Nathan asked: How is the law supposed to be interpreted with respect to the rear reflector, since reflectors don’t “exhibit light” without something shining on them?

“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.”


Lacking any statutory language or case law to the contrary, I would guess that the requirement in s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations for reflectors to emit the light visible for 600 feet would be when illuminated by a light source such as a car headlight.

I suggest asking an attorney familiar with such matters for a legal opinion.

3 Comments on “Reflectors

  1. The inclusion of an apparent requirement for a rear reflector to “[exhibit] a red light” (rather than to simply reflect red light) arose through oversights in the 1970s and 1980s.

    As of 1985, Florida’s bicycle lighting requirement in s. 316.2065 read:

    “Every bicycle in use between sunset and sunrise shall be equipped with a lamp on the front…and a lamp on the rear exhibiting a red light visible from a distance of 600 feet to the rear, except that a red reflector meeting the requirements of this section may be used in lieu of the red light.”

    This was already ambiguous, inasmuch as the only “requirements of this section” that could conceivably apply to a reflector were the requirement that a rear lamp “[exhibit] a red light visible…”–which a reflector could do only if light were shone on it.

    At the time, the (national model) Universal Vehicle Code had no requirement for a bicycle to have a rear light but required it to be equipped with a rear reflector at all times, “which shall be visible for 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle”.

    In effect, Florida’s rear light “requirement” of 1985 simply required that if a rear light was used, it had to be visible to the rear as far as the UVC’s rear reflector (when the latter was illuminated). Inasmuch as new bicycles come equipped with rear reflectors, as required by the CPSC, the reflector exception effectively vitiated a requirement for a rear light on any bicycle that still had its reflector.

    The Florida Bicycle Council, a Governor-appointed state advisory body that existed in the mid-1980s, urged that more emphasis be placed on cyclist visibility at night and recommended an amendment to require both a rear light and a rear reflector on a bicycle used at night. Their proposed wording deleted the “except” clause and, to retain a rear reflector requirement, replaced “lamp on the rear” with “lamp and reflector on the rear each”.

    The “each” wording should have made the reflector=lamp miscategorization more obvious, but the implication apparently went unnoticed, and the 1986 Legislature adopted the amendment as proposed.

  2. My friend seems to think you can be arrested in polk county fl for not having a light in your bicycle. ..a normal bicycle not a motorized that true?

  3. Kimberly,

    A citation for a missing light on a bicycle, as well as almost all violations of the Bicycle Regulations, is a civil violation and not an arrestable offense in the sense we normally speak of as an arrest, that is, cuffed and hauled off to the pokey.

    s. 316.2065 – Bicycle Regulations
    (19) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a violation of this section is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a pedestrian violation as provided in chapter 318.

    The penalty for a violation of the requirement for proper lighting on a bicycle is described herein:

    s. 318.18 – Amount of penalties.—The penalties required for a noncriminal disposition pursuant to s. 318.14 or a criminal offense listed in s. 318.17 are as follows:
    (1) Fifteen dollars for:
    (a) All infractions of pedestrian regulations.
    (b) All infractions of s. 316.2065, unless otherwise specified.

    Court costs could increase that amount substantially.

    Such a violation is cause to stop a cyclist and may result in other violations such as DUI, drug possession, etc.

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