Bicycle Lights

Question

Herman asked:  Here’s a good question that was raised at  www.bikeforums.net.  One can infer that there is a minimum brightness of head/taillights i.e. to be seen x feet from the front and rear of a bicycle.  Is there a maximum level of brightness that a light can have?  As in what would stop a person who figures out how to strap on a 1,000,000 candle power spot light to the front of their bike, would that be legal?

Answer

Excellent question!  You are correct that there are minimum standards for bicycle lights and reflectors.

s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations

(7) Every bicycle in use between sunset and sunrise shall be equipped with a lamp on the front exhibiting a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and a lamp and reflector on the rear each exhibiting a red light visible from a distance of 600 feet to the rear. A bicycle or its rider may be equipped with lights or reflectors in addition to those required by this section. A law enforcement officer may issue a bicycle safety brochure and a verbal warning to a bicycle rider who violates this subsection or may issue a citation and assess a fine for a pedestrian violation as provided in s. 318.18. The court shall dismiss the charge against a bicycle rider for a first violation of this subsection upon proof of purchase and installation of the proper lighting equipment.

s. 316.2397Certain Lights Prohibited; Exceptions

(7) Flashing lights are prohibited on vehicles except:

(c) For the lamps authorized under subsections …. s. 316.2065 ….  which may flash.

I could find no specific prohibition to the use of such a light in the statutes.  The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and Division of Motor Vehicles are authorized to regulate the standards, and publish a list of approved lights by name and type for motor vehicles.  There is no mention of bicycles, which are vehicles but not motor vehicles, and not subject to the same standards.

s. 316.216 – Authority of Department with Reference to Lighting Devices

(1)  The department is authorized to approve or disapprove lighting devices and to issue and enforce regulations establishing standards and specifications for the approval of such lighting devices, their installation, adjustment, and aiming, and adjustment when in use on motor vehicles.

(5)  The department shall publish lists of all lamps and devices by name and type which have been approved by it.

Such a light might also be considered a spot light, but again, the statutes place restrictions on motor vehicles, but not bicycles.

s. 316.233 – Spot Lamps and Auxiliary Lamps

(1)  Any motor vehicle may be equipped … and every lighted spot lamp shall be aimed and used that no part of the high intensity portion of the beam will strike the windshield … or occupant of another vehicle in use.

The fact that the statute says motor vehicles may be equipped with spot lights does not necessarily mean that other vehicles cannot.  In fact, s. 316.2065 above says that other lights may be used, but does not provide any details.

The lights you suggest may violate a more general statute that covers all vehicles, and may be considered an unsafe condition for a number of reasons.

s. 316.215 – Scope and Effect of Regulation

(1)  It is a violation of this chapter for any person to drive or move … any vehicle … which is in such an unsafe condition as to endanger any person ….

There may be other possible considerations, similar to the criminal violation for directing a laser at an aircraft, but I can’t find any other restrictions in Chapter 316.   Caution is advised in using non-traditional lights on a bicycle and you should thoroughly research the topic before doing so.

I have sent an email to the Department at HSMV-Info@flhsmv.gov.  I’ll update this post if any other information is received.

This just in from my inquiry to the above email.

Thank you for your inquiry.  Florida law does not give a maximum intensity, only a 500 feet visibility.  To be quite honest with you, I have never had the light intensity on a bike questioned.

Sgt. Evans FHP

Posted in Ask Geo, Bicycle Equipment Tagged with: ,
2 comments on “Bicycle Lights
  1. Count j says:

    I understand the FBL on lights, but one if I have a helmet that has lights on the front and red lights on the back and is also visible from the sides? Do I still need lights on the bike?

  2. Geo says:

    The statute says the bicycle must be so equipped.
    “Every bicycle in use between sunset and sunrise shall be equipped ….”

    The rider may be equipped with additional lights.
    “A bicycle and its rider may be equipped with lights or reflectors in addition ….”

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