White lights what?

December 9, 2014

As Richard Masoner / @cyclelicious pointed out today, CA assembly member Kansen Chu (who represents Alviso, Berryessa, Milpitas, Newark, North San Jose, Santa Clara, and South Fremont) introduced a really misguided bill, AB-28, which might go up for vote in early 2015. Below is my attempt at educating the assemblyman and his staff, posted via the really quite convenient “comments to author” tab in the legislative information website.

Assembly member Chu:

Specifying a white tail light flies in the face of every convention, and would spell disaster for innumerable law-abiding cyclists. Red tail lights and reflectors have long been the standard, on automobiles, motorcycles, and bicycles, and in the case of bicycles, the available lighting products reflect this standardization. Rear-facing lights are generally not available in white; likewise, forward-facing lights are not available in red.

Furthermore, drivers and pedestrians are trained to recognize white lights as oncoming traffic; red lights are traffic moving in the same direction (or: emergency vehicles.) By switching the sense of the colors, in one specific instance but leaving all others unchanged, the intent of this bill (increased visibility and safety of bicyclists) will directly be subverted, resulting in confusion, delay, danger, and in all likelihood injuries and deaths.

In my long experience as a motorist (heavy vehicles, emergency vehicles, automobiles, and motorcycles) as well as a bicyclist who typically rides 5,000 miles per year, added lights beyond the required reflectors will not substantially help bicyclists. Their injuries and deaths are attributable to two factors: in a minority of cases, stupid behavior on the part of the bicyclist (e.g. riding on the wrong side of the street, at night, in dark clothes, without lights or reflectors) and in a vast majority of cases, inattentive or distracted drivers.

Attempting to address a problem that predominantly originates with automobile drivers by levying requirements (and ill-conceived ones, at that) on the bicyclists that are ostensibly the at-risk road users is logically flawed. I respectfully request you and your staff reconsider the implications of this bill, and whether it should be be put forward at all; I strongly believe it will do far more harm than good.



White lights what? - December 9, 2014 - chad r. frost