Cycling in the dark can be perfectly safe, as long as you ensure that you make it easy for other road users to see you.
The Highway code states that all cyclists must have a white front, and red rear light fitted to their bike before dawn and after dusk. It also states that you should have reflectors on your pedals, but since no clipless pedals actually incorporate this into their design, this one is never (to our knowledge) enforced.
If you are riding on lit roads, you don’t need a super high lumen light – ‘be seen’ lights are often 50 lumens on the front, and around 10 lumens on the rear – though this will of course vary either way. If you want to take to country lanes and trails you might be looking for 700 lumens+.
Regardless which style of light you go for, you need to use it properly – here are some mistakes which are easy to make, but can cancel out even the brightest of beams:
1) Having a light, and covering it with your coat
This happens far too often – riders with all the best intentions fit a light to their bike, and then wear a long coat that completely covers it. This won’t help you at all, and could mean you completely eclipse your rear light.
2) Letting the light run out of battery
You can pick up lights with single use batteries for around £10 to £20 – but a lot of people these days opt for rechargeable battery lights, and most brands are making these with USB cable recharging systems. This means it’s really easy not to run the battery right down by accident – you just need to plug it in from time to time. However, it’s very easy to forget, the result being a sudden black out on the way home.
To avoid this, leave yourself a note on your locker/desk/other to remember to recharge, or set an alarm on your phone if you need to.
3) Not having a back-up
All the best intentions in the world, and the best equipment, cannot guarantee total reliabiliy. Of course, having quality lights and keeping them topped up does help keep you safe, but it is a good idea to have a back up – just in case.
Having a spare pair of lights in your bag – just a cheap sub £20 ‘get you home’ set such as the Storbe set from Knog – can get you our of a sticky situation should it arise, and set your mind at rest if it never does.
4) Not using lights in poor visibility conditions other than darkness
We all know that we need lights in the dark – but what about fog, heavy rain, and the early mornings and evening – when the sun is setting but still hanging around in the sky?
At these times, drivers visibility is still reduced, and turning your lights on for these occasions can make you stand out more.
5) Leaving bike lights attached when you lock your bike
Unfortunately, there are thieves out there that don’t care about your safety riding home. Most bike lights clip onto a mount, or attach via an elastic or rubber band – and they’re made to be easy to remove, so that you can take them on and off. Make sure you do this, as it isn’t uncommon for these to be stolen if left unattended.
Those are our ‘things not to do’ – have you got any to add, to help prevent our followers learning from experience?
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.