Kansen Chu amends his infamous bicycle “safety” bill

Faithful readers are familiar with California Assembly Member Kansen Chu’s proposal to mandate flashing white tail lights for bicycles operated after dark. Yes, he wanted flashing white lights on the rear of the bike.

Night Helmetography

The bill was referred to the Assembly Transportation Committee. Chu amended his bill. I supposed the current bill is a little bit better: Chu replaced “white” with “red.”

SECTION 1. The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:

[ … snippage … ]

e) In order to reduce the bicyclist fatality rate in this state, the state should require that bicycles operated during darkness upon a highway, a sidewalk, or a bikeway be equipped with a white red flashing light, or with reflective gear worn by the bicyclist in lieu of a white red flashing light.

[ … snippage … ]

SEC. 2. Section 21201 of the Vehicle Code is amended to read:

21201. (d) A bicycle operated during darkness upon a highway, a sidewalk where bicycle operation is not prohibited by the local jurisdiction, or a bikeway, as defined in Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, shall be equipped with all of the following:

[ … snippage … ]

(2) A white red flashing light on the rear that shall be visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle, or, in lieu of the white red flashing light, reflective gear worn by the bicyclist.

The more observant of you have already noticed the problem that still exists.

A plea for our legislators: if you’re truly interested in cyclist safety, please at least talk to somebody who knows something about the topic before unleashing more of this silliness.


  1. To be fair Germany has a law regarding lights. But if we have to legislation something it should at least be compatible with their laws which require a red light which may be flashing.

    I am not sure what the obsession is with having the lights flash though, if these were actually safer then we would mandate flashing tail lights on cars too.

  2. @Rob Yep, it’s the flashing requirement we’re all sighing about right now. My wife has German lights on her bike, and she’d be illegal with the current wording of this bill.

  3. Someone should refer Chu to the CPSC study that showed flashing lights do get identified earlier than steady ones, but the following motorists were less able to judge distance to the light. One wonders what benefit to society this proposed law confers. IMO, it mainly gives police yet one more reason to harass any cyclist they may take exception to at night.

  4. A more sensible legislation would mandate a minimum lumen rating – in other words measured visibility at a set distance, similar to what automakers have standardized on (I agree with Rob: if flashing were determined to be safer then the insurance lobby would have forced automakers to do as they have done with seatbelts, airbags, 5 MPH bumpers, etc). Sure I cringe when I see cyclists riding ninja, but having a tiny blinky with dead AAAs is no more visible upon approach. Also, I recommend that people make the opportunity to video themselves (with friends) riding in the dark away from headlights and then see what they look like. The results tend to be ‘illuminating’… (sorry).

    (I’m hoping to set up a few sessions here in the south bay doing just that).

  5. I currently run with a lower power flashing light on the rear along with a high power solid light. I think that it will be just another reason for a bored cop to pull over non-white cyclists.

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