In 17 minutes it is safe to ride without your bike light
In 17 minutes it is safe to ride without your bike light
*These results are based on the UK law that says you need bike lights from sunset till sunrise. Please always use your common sense. When you can't see others in rainy and misty weather, they won't see you. More information.
You want to know whether you need to use your bike light for your journey to or from work? Just use our handy journey planner.
‘Do I need my bike light’ uses the UK law to define when you will need to use your bike light. In the UK you have to have your lights on between sunset and sunrise. Some sources will mention the ‘hours of darkness’ and ‘lighting-up time’ (that start from half an hour after sunset to half an hour before sunrise). However, this only applies to vehicles fitted with “obligatory dipped-beam headlamps”. Similarly, for bicycles in the UK you need your bike lights lit and unobscured between sunset and sunrise.
The definition for when you need your bike light is confirmed by The UK Government's Dept. of Transport on October 29, 2014.
“In line with the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations (1989), as amended by Statutory Instrument SI 2005 No. 2559 (affecting pedal cyclists), all vehicles which are in motion should be displaying lit lamps between sunset and sunrise.
Section 24 of the 1989 Act is explicit in stating that while in motion between the hours of sunset and sunrise all lamps / lights that a vehicle (in your case pedal cycle) is required to have are kept ‘lit and unobscured’.”
The UK law differs from other countries by excluding daytime. Since it is allowed to have bike lights that are not attached to your bike, you are not obliged to carry them with you during the day. Aside from legal obligations, there is no reason why you should not use lights in conditions of reduced visibility (such as fog, rain, mist, etc.).
With so many conflicting sources of information, finding a definite rule within UK law can be very confusing. In some jurisdictions, it is difficult to find legal, comprehensive and confirmed information on the legal requirements for bike lights in other countries.
This is where we need you!
What does the law say about bike lights in your home country? Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will add your country to the list!
The Uniform Vehicle Code, which serves as a suggested set of traffic laws for States to adopt, sets out that bicycles have to have their lights switched on “at any time from a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise and at any other time when, due to insufficient light or unfavourable atmospheric conditions, persons and vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of 1,000 feet ahead”. (Source: UVC millennium edition)
In Belgium, cyclists have to have their bike lights lit when visibility is less than 200 metres. This can be during the day and at night. Like cars, they use the moment the streetlights go on as an indication to switch on bike lights. (Confirmed by De Fietsersbond on October 28, 2014)
The website of De Rijksoverheid states that bike lights have to be lit when it is dark and when visibility is restricted during the day. They don’t define the term ‘darkness’ related to sunrise/sunset or a visibility distance. However, the Dutch confirm that they, just like their Belgian neighbours, use the streetlights as an indication.
Again there are some differences between different countries. However, as far as we understand, the white front light and red rear light are quite universal. In the UK all bikes have to be equipped at night with:
In the UK, Bicycles manufactured before October 1985 do not require pedal reflectors.
In the US, the pedal reflectors are not mandatory, but side reflectors are. Therefore these could be either pedal reflectors or wheel reflectors. In Belgium and The Netherlands both pedal reflectors and wheel reflectors are mandatory. In Belgium a white front reflector is added to that must-have requirement list.
In many countries, the rear light does not have to be lit when stationary (such as at a traffic light) so dynamo-powered lights are an option here. However, for example, in Germany it has to be on all the time, so this excludes the older dynamo lights that do not supply energy when stationary.
Some countries do not specify the minimum brightness of bicycle lights, but a minimum is set out in the UK with British Standards, and in the rest of Europe with European Standards. However, it takes some real commitment to find this information out as it is not readily available. And we think the standards should be evaluated, because they did not keep up with new technology and innovations.
Up until now the only numbers we can track are:
In the UK the flashing lights, without a constant mode, must be a minimum of 4 candela (a measurement of light intensity).
The US directional regulation says that the white headlight must be visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front, and the red rear light must be visible from a distance of at least 1000 feet to the rear.
In legal and official documents, brightness is mostly expressed in candela (intensity) and not in lumen (flux). However, we're used to talking about lumens when evaluating bike lights, which does not lend itself to a direct comparison. Regulations state that bicycle lights "must not dazzle other road users", but a lack of guidance can lead to overly dazzling lights on the road, which is not a safe situation for anyone.
We recommend that in a well-lit city, 100 lumens for a front light is enough to be seen. When you are cycling in the dark, it is of course, also very important that you see what is in front of you (puddles, potholes, obstacles), so 300 or 400 lumen is a better option for these conditions.
Flashing LED lights are relatively new, therefore many laws have not been adapted to this new technology as yet. In the UK, flashing LED lights have been permitted since 2005. They should flash between 60 and 240 equal flashes per minute, which works out at 1 and 4 times per second.
Flashing lights are quite a conversation starter; the main argument in favour, is that it attracts attention from other road users, but detractors say that it is harder to estimate distance for other road users. Many cyclists go for the best of both and combine constant with flashing by adding extra lights or by buying a pulse light.
In Belgium, flashing lights are legal, while they are still illegal in the Netherlands. There’s very little consistent information about flashing bike lights in the US.
In the UK and the other investigated countries this is perfectly legal, but the allowed heights differ slightly. In general, attaching the lights to your upper body is the way to go. This excludes attaching it to your head, arms and legs, but does include your backpack. The lights have to be directed straight forward or backwards, should not be swinging around too much and must not be covered.
As long as your lights are not dazzling other road users, we encourage you to make sure that you are being seen. If neon is your thing, then some brands are starting to make some very cool reflective and high-vis cycle wear.
However, if you get a chance to take the driver’s seat of a safely stationary lorry we also encourage you to do so. In the blind spot on said lorry, the driver won’t even see a Christmas tree.
That is why we invented the Blaze Laserlight. It is a very robust and bright white front light, but on top of that it, you can switch on a laserlight that projects an icon of a bike five metres ahead of you. This way you can alert other road users of your presence without blinding them.