Color and Brightness of Bicycle Lights

Question

John asked: Most of the time I ride in full dark between 4:00 am and 5:30 am due to the sparseness of cars on the little circuit I follow in my neighborhood. I think I understand the minimum lighting I’m lawfully REQUIRED to have but am a little unclear about lighting limitations. I’d like to eventually be visible from orbit!

I know that my bicycle is a vehicle. I know vehicles have limitations on light color. I would like to know if there are exceptions to the law regarding bicycles. Basically I need to know what color lighting I may lawfully display, in which direction and may the lights flash?

Examples: Can I display red lights facing forward? May they flash? May I display red lights laterally? May they flash? What about amber lights for the preceding questions? May I display white lights to the rear and may they flash? Are there any limitations regarding amber lights for bicycles?

I’m aware that only specific vehicles in specific situations may display blue lights but the way I interpret that specific law:

s. 316.2397 - Certain Lights Prohibited; Exceptions

(1) No person shall drive or move or cause to be moved any vehicle or equipment upon any highway within this state with any lamp or device THERON showing or displaying a red or blue light visible from directly in front thereof except for certain vehicles hereinafter provided.

(2) It is expressly prohibited for any vehicle or equipment, except police vehicles, to show or display blue lights. . .

The way I see it is the lights must be on the VEHICLE. So I’m wondering if that law, or any other, prohibits me from attaching blue lights to my clothing while riding my bike and may they flash?

Answer

You have already quoted the basic law that says blue lights may not be used and red lights may not be visible from ahead.

I believe the use of the term “lamp or device thereon” in the statute you quote above would include a light inside or on, but not necessarily attached to the vehicle. Imagine for example a person shining bright red and blue flashing lights from inside, but not physically attached to, a moving car at night. I believe the same would be true for a bicyclist displaying blue or red lights. Although not attached, it is on the vehicle.

The statute that requires bicycle lights is this:

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.

Note that it says the bicycle must be equipped with certain lights and the bicycle and rider may be equipped with additional lighting. It does not specify what that additional lighting may be.

Flashing lights, either those required or additional lights, may be used on a bicycle.

s 316.2397 – Certain Lights Prohibited; Exceptions

(7) Flashing lights are prohibited on vehicles except:

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

There does not seem to be any upper limit to the intensity of lights or type or color, except as above, of additional lights used on a bicycle. We had the same questions a while back and confirmed that with the FHP, as noted in the following posts:

http://flbikelaw.org/2014/03/ground-lights-on-bicycles/

http://flbikelaw.org/2009/11/bicycle-lights/

I would like to credit the FBA with initiating the 2012 change in the law to allow flashing lights on bicycle. I suggest joining. They are looking out for our interests.

Posted in Ask Geo, Bicycle Equipment
3 comments on “Color and Brightness of Bicycle Lights
  1. phil Leinbach says:

    I ride my bike to and from work 5 miles every day on the sidewalk. One day a bike coming the other way had a light so bright it was blinding, I couldn’t see where I was going and had to stop. There needs to be an upper limit.

  2. HarryB says:

    Geo wrote, “You have already quoted the basic law that says blue lights may not be used. . .”

    However, maybe blue lights on a bicycle are not illegal in Citrus County.

    I was once discussing legislative intent with an LEO who told me about a driver he had cited because his vehicle had steady blue lights on the windshield wipers. The driver decided to fight the citation and the judge asked the officer if the blue lights had caused him to mistake the vehicle for a police car. When the officer responded “no”, the judge dismissed the citation.

    The judge told him that the purpose of §§ 316.2397(1) Fla. Stat. was to prevent a reasonable person from mistaking a private vehicle with blue lights for a police vehicle. Small, decorative blue lights, according to the judge, would not lead a reasonable person to make that mistake.

    • keithmj says:

      No one said that the laws they have makes sense, they just use a law that covers everything. The judge makes sense but that is not what the law says. If you have the required lighting after dark then if you have accent lighting you might never get stopped by an officer, I have green lights shining on the ground and never had any problems. I won’t use blue lights just to be safe.

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