Posted in Cycle and tagged Cycle, night cycling, cycling safety
Cycling safety at night bike lights and cycling hi viz

Sharing the roads with other vehicles can sometimes feel daunting but don't let it put you off getting on a bike.

We explore some of the ways you can boost your visibility and confidence on the road and the good news is that it's not all about hi-vis jackets and dazzling lights (although they're a great place to start). 

Glow in the daylight

Don't cringe - we know that fluoro might bring back memories of dodgy discos but there's no denying that it's hard to miss. Fluorescent hues are great for daytime as the UV rays of the sun cause them to glow, so much so that they can appear 200 times brighter than conventional colours. 

A study by Dr Rick Tyrell of Clemson University revealed that whilst a fluoro jacket might get you spotted, you can make yourself appear more recognisably human by wearing fluoro on the lower legs since they are constantly moving. Fluoro shoe covers are a great way to get the benefit without splashing out on new kit. 

Colour and contrast are just as important as the positioning of fluoro colours, according to Swedish sports brand POC. They created an AVIP (Attention Visibility Interaction Protection) colour pallet which consists of orange and white, along with dark navy for contrast, as these colours are not commonly found in our surroundings.

Green can stand out in the city, but in a tunnel of greenery can blend in, so think about your riding environment when you're buying kit.

Endura Women's Urban Luminite EN1150 Waterproof Jacket

Reflect in the dark

Fluoro is great in daylight, but once there's no UV light to reflect it's not much more effective than any other colour. This is why most cycling kit, fluorescent or not, will incorporate retro-reflective details. 

Retro-reflectives work by bouncing light back in the same direction it came from. This makes it particularly effective when you're caught in the headlights or under street lights. 

Not only can you wear retro-reflectives, but you can also add them to your bike for additional visibility on dark commutes. Tyres with reflective sidewalls will catch the eye of other road users at junctions. 

If you need to ride with a backpack, remember that you'll be covering up any reflectives on your jacket so look for one that has retro-reflective decals.

Endura Women's Urban Luminite EN1150 Waterproof Jacket

Light up, day or night

If you live in the UK and you cycle after dark, you are required by law to use a white front light and a red rear light with a minimum output of 4 candelas (around 50 lumens)

Modern LED technology means bike lights can go way beyond the required 50 lumens. When you buy your lights, make sure they suit the conditions you'll be riding in. 

According to Dr Tyrrell, a flashing tail light is significantly more conspicuous than a static tail light at a distance of 200 meters. Additional studies concur that a flashing light is more effective in getting you noticed. 

If you need a high-powered, always-on front light to light the way on unlit roads, it's still worth considering an additional flashing light on the other side of your handlebars. Angle your high-powered light slightly downwards so you don't dazzle oncoming road users. 

It's worth remembering that darkness exists in the daytime too, particularly in the winter when the sun is low. Mist and rain can further hamper visibility. A set of flashing lights gives other road users a better chance of noticing you.

Don't hide

Although it can feel safer to stay close to the edge of the road, you'll be much easier to spot if you take a more assertive road position. The guidance from British Cycling is to ride no less than half a meter from the roadside. 

Riding too close to the side can actually be more hazardous because it becomes more difficult to avoid things like potholes and drain covers.

If there are parked cars on the side of the road, it's even more important to keep a safe distance away to avoid doors being unexpectedly flung open.

Cycling UK has some great guidance on road positioning here.

Follow the herd

If people are expecting to see something, they're more likely to be watching out for it. Therefore, if drivers are used to seeing lots of cyclists on a particular road, they're more likely to be looking out for them.

Where possible, take the more popular routes. If you're unfamiliar with the area, use Strava Heatmaps to find the roads most-travelled.

There's also such a thing as safety in numbers - large groups are easy to spot than lone riders. Making plans to ride with friends is also great motivation to drag yourself out on darker days, so winter is a great time to get the gang together. 

If you don't have anyone to ride with or don't know the area, cycling groups on Facebook can be a great source of local knowledge. You could also try riding with a local club or check out British Cycling Let's Ride for social rides around the country. 

bike lights, cycling, bike, bicycle lights, bike safety


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Dr Rick Clemson research quoted in the Wall Street Journal


Cycling UK - An updated guide to cycle lighting regulations - The science of being seen

About the author

NChamanian's picture
Nassrin Chamanian
Published on: 21 Sep 2021

Pretty OK at bikes. Enthusiasm outstrips ability.