Don’t be in the dark when it comes to bike safety. Here are answers to common questions about illuminating your ride.
By Bob Mionske
What types of lighting does the law require?
Most states require a white front light with a beam that can extend at least 500 feet ahead and a rear red reflector when riding at night or in low-visibility conditions (Figure 1).
If I have lights on my bike, do I need reflectors?
Many states require reflectors—usually on the front, rear, wheels, and pedals (Figure 2). Lights generally can’t legally replace reflectors, but they may (and should) be used in addition to them. Some devices, such as CatEye’s Reflex taillight, double as reflectors when they’re turned off. While it’s rare for a well-lit cyclist to be pulled over simply for missing reflectors, it’s possible that you could be blamed if you were involved in a collision and didn’t have any on your bike.
How strong can my bike lights be? Is there such a thing as too bright?
The law doesn’t specify a maximum level. But keep in mind that a few lights, particularly ones made for nighttime trail riding, can be even stronger than automobile lamps. Although it’s unlikely that you’d be ticketed for an excessively bright beam, you might be culpable for causing an accident if a blinded motorist crashes. If you’re riding with such a device, consider controlling the angle and intensity of the beam, either by cupping your hand over it or by momentarily dipping the light downward to keep it out of the faces of oncoming drivers.
What else can I do to increase my visibility?
Wear bright clothing with high-vis logos or other details, place reflective tape on your wheels or frame, and clip additional lights to your helmet, bar, or pockets (Figure 3).