Dear SFMTA: Your Bike Lights Aren’t Really Bike Lights, So They Don’t Satisfy the California Vehicle Code

See what the SFMTA is giving out for free these days? It’s a Chinese flashlight with an adjustable mount so it can be used as a bike headlight. The problem with that is that it’s insufficient to put a nighttime cyclist in compliance with the California Vehicle Code. Check it:

Equipment Requirements. VC 21201 d) Every bicycle operated upon any highway during darkness shall be equipped with the following: 1. A lamp emitting a white light which illuminates the highway and is visible from a distance of 300 feet to the front and the sides of the bicycle.

This setup up sends out zero light to the sides. In fact, the way it’s made it sort of has a hood. Now, it’s not illegal per se and it’s better than nothing but it’s not up to code in California, you know, where we all live.

Also, this jury rigged system is ridiculous. For example, it’s too bright, IMO. So if it’s pointed level with the ground then it will be certain to irritate oncoming traffic. Build quality is lower than standard if the standard is a typical Chinese flashlight. (It doesn’t say “Made in China” or anything, which was probably a selling point for the buyer, but where else could it have been made?) The big attraction for SFMTA with this setup must have been the giant SFMTA logo. Hey, SFMTA! Did it cost more to put the logo on than to buy these sub-$5 one-star-rated lights in the first place?

Now, click here to see a real bike light, with a blinking function, a decent quick release, longer time betwixt battery changes, and, of course, it complies with the CVC. Oh well.

And here’s what SFMTA thinks is a bike light:

Click to expand

And as for the rear lights they’re giving out, they’re flimsy as all get-out, but that’s nothing that couldn’t be fixed with some super glue. The best course with those red lights would be to just glue the entire affair to itself and leave it on the bike 24-7.

I know what you’re trying to do, SFMTA, but you never do anything right. Why not try to do one small program that’s not FUBARed from the get-go? (Or maybe somebody can tell me something that the SFMTA does right?)

(Hey, SFMTA! Remember that big meeting when Nate Ford was maybe just a tad agitated about that big article, the one he “never read(!),” in the SF Weekly that was all about how you suck as an agency? Wouldn’t it be funny if somebody, maybe one of your very own, somehow made an mp3 audio recording of that little get-together? You know, surreptitious-like? Boy, that’d be funny, huh? Good times.)

Anyway, there’s no law that says you can’t give away flashlights to advertise your agency, but calling them bike lights, that’s what I’m taking issue with.

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2 Responses to “Dear SFMTA: Your Bike Lights Aren’t Really Bike Lights, So They Don’t Satisfy the California Vehicle Code”

  1. Wow. I thought bicycles weren’t permitted on highways at all.


  2. sfcitizen says:

    Good point.

    In this context, highway means pretty much everywhere. Any public street. To wit:

    “360. “Highway” is a way or place of whatever nature, publicly maintained and open to the use of the public for purposes of vehicular travel. Highway includes street.”

    Now, if you’re talking freeway, my understanding is that you and your bike are allowed on about 25% of California’s total mileage…