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Old 08-26-05, 09:03 PM   #1
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Flashing light illegal in Virginia?

I know a lot of people here use the amber strobe light from All Electronics. I always thought it was a good idea -- a flashing yellow is the universal sign of a slow vehicle, a lot of states require vehicles (other than bicycles) that travel less than 25 mph to have a flashing yellow light at night, the DOT recommends it for slow vehicles -- so motorists should recognize that there is a slow vehicle ahead of them.

But it turns out that Virginia, a neighboring state where I occasionally ride, strictly regulates the use of flashing amber, and bicycles are not one of the permitted uses. Here's the code cite, which I stumbled over today while looking for something else: http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp...+cod+46.2-1025

It also appears that cyclists may not use flashing red lights, which are reserved for emergency vehicles.

I don't quite understand why they care about flashing yellow. Any thoughts?

There is a related section, 46.2-1081, which deals with the slow-moving vehicle emblem, the triangle, which is the daytime analog. Basically, all slow vehicles must have one, only slow vehicles may have one, and bicyclists get the choice to have one or not. I would think yellow lights would work the same way.
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Old 08-26-05, 09:15 PM   #2
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Laws are stupid.
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Old 08-26-05, 09:31 PM   #3
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All states regulate manner, color, and use of lights on vehicles. That said if you stick to a white light in the front and a red in the rear--flashing or not--you'd be doing pretty good. Allow common sense to prevail and it might just.
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Old 08-26-05, 10:53 PM   #4
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The cops in my area don't seem to care. I use a flashing red tailight and have had them pull up next to me at a light and say nothing. Most likely if you're riding a bicycle on the road, especially at night, anything you do to keep from having to be scraped off the pavement is fine with them considering the night riders in this area rarely have any kind of lights and sometimes even the reflectors have been pulled off.

{17. Vehicles used to lead or provide escorts for bicycle races authorized by the Department of Transportation or the locality in which the race is being conducted.** Just tell the cop, "The peleton was right behind me a few minutes ago. I must have dropped them again."

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Old 08-26-05, 11:04 PM   #5
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I have flashing lights I use. How else are cars going to see you?

Go for it.

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Old 08-27-05, 07:07 AM   #6
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In the UK they are illegal if attached to the bike but legal if attached to you!

I have one attached to my bike.

My defense is that I am maintaining my human right to stay alive.
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Old 08-27-05, 09:27 AM   #7
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Just because a regulation is on the books doesn't meen that the police are out looking for violators.

DC, have you heard of anyone trying to enforce this one?

If a case like this ever made it to traffic court, a sensible judge would dimiss it and read the riot act to the officer for being a jerk and wasting everyones time. Just have to hope for a sensible judge.
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Old 08-27-05, 09:52 AM   #8
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In Norway I think they're legal if the flashing frequency is above 200/min -> 3.33Hz
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Old 08-27-05, 09:55 AM   #9
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Officer... this cateye is CLEARLY 3.5 Hz, clearly...
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Old 08-27-05, 10:07 AM   #10
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Quote:
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Officer... this cateye is CLEARLY 3.5 Hz, clearly...
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Old 08-27-05, 10:50 AM   #11
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Here, no vehicule can have flashing lights except (my translation from French):

Green: Commanding post vehicule, used only inside the emergency perimeter
Red: Emergency vehicules
Alterning white : emergency vehicules
Blue: Police
Yellow: Service (road repair, plower, tow truck, wide load).

Bicycles must have:
White reflectors up front
Red reflectors in the back
Yellow reflector on each pedal
Yellow reflectors in the front wheel
Red reflectors in the rear wheel

When circulating at night, bicycles must have a white light in front allowing to distinguish a person or an object at a distance of 10 meters, and red light in the back.

It is forbidden to sell or rent a bicycle without the required reflectors.

When two white lights are mounted on a vehicule, they must be at the same height and as close as possible to the sides of the vehicule.

------------

Well, looks like just about no bicycle is legal around here. I personnally use two rear red lights, one blinking and one continuous.
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Old 08-27-05, 08:33 PM   #12
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Carry a plastic bag with you and claim you are a "Vehicle used in refuse collection" collecting drink cans from the roadside.
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Old 08-28-05, 08:15 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cc_rider
Just because a regulation is on the books doesn't meen that the police are out looking for violators.

DC, have you heard of anyone trying to enforce this one?

If a case like this ever made it to traffic court, a sensible judge would dimiss it and read the riot act to the officer for being a jerk and wasting everyones time. Just have to hope for a sensible judge.
I'm not particularly worried about being pulled over -- although the DC Office of Police Complaints is currently investigating a series of "pretext" stops against cyclists (see: http://www.policecomplaints.dc.gov/o...y_rec_bike.pdf).

What I'm more worried about is a case where a cyclist gets hit by a car, and a sharp lawyer is able to argue that it's not the the driver's fault because the bike had lights that were not legal. I know there have been similar cases involving reflectors. Every state requires that bikes have reflectors, and even if you have lights, you still techinically need reflectors. Cyclists have been held responsible for accidents because they didn't have reflectors, even if they had lights. Frankly, in a case like that it sounds like the judge just doesn't believe bicycles should be on the road anyway and is looking for anything to hang the case on, but I don't want to give him that opportunity.

One aspect I'm looking into is that for the most part vehicle lighting is regulated by the federal government, and there is a federal law that states cannot have regulations that are more restrictive than the federal ones. But I haven't been able to determine if federal law allows flashing lights on bicycles.
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Old 08-28-05, 08:20 AM   #14
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I don't believe there are federal standards outside the CPSC reflector requirements.
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Old 08-28-05, 08:56 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DCCommuter
What I'm more worried about is a case where a cyclist gets hit by a car, and a sharp lawyer is able to argue that it's not the the driver's fault because the bike had lights that were not legal. I know there have been similar cases involving reflectors. Every state requires that bikes have reflectors, and even if you have lights, you still techinically need reflectors. Cyclists have been held responsible for accidents because they didn't have reflectors, even if they had lights.
I've read of others also worried about this possibility, and some who also worry of scenarios of sharpie lawyers trying to use other trivial equipment violations to get their otherwise liable clients off the hook for paying otherwise legitimate bicyclist monetary injury claims. Can you actually cite real cases of legitimate cyclist claims against motorists, tossed for such trivial equipment violations (i.e blinking light vis-ą-vis steady light or legal reflector)?

Please dispel my belief that the knowledge base about such "cases" posted on the Internet is merely constant repitition of chimerical "legal legends," begat by legal-wannabe worrywarts/soothsayers.
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Old 08-28-05, 10:36 AM   #16
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Jeez,
I thought laws were inspired in common sense. What's wrong with trying to stay alive?

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Old 08-29-05, 02:52 PM   #17
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Why worry? When have cops considered bikes to be vehicles?

Seriously,I don't think this is something the cops enforce. I've seen plenty of blinking lights(red,can't remember seeing a yellow) on bikes on the VA side. Maybe if you were running around with flashing blue and reds. Personally,I prefer red over yellow because red means 'danger' to yellow's 'caution' and because most drivers expect red lights on the rear of a vehicle.
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Old 08-29-05, 04:12 PM   #18
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Flashing lights are extremely dangerous - what would happen if someone mistook you for a fire engine? You might find yourself sued for not putting the fire out.

On the other hand, I've never been mistaken for a fire engine when I've had flashing lights on. Mistaken for an empty space, yes.
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Old 08-29-05, 09:12 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slvoid
Officer... this cateye is CLEARLY 3.5 Hz, clearly...
Actually, I got a bunch of Vista xenon lights from the local bike shop at their wholesale cost because Vista sent them the European flashing rate lights (about twice as fast as US blinkies). $25 lights for $12.50, cool.
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Old 08-30-05, 08:14 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
Can you actually cite real cases of legitimate cyclist claims against motorists, tossed for such trivial equipment violations (i.e blinking light vis-ą-vis steady light or legal reflector)?
That's a very fair question. The closest I can come is this case: Cyclist Charged with Death of Companion

Reading the case it's clear that the police were looking to pin the death on the cyclists, and came up with the lack of a rear reflector as the pretext.
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Old 08-31-05, 03:43 AM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DCCommuter
That's a very fair question. The closest I can come is this case: Cyclist Charged with Death of Companion

Reading the case it's clear that the police were looking to pin the death on the cyclists, and came up with the lack of a rear reflector as the pretext.
Even in the cited (by newspaper/Internet) case, where a cyclist got ticketed for lack of a reflector (which is NOT a ticket for a blinking light) I fail to see where the motorist was absolved of his financial liability in a civil suit because of this issue.

The bottom line is should a bicyclist refrain from taking obvious self protective safety measures (i.e. blinky red lights) because of a unfounded fear of a remote/miniscule probability that it could affect the damages awarded in a civil suit?

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Old 08-31-05, 09:33 AM   #22
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Isn't a turn signal a flashing red light? Doesn't that make all non-emergency motor vehicles illegal?
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Old 08-31-05, 02:21 PM   #23
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The relatively small chance of getting a ticket is insignificant compared to the problems associated with getting smashed flatter than day old beer.
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Old 08-31-05, 07:16 PM   #24
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The relatively small chance of getting a ticket is insignificant compared to the problems associated with getting smashed flatter than day old beer.
Exactly right. Even if adding the alleged risk of the remote possibility of an effect on a liability claim by an injured cyclist who "violated" some trivial, obscure, and never enforced traffic code.
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Old 08-31-05, 07:24 PM   #25
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Flashing light illegal to Virginia?
You rang???? No they're not illegal to me!

-V
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