Bill will require bicyclists to use lights on sidewalks: Fines range from $50 to $100

On Thursday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 478. The bill requires bicyclists to use lights on sidewalks and pathways.

Published October 15, 2007 by The California Aggie
By Sylvia Chan 

On Thursday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed Assembly Bill 478. The bill requires bicyclists to use lights on sidewalks and pathways.

AB 478, written by State Representative Lois Wolk (D-Davis), will update bicycle codes from the 1970s. The existing law only requires bike light use on the highway during early morning and night hours. AB 478 requires bicycle light use on sidewalks, bike paths, bike lanes and bike routes.

"Interestingly, a sidewalk has always been defined as part of the highway," said Davis Police Lieutenant Darren Pytel. "So the bill doesn't actually change the law – it just makes it more clear to the public."

In California, between 2003 and 2006, 5,411 bike-related accidents occurred at nighttime, resulting in 4,879 injuries and 133 fatalities, according to the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department.

AB 478 is an issue of public safety, Pytel said. The local police have always enforced bike laws in Davis and will continue to follow the existing and future bike regulations, he said.

The bill also expands the requirement for bicyclists to have reflectors on each pedal. They can also use reflectors on their shoes or ankles.

The reflectors are appropriate, said Davis Bicycles! President Ted Buehler. They will promote headlight use and give publicity to bike light procedures, he said.

"People are careful," said Buehler. "It's not hard to go to a bike shop and spend some money on a good headlight. It's already standard practice in Davis and won't have too much impact in Davis."

Violations of AB 478 will be treated as any vehicle code infractions, said Wolk. People can be fined $50 to $100, depending on the judge, she said.

"The goal is not to put people in jail," Wolk said. "We encourage people to be safe, especially when more people ride their bikes. Everyone recognizes that the vehicle codes need to be updated."

The bill will be positive, said Wolk. No opposition has formed against AB 478 so far, she added.

According to the California Bicycle Coalition's website the "Night Illumination" bill will support bicycle safety efforts. CBC cosponsored the bill with the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department. They addressed the safety concerns with Wolk.

AB 478 will take effect Jan. 1, 2008. To learn more about AB 478, visit www.leginfo.ca.gov and search for AB 478. For information about CBC visit www.calbike.org or call at (916) 524-3890.

SYLVIA CHAN can be reached at city@californiaaggie.com.