from a white light to red, in keeping with standard practice on all vehicles. Now it has been improved further. As currently worded, it would allow bicycle riders some flexibility in how they make themselves visible at night: they could use a red light, either solid or flashing, or the currently required red rear reflector.
  • Assemblymember Frank Bigelow (R-O’Neals) has been working on a bill to clarify last year’s Three Feet for Safety Act. His district sees a lot of bike riders out enjoying the hilly rural routes, as well as drivers now confused about when it’s okay to pass safely. The early draft of A.B. 208 was an amendment to the current law about when bicyclists must pull over to let other vehicles pass. That change turned out to be unnecessary, as bikes are covered by the standard slow-moving vehicle rule, to wit: if there are five or more vehicles lined up behind a vehicle moving slower than the “normal flow at that time and place,” the slower vehicle, be it a truck, car, or bicycle, shall pull over to let the vehicles pass. Right now A.B. 208 makes a minor clarifying amendment to that part of the code. It should be heard in the Assembly Transportation Committee next week.
  • Senator Fran Pavley’s (D-Agoura Hills) bill to increase the number of stickers allowing low-emission vehicles access to carpool lanes, SB 39, passed the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee 9 to 1, and now moves on to the Committee on Appropriations. The bill’s supporters say that these stickers are necessary to encourage people to buy electric vehicles, but others have pointed out that there are already many other incentives for doing so. And free passes to the HOV lane may slow traffic there, thus removing the incentive to carpool.
  • Great form of characterization. You done it well. Great job!

  • Eric B

    What’s more, the proposed change muddles the existing distinction between “roadway” and “highway” definitions. It isn’t nonsubstantive if you’ve been on the receiving end of citations where a LEO couldn’t tell you the difference. Existing law requires you to safely pull onto the paved shoulder. This proposed law would require you to leave the public right-of-way.

  • Melanie Curry

    You’re right, thanks. There seems to be plenty of confusion as everyone figures out how this works.

  • James

    The ability to substitute a taillight for a reflector is helpful in that it would allow a bicycle with a taillight and no rear reflector to be fully legal. Taillights don’t always contain reflectors. I’m believe German regulations require some reflective properties in taillights which means that a generetor or dynohub powered light will have sort of reflector built in, however it may not meet the technical definition of reflector in CA, if there is one. The common battery powered flashing taillights don’t usually have a built in reflector. As the law stands today, a bicycle with an extremely bright taillight could be considered in violation of the law if it doesn’t also have a rear reflector.

    Imagine being pulled over by the CHP for taking the lane on a street with sharrow markings. The CHP officer is wrong. You know it and he knows it, but the lack of a rear reflector would give the officer the opportunity to hand you a citation for something in response to his anger over your legal right to take the lane. Same goes with the bell requirement.

    Does an electronic horn or the capacity to yell qualify? In practice it does, but you could be in a situation where the electronic horn is literally interpreted to be not a bell by law enforcement resulting in a ticket when you were pulled over for not riding in the shoulder on PCH.

    Rear reflectors are hard to come by without ordering one from a catalog and the most obvioius mount locations may be already ocupied by a taillight. I’m not sure if manufacturers still take the rear reflector mandate seriously but I’ve seen older bikes with a big round reflector mouted either on the rear rack (where a taillight should go) or behind the seatpost, another location where you might want a saddle bag, taillight or rear view traffic camera.

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  • Chris J.

    Below is current California law (from here).

    Also, one comment: I don’t usually see reflectors for sale at bike shops. One bike shop staff person said they are usually only present with new bikes. But maybe I’m just not looking hard enough.

    (1) A lamp emitting a white light that, while the bicycle is in motion, illuminates the highway, sidewalk, or bikeway in front of the bicyclist and is visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and from the sides of the bicycle.

    (2) A red reflector on the rear that shall be visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle.

    (3) A white or yellow reflector on each pedal, shoe, or ankle visible from the front and rear of the bicycle from a distance of 200 feet.

    (4) A white or yellow reflector on each side forward of the center of the bicycle, and a white or red reflector on each side to the rear of the center of the bicycle, except that bicycles that are equipped with reflectorized tires on the front and the rear need not be equipped with these side reflectors.
    The reflectors and reflectorized tires shall be of a type meeting requirements established by the department.

    (e) A lamp or lamp combination, emitting a white light, attached to the operator and visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and from the sides of the bicycle, may be used in lieu of the lamp required by paragraph (1) of subdivision (d).

  • mcaswell

    I’m really concerned with the way you’ve characterized the ‘slow moving vehicle’ law here. At least one of my friends on facebook misread this to mean that bike riders have to move over on ALL streets — but if you read the language of AB208 — and VC22400, this only applies on “2-lane highway where passing is unsafe” which essentially makes this rule irrelevant for many, many roads. But if we don’t clarify this, we confuse bike riders and drivers alike… so, I’m hoping Sblog CA can be more intentional in their language when reporting on legal issues like this!

  • Prinzrob

    Under current CA law only a red, rear reflector is required, and not a light. The newly edited bill will just allow either a reflector or a light to satisfy the legal minimum requirement. Of course, most thoughtful bicyclists will go well above the minimum when biking after dark.

  • Am I missing something about Chu’s bill? Aren’t either red rear lights or a reflector already required? Or is a red rear reflector the only thing that satisfies the current law, and this adds red lights, solid or flashing, as an alternative?

  • Dave Campbell

    And Jim Frazier’s ACA 4 to lower voter thresholds for transportation sales tax measures to 55%. This would make it easier to pass such measures, but more difficult to ensure buy-in from all users of the transportation system. I’m skeptical.

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