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Last Thursday, Governor Schwarzennegger signed into law AB 478, which requires all bicyclists to use lights on sidewalks and other pathways. That’s great news for you nighttime bike riders, and for the cars that share the roadways with you.

The author of bill AB 478 is Assemblywomen Lois Wolk. She felt that the existing bicycle laws didn’t quite go far enough to keep cyclist safe after dark. The current law only required that the bicycle user use lights on bikes operated on a highway during the early morning, evening, and night hours.

This bill takes it a step further and requires that bicycle lights be used on sidewalks where bicycles are permitted, as well as on pathways used primarily for bicycle travel such as bike paths, bike lanes, and bike routes. “People don’t just ride their bicycles on roadways,” said Wolk, D-Davis. “They ride them on unlit and poorly-lit sidewalks and other pathways where they are not clearly visible to vehicles and pedestrians in the dark. We need to ensure their safety, and the safety of others, by improving their visibility.”
I n California alone, the cyclist injuries and fatalities speak loudly. Between January 2003 and July 2006, there were 33,776 daylight accidents, with 308 fatalities. Nighttime accidents during that same period were 4, 879 with 133 fatalities. Two-thirds of the deaths are due to traumatic brain injuries, normally caused by the cyclist not wearing a helmet. Since drivers and cyclist must share the roads together, let’s look at some safety guidelines to ensure fewer accidents.

For Cyclists:
· Always ride in the same direction as other traffic, not against it · Ride near the far right-hand edge of the road · Keep your bike well maintained; good brakes and tires · Wear a helmet! 92% of all bicycle injuries involve a motor vehicle.
· If you’re riding at night, you must have a white light on the front of your bike that emits 300′ from your bike. In addition, you must have a red reflector that is visible 500′ from the rear of the bike. Lastly, Mount white or yellow reflectors on your pedals for added safety.
· Try to wear bright clothing-drivers don’t always see you.
· Be extremely cautious riding through intersections and business areas; be prepared to brake and maneuver quickly.
· Give pedestrians the right-of-way · Never carry passengers · Don’t drink and drive For Drivers:
· Look carefully for bicyclists before opening doors next to moving traffic · Safely merge towards the curb if you’re going through a bike lane · Do not overtake a bicyclist just before making a right turn. Merge first, then turn ·
Lastly, the bill also gives bicyclists the option of using reflectors on their shoes or ankles. Current law stipulates that pedal reflectors be used on each bike pedal. Individuals found in violation of the new law could be fined $50 to $100, depending on the discretion of the judge. AB 478 will take effect Jan. 1, 2008 but for safety reasons, it doesn’t hurt to put the safety equipment on your bike now-especially if you ride at all at night.

The bill was sponsored by both the California Bicycle Coalition and the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department. The California Bicycle Coalition or CBC is a non-profit group that promotes bicycle safety legislation and also encourages communities to walk and ride bicycles more for a greener environment. For further safety information or if you’re interested in new legislation regarding bicycles, contact their website.