Riding at Night? Get Some Lights!

I conducted a little survey on my way home from work tonight. I started counting at sunset, right at the point when cyclists without lights became nearly invisible, and stopped when I arrived home, 20 minutes later. Here are the results:

  • Number of bikes: 21
  • Number of bikes with lights of any sort: 3
  • Number of bikes with sufficient, relatively high-powered lights: 1

This was through a very heavily trafficked urban/suburban area with many side streets and traffic lights. Approximately half of the riders appeared to be commuters, mostly riding nice road bikes and carrying their stuff in backpacks. The one rider with a serious lighting system was riding a flat bar city bike with fenders, rack, panniers, etc. The remainder were kids on BMX bikes and teenagers on fixies.

I don’t know if it’s the too cool factor, the weight weenie factor, or whether people have yet to adapt to the recent time change, but 1 out of 21 is a dismal figure. Come on folks — if you’re going to ride at night, invest in some lights and stay alive!

Planet Bike
Nite Rider
Princeton Tec
Light & Motion

19 Responses to “Riding at Night? Get Some Lights!”

  • Jeff says:

    It amazes me. On the way home from work, I was on the last stretch – a piece of road I often ride on – where the speeds are well in excess of 50 mph. Ahead of me, approaching the intersection I was going to turn right at, was a cyclist with a relatively dim tail light. At least it was visible enough for me to see. When I passed him, I looked back to make sure I had ample time to turn, and it took me several seconds of looking in the mirror before I could make him out. You guessed it – no headlight. I hope he lives through the season, ’cause if he keeps riding like that he’ll be right hooked for sure.

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    Reelights are a great choice for being visible. They attach to the wheel axle and are lit by magnets fixed to the spokes. They always work, no batteries to go flat, no tire dynamo to slip, practically no resistance at all. Trouble-free, fit and forget. Need I rave more?

  • Karl OnSea says:

    It’s really scary, isn’t it? Half-way decent lights are just so cheep these days. And cheep to run too – LEDs use hardly any power, so even if you haven’t shelled out for a set of those groovy Reelights, you can get away with a year’s worth of lighting for the price of a pack of batteries – about £4.

  • andy parmentier says:

    i use those led headlights-they’ve got an elastic band to put around your head, so i can attach them easily to my bike or helmet

  • brad says:

    According to Vélo Québec, only 12 percent of night-riding cyclists here use lights, despite the fact that it’s required by law. And 29% of the bicycling accidents in Québec happen at night, while night riding accounts for only 2 percent of bicycle miles traveled. Seems that these statistics might have a connection, huh?

  • Dale says:

    95% of the Human population have an IQ of UNDER 120.

    Does it really take a friggin’ GENIUS to deduce that you’re going to get your @#* run over if you don’t “Light up” ??????

    It has ceased to amaze me – just how stupid some Humans can be.

  • edde says:

    Good reflectors make sense, too. Try reflective sidewall tires – VERY visible except from directly ahead or behind.

    Been using them for years along with front and rear lights & reflectors.

    Is it true that reflective sidewall tires are required in Europe? Many manufacturers have ‘em in a multitude of sizes so they should be widely available here, too.

  • David Hembrow says:

    Yes, sidewall reflectors are required by law here. Apart from racing tyres, I’ve not seen any tyres here which don’t have sidewall reflectors.

    Just as well as many of the cyclists don’t have working lights. However, happily it’s not all that dangerous for them even if they don’t.

    Virtually all new bikes sold here are sold with working lights fitted at the factory, so they all start off with lights, but not everyone bothers to fix them if they break them.

  • Eddie says:

    The only time I collided with a cyclist was head-on at night when I was on my own bike using a good headlight (and tail light for that matter). The other cyclist had no lights, was dressed in dark clothing and was so distracted talking to a friend alongside her that she didn’t realize she was on the wrong side in my direct path and didn’t see my approaching light. I shouted out my presence when I saw her state of inattention whereupon she turned left into me as I turned out right to avoid her. Fortunately no injuries were suffered but my chainwheel was damaged when I went down. She offered profuse apologies and I held my temper as best I could but admonished her for the obvious reasons. There are just so many careless riders out there.

  • Charles says:

    Although I now work at home, for ten years I commuted in Fort Worth, Texas. Nearly all of the other riders I met with good lights were police officers. (also commuting) At that time headlight bulbs went like popcorn, especially on the red brick streets. Now with the great selection of LED lights there really is no excuse to ride “dark.”
    People who wouldn’t think of letting a burned out lamp go unattended on their car will jump on a bicycle with no lights or reflectors and visit a friend knowing full well they must return in the dead of night. It boggles the mind.

  • Steve Fuller says:

    I think that a lot of new riders assume that if they can see the road that people on the road can see them. I’ve ridden at night without lights a couple of times. It’s easy for me to find my way home with or without streetlights. The eye’s adjust to the lack of light.

  • Donald Moore says:

    I have a strap-on headlight and a flashing tailight mounted on my helmit. I can point the headlight anywhere I need it by moving my head and and set it to flash in the day time. The taillight is at eye level for aproaching drivers. I also have two 1 inch diameter and one 3 inch reflector ( purchased at a hardware store ) on the bike’s rear and two 1 1/2 inch white reflectors on the front. Lights should be mounted high and reflectors low where cars headlights shine.
    I will soon place reflective tape on the insides of my rims but only on the first and third quarters so aproaching drivers see a series of lights starting about 2 feet from the ground, descending to the ground and disapearing. That strange motion should get their attention! You may be able to apply reflective tape to your crank arms to give additional moving lights.
    Please ride safely and remember to see and BE SEEN.
    I hope to SEE you before I MEET you!
    Have a good ride!

  • Nico says:

    Reflective sidewall tires are not required in Germany. But if you use them, you are allowed to ride without the orange spoke reflectors.

  • Jonno.Norton says:

    Having ridden without lights for a long time before realizing my foolishness, I can attest to how easy it is to get around without lights. Most cities have street lights, creating an environment of perceived safety. Also, it’s hard for a biker (especially if said biker does not drive often or at all) to realize how invisible they are to drivers. Also, many bikers in city areas (the Bay Area especially) have recently moved to the city from somewhere else, realized how cool biking is in their newfound home, and for the most part just buy a bike and start riding. Minor details such as the law (j/k) come later as tickets and injuries ensue, unfortunately.

    I think more bicycle advocacy in the way of informing people of the law, and also the safety benefits of riding with proper equipment (lights and reflectors mostly) would help solve this problem more effectively than just passing laws and hoping people adhere to them. Cycling advocacy is a big problem here in the states, as everyone I’m sure is well-aware of. We can’t rely on city governments (or any gov’ts really) to advocate cycling for us. Cycling groups need to advocate cycling on their own through blogs and pamphlets and whatever means necessary to get the word out. If the gov’t follows suit eventually that would be great (look at CPH) but we have to look out for each other until then. On the real

  • Erik Sandblom says:

    And in another universe, drivers are admonishing each other to slow down when it’s dark. Dark is no excuse to hit other road users, they say. In another universe of course.

  • Greg Peek says:

    I may be getting more conservative, but I like the idea of being lit up like a Christmas tree! We just shipped a Slipstream yesterday with Schwalbe reflective sidewalls, a $200 headlight and two 7 LED tail lights mounted on the top crossmember of the seat, at an angle to give good side and rear visibility.
    I researching lights recently, I have decided that there is, at least in my opinion a need for a bicycle lighting system, not just a bunch of individual lights. Anyone have any thoughts on that?

  • Alan says:

    “I researching lights recently, I have decided that there is, at least in my opinion a need for a bicycle lighting system, not just a bunch of individual lights. Anyone have any thoughts on that?”

    The closest thing we have are hub dynamo systems from Schmidt and Shimano et al. Peter White specializes in these systems – you can read more about them here:


    On my Tour Easy recumbent I had an integrated system with a Schmidt dynamo hub and a Busch & Muller headlight/tail light combo. It was hard-wired and fully integrated without the need for batteries, switches, etc. The headlight had a daylight sensor built in which automatically turned the system on and off depending upon the amount of ambient light. It was reliable and convenient.

    The downside to systems like these is that they are expensive (my system was in the $600 price range) and they’re specific to a particular bike because the front wheel has to be built around the dynamo hub. They also have a low lumens-to-cost ratio; my current battery system outputs over 3 times the light at a quarter of the price.


  • Duncan Watson says:


    With super-bright LEDs the lumens-to-cost ratio is improving. My Edulax produces a lot more light than an E6.

  • shane g says:

    With my commute is not uncommon to be riding home on bike paths or roadways well after dark. For this I got a good headlight to see, a secondary light to flash, and a good quality tail light.

    After one particular trip home, I’m glad I invested in these lights. Was on a bike path and in this section there’s couple other paths that criss-cross the main shared path. Out of nowhere a steath rider appeared in front of me darting across the path. If it wasn’t for being able to well infront of me, I would have T-boned him.

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