I can remember as a child riding out on my bike after dark where there were decent street lights, I could see pretty much like it was daylight and to be honest, I did not understand why we needed bike lights.
Now much older and a little wiser, I appreciate the changes that happen to a driver’s vision as a result of travelling at speed and with competing light sources on the street scene, I am keenly aware that as a cyclist on the road at night, I need to make myself as visible to others as I can.
The point is that as a walker or cyclist, your view of the road and its surroundings can be very different from that of a driver.
All cyclists need decent lights on the road at night.
What Are The Legal Requirements?
As a legal requirement, all new bikes must be supplied with a red rear reflector and amber pedal reflectors compliant with BS61022.
Any bicycle in use between sunset and sunrise must also show a white light to the front and a red light to the rear both complying with BS61023 or to an equivalent European standard such as the German stVZO standard.
If the lights flash, then this must be at a rate of 1-4 equal flashes per second and they must emit at least 4 candela of illumination.
Light manufacturers use many ways to describe the output of their lights but 4 candela roughly equates to about of 50 lumens or lux.
The lights must be attached to the bike.
Additional lamps and reflectors may also be fitted as long as they do not dazzle other road users and that they conform to the rule of being white to the front and red to the rear. This applies to any additonal lights attached to your clothing of backpack.
There are many lights on the market which do not meet the BS standards and while simply having lights will mean that you are unlikely to be challenged by police, if you are involved in a collision, you may find that the non-conformity of your lights becomes an issue for you in court.
The full details of the legal requirements are shown HERE.
What Type of Lamp Is Best?
LED lamps are now the most popular for their low power use and high output and there are even LED bulbs available that you can use to upgrade your older lamps to improve their performance.
Beyond that, the choice of the exact type depends on the kind of riding that you do.
The power source for the lights can be replaceable battery, (for example AA or AAA), rechargeable battery, (typically with a USB connector), or dynamo.
Dynamo lights have seen a resurgence with the development of LED dynamo lights with a “standlight” which keep the lights lit for a few minutes when you come to a stop.
If you use your bike for short trips under streetlights then you could have some basic detachable battery lights that will make you visible to other road users.
If you ride a decent distance to work each day, then you will want something more robust and possibly with USB recharging or perhaps some dynamo lights.
Remember that batteries can recover when resting making it difficult to judge their true state of charge so that lights that look nice and bright when you switch them on as you set off can quickly dim to almost invisible after 10 minutes or so.
If you ride on unlit roads, you will be wanting enough lighting power to see your way and if you ride off-road at night, then you might want some of those extra high-powered front lights so that you can light up your way very clearly though at no time should you be using lights on the road that will dazzle other road users.
Whichever lights you have, it is a good idea to check them periodically during each journey in case the batteries or bulbs have failed.
If you need to leave your bike unattended then the theft resistance of the lights is important. Lights which can be easily detached should be removed and carried with you but in the heat of the moment, for example if you are hurrying to catch a train, this could easily be forgotten. Dynamo lights are permanently attached to the bike and not easily stolen but they are vulnerable to vandalism.
Types Of Light
As mentioned above there is a dizzying variety of lights available. Please click HERE to see our Examples Gallery.
Mounting Your Lights
Locating your lights depends on what other accessories you have.
For the front, mounting to the handlebar gives the best access to the switch and view of whether it’s working but if you have a bar bag or basket, then you might have to mount it underneath using the mounting at the top of the front forks.
For the rear, the seat post is a popular location as is the more traditional right-hand rear fork leg.
If you have a rear carrier or a rear mudguard, either of these would be ideal.
Dynamo lights have seen a resurgence with the advent of LED bulbs. For more about what is involved to install a dynamo click HERE.
For more details on lamp fitting please click HERE.
Not everybody has the time, tools and expertise to fit a set of bike lights. For our list of local bike shops and service agents please click HERE.
Help and feedback
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