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Doug Landau
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Bicycle lights and reflectors save lives, but when are they required?

4 comments

Are bike lights and reflectors required all day?

After representing cyclists in the Loudoun County District Court in Leesburg Tuesday I was asked this question. The short answer is no, you do not need lights on or reflectors from sunrise to sunset. However, I have been stopped by the police for not having reflectors, lights and even mudguards on my old Italian Bianchi racing bike.

Most racing and triathlon bikes do not have lights, reflectors or mudguards in order to save weight, rotating mass and because most competitions are held in the daytime. If you are a bicycle commuter, long distance bike tour participant or training very early or late in the day, you may need to have lights, reflectors and other safety gear.

Here’s the relevant Virginia Code section:

§ 46.2-1015. Lights on bicycles, electric personal assistive mobility devices, electric power-assisted bicycles, and mopeds.

A. Every bicycle, electric personal assistive mobility device, electric power-assisted bicycle, and moped when in use between sunset and sunrise shall be equipped with a headlight on the front emitting a white light visible in clear weather from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and a red reflector visible from a distance of at least 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlights on a motor vehicle. Such lights and reflector shall be of types approved by the Superintendent.

In addition to the foregoing provisions of this section, a bicycle or its rider may be equipped with lights or reflectors. These lights may be steady burning or blinking.

B. Every bicycle, or its rider, shall be equipped with a taillight on the rear emitting a red light plainly visible in clear weather from a distance of at least 500 feet to the rear when in use between sunset and sunrise and operating on any highway with a speed limit of 35 mph or greater. Any such taillight shall be of a type approved by the Superintendent.

4 Comments

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  1. Lyle says:
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    What possible reason could police have to stop a cyclist for not having mudguards? Is there no recourse against such abuses of power?

  2. Aviation says:
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    Lyle,
    Mudguards not only prevent mud from being spattered on the cyclist, but they also save pedestrians from being sprayed with dirt-water when the bicycle passes by.
    Used to be all bicycles came with mudguards (fenders) and chainguards.

  3. Doug Landau says:
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    The ticket I got in Cambridge, England, was for no mudguard in a city where debris could be thrown in following cyclists’ faces, pedestrians, etc. It was a fair cop, and my firm paid the fines. Now if I’d have been riding in the countryside, I might have taken umbrage at the police officer’s actions. Doug

  4. Lyle says:
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    Ah, in Cambridge, England! I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that mudguards are required in Cambridge, as I am only familiar with vehicle codes in the United States. I naturally assumed that since Loudon County District Court was cited in the posting, the police were also in Virginia.

    Thank you for clarifying.