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What Is the Bike Light Law in California?

Accident car crash with bicycle on road at night time.


I was riding my bike at night on Pico Blvd. in Santa Monica. I was riding on the street. There was no bike lane. A car rear-ended me. I had no rear bike light, but my bike had a rear reflector. The driver is trying to blame me for not having a rear bike light. Was I required to have a rear light on my bicycle?


While it is certainly safer and thus advisable to have a rear light on your bike, California law does not require it. You were in compliance with the law because you had a rear reflector, as long as the rear reflector was visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear.

The bike light laws in California are set forth in Vehicle Code Section 21201, which says that bicyclists must have the following equipment on their bikes when riding when it’s dark outside:

  • A front light emitting a white light visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and from the sides of the bike rider.
  • A rear red reflector or a rear solid or flashing red light with a built-in reflector visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear.
  • A white or yellow reflector on each pedal or on the bicyclist’s shoes or ankles visible from the front and rear from a distance of 200 feet.
  • A white or yellow reflector on the front wheel, a white or red reflector on the rear wheel, or reflectorized tires.

When a bicyclist is hit by a car, the bicyclist can suffer severe injuries. The more severe the injuries, the more money the vehicle driver’s insurance company must pay out for the harm caused. The more the insurance company must pay out, the harder they will fight. Insurance companies don’t like to part with their money. They will look for any excuse to avoid accepting full responsibility for the accident. They will attempt to put some degree of fault on the bicyclist in order to get a discount on what they have to pay.

If you were injured in a bike accident, speak with one of our attorneys for a free consultation. No sugar-coating here. We’ll give you our honest opinion on whether the insurance company has a legitimate argument that you bear any fault for the accident. We’ll also give you our honest opinion on whether you need a personal injury lawyer.

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