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  1. #1
    Member ScottRae's Avatar
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    Flashing headlight legal?

    Would anyone know if it is legal in California, to ride at night in a well lighted urban area with my light set to a flashing mode? When the street lights are few and far between I always ride with the light on steady. Is it safer to ride with the tail light on flash, or steady?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Looigi's Avatar
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    Between the two I opt for flashing. I think it even better to run one flashing and one steady. Flashing is better for conspicuity and steady helps others judge distance and speed.

    I rode with flashing lights for years in CA, as did many other riders I rode with. I would and will continue do it irrespective of the law.

  3. #3
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    I know nothing of CA law but I found this in the code:

    Flashing lights are prohibited on vehicles except as otherwise permitted. http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d12/vc25250.htm

    And the permitted uses http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d12/vc25251.htm don't include bicycle headlights (but do include motorcycles in daytime)

    BUT, someone said earlier that California is a little weird in that bicycle doesn't necessarily mean "vehicle" in the Vehicle Code so this could be a gray area.

  4. #4
    Member cg_bstone's Avatar
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    I put a flashing yellow on the front in addition to the headlight.
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    Senior Member Wilfred Laurier's Avatar
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    in ontario canada
    where i am
    the law specifically prohibits flashing rear lights
    and i believe specifies that front lights must be steady

    i ride with both lights flashing almost all the time
    as i think it increase visibility
    and i have never ever been stopped
    but that is here
    and california is known for doing things differently

    however
    it must be a pretty small subset of police
    that both know the specific requirements
    and also care about someone with incorrect lighting
    while many other bicyclists have no lights at all

  6. #6
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    A flashing headlight would make me ill. It might even send me into a k-hole.

  7. #7
    coprolite fietsbob's Avatar
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    I put a flashing yellow on the front in addition to the headlight.
    Emergency Flasher.. cars have this function ..

    so if cited by the CHP, your Defense lawyer can point that out in Court.

  8. #8
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by memebag View Post
    A flashing headlight would make me ill. It might even send me into a k-hole.
    Go with steady and night....Strobe in day time.
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  9. #9
    xtrajack xtrajack's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
    Go with steady and night....Strobe in day time.
    +1

    I roll with a steady front light at night. In the daytime, IF, I feel a compelling need have a light on, I run my Blackburn Quadrant on flash mode.
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  10. #10
    Member ScottRae's Avatar
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    My light has two flash settings and one does make me feel odd, can't use it. The other setting is OK, strange but true.
    Good day.

  11. #11
    Member ScottRae's Avatar
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    Thanks for the info, more and more people around here are getting tickets for not having a light. I must have fallen asleep for a few years I didn't even know it was illegal to ride without a light. I just thought it was a bad idea. But then someone told me bicycles run under the same laws as motorcycles.
    Cheers

  12. #12
    Senior Member mprelaw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScottRae View Post
    Thanks for the info, more and more people around here are getting tickets for not having a light. I must have fallen asleep for a few years I didn't even know it was illegal to ride without a light. I just thought it was a bad idea. But then someone told me bicycles run under the same laws as motorcycles.
    Cheers
    Illegal or not, riding without a light is just plain dumb. Lights are probably even more important for being seen, than they are for seeing. Young people with good night vision can often see road hazards by ambient light. But cars, pedestrians, other bikes, or anything else that isn't stationary and can either run into you or be run into by you, may not have such cat-like night vision.

    And yes, except for equipment requirements and licensing, bikes operate under the same rules of the road as any other vehicle. That being said, every state that I know of requires a front headlight, and either a rear reflector or taillight visible from a stated distance, for riding a bike at night.

  13. #13
    The Recumbent Quant cplager's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
    Go with steady and night....Strobe in day time.
    At night, I run one steady and one flashing (front and back). During the day, I just flash.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member walrus1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cg_bstone View Post
    I put a flashing yellow on the front in addition to the headlight.
    In some states only emergency flashers and turn signals can be yellow.

    As to the OP question I don't know about Califonia but I have never heard of anyone being pulled over for having a flashing headlight. This of course won't stop some enterprising cop from attempting to ticket you for this. I bike in a very urban area and don't actually have to use my headlight to see most of the time so I keep it on flashing 80% of the time when I use it.
    Last edited by walrus1; 10-04-13 at 02:52 PM.

  15. #15
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    I don't care for flashing lights at night... although I do run the light in flashy mode when the sun gets low in the sky because it's DAMN hard to see people with the sun in your eyes.

    Rear is always blinking, headlight is on steady at night. I'll use two headlights for any appreciable distance after dark.

    If they want to ticket you, they'll ticket you for lack of reflectors, removing your dork disk etc.

  16. #16
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by ScottRae View Post
    Thanks for the info, more and more people around here are getting tickets for not having a light. I must have fallen asleep for a few years I didn't even know it was illegal to ride without a light. I just thought it was a bad idea. But then someone told me bicycles run under the same laws as motorcycles.
    Cheers
    Not really true since motorcycles are covered by all the rules in California that mention "motor vehicles" in addition to those which apply only to "vehicles." In addition, California explicitly excludes bicycles from their definition of vehicle but instead considers them to be human-powered devices, although bicycle riders are assigned the same rights and responsibilities as vehicle operators except for specific exceptions.

    The only type of flashing light that's specified as illegal on a bicycle in Calif. is a blue one since that color is reserved for emergency vehicles. But bicycles operated at night are required to have at least a red reflector on the back (plus pedal or ankle and side reflectors) and a white light on the front that illuminates the road as well as providing visibility from a distance. Having only a flashing light (esp. with a slow flash rate) could be interpreted as not satisfying the road illumination requirement if you meet a particularly picky officer, but I doubt that you'd get cited as long as you're willing to switch it to the steady-on mode.

    A tail light (either flashing or steady) is not required by the Calif. vehicle code, but is certainly a good idea.

  17. #17
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by TrojanHorse View Post
    I don't care for flashing lights at night
    I use my Lezyne Super Drive XL in flashing mode at night. I just point it down slightly so it's not blinding to oncoming traffic. I figure it's more effective at preventing left crosses than steady mode is (at least based on my anecdotal observation of other cyclists at night.) It flashes about once a second so it's not an obnoxious strobe mode (which I find super annoying in the dark.) My Dinotte 300R is probably more annoying to traffic at night even when I run it on the least obnoxious flash mode (because it's so darn bright and can't easily be pointed down.)
    Last edited by Dunbar; 10-04-13 at 04:00 PM.

  18. #18
    SuperGimp TrojanHorse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dunbar View Post
    I use my Lezyne Super Drive XL in flashing mode at night. I just point it down slightly so it's not blinding to oncoming traffic. I figure it's more effective at preventing left crosses than steady mode is (at least based on my anecdotal observation of other cyclists at night.) It flashes about once a second so it's not an obnoxious strobe mode (which I find super annoying in the dark.) My Dinotte 300R is probably more annoying to traffic at night even when I run it on the least obnoxious flash mode (because it's so darn bright and can't easily be pointed down.)
    That's a pretty bright headlight. I've sometimes put one headlight on flash and one on steady but the flashing light just seems to emphasize all the things I don't care about (road signs, speed limit signs... )

    There's something to be said for not getting whacked by a car though. I had a car once wait for me to pass (in the bike lane) instead of the traditional right hook, presumably because my flasher was going. It was just before sundown too, so bad lighting.

  19. #19
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    I haven't read up on the laws concerning it, but I've been using flashing lights on both the front (white) and rear (red) for the past 20 years here in California. None of the lights is blindingly bright, just bright enough to identify me to vehicles. Plenty of cops have seen me, and I've never been stopped. Most of this has been in the early morning when there are very few cars on the roads, and there are plenty of others on bicycles at that time without lights, so I'm not really a problem.

  20. #20
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    I've used flashing LED lights in IN since about 1986..

    Does anyone have firsthand knowledge of anybody in the US having legal issues because of flashing white/front red/rear bike lights?
    RANS V3 (steel), RANS V-Rex, RANS Screamer

  21. #21
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    I live in California. I have been riding for more than a couple of years with my rear light blinking all the time. At dusk, I use the flashing light in the front. When it's dark, I ride with a steady front beam.

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