This year, especially in the United Kingdom and Europe, we’ve seen a significant increase in media reports on the encroaching danger of global warming. Television personalities such as David Attenborough and Chris Packham have taken to the air to bombard us with warnings on the state of the eco-system, as well as the fragility of the natural environment. If that wasn’t enough, children have been getting involved as well, organising global mass protests during school hours; the young Swedish woman Greta Thunberg has even risen to international prominence through her pivotal role in organising these youth demonstrations.
With so much talk of the environment and the collapse of our global eco-system, you’re probably wondering how, and if, you can make any sort of difference. We all know that cars and vehicles are enormous contributors to national levels of C02, yet we struggle to find realistic alternatives to get us to and from work every day. Thankfully, we do have an energy efficient and affordable alternative form of transport available to us – the bicycle.
However, when it comes to road cycling, many people can be put off by the perceived dangers of the highway – especially at night. Here at Cycle-SOS, we want to encourage as many people as possible to safely make the transition from environmentally damaging transportation to safe and more sustainable forms of transport; that’s why we’ve put together this helpful list of tips on how to stay visible when cycling at night. With that being said, and although these are crucial tips, you should always ensure you are incredibly familiar with the High-Way Code before taking your bike onto public highways.
Rule 60 of the High-Way Code – Cycling at Night
When writing a list of tips, we thought it probably best to start with what the law actually says regarding night time cycling. So, according to the UK’s High-Way Code:
‘At night, your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85). White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen. Flashing lights are permitted, but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp.’
A full reference to the entirety of The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations of 1989 can be found here, for those particularly interested in the specifics of the legislation.
Although this is technically enshrined in law, it doesn’t make it an any worse tip for staying visible when cycling at night. Ensuring that your bicycle is covered by both front and back lights significantly increase the likelihood you’ll be seen on the road, this, in turn, reduces your risk of being involved in a collision.
What Clothing is Best for Night-Time Cycling?
Although there’s no specific legislation in place regarding what clothes you have to wear when riding a bicycle, there are some useful suggestions provided by the High-Way Code under Rule 59 regarding the clothing you should wear:
– A high-quality cycle helmet that conforms to modern safety standards and regulations is a must have. Make sure that the helmet is the correct size and can be securely fastened to your head. A helmet is even more important at night as the reduced levels of visibility will challenge both you and other roads users.
– Clothes that are appropriate to cycle in are crucial. Try to avoid cycling in clothes that are likely to become tangled in your bicycle’s chain or wheel, or that may even obscure your bike’s lights in the evening.
– Light-coloured, or even fluorescent clothing, will help you be quickly identified by other road users in day-light and low-light conditions. Fluorescent coloured clothing is particularly useful if you’re going to be commuting early in the morning or late in the afternoon, especially during winter.
– Reflective clothing is essential if you’re going to be riding your bicycle during the night. Many cycling shops stock belt, armbands and even ankle bands in reflective materials to help protect cyclists from the potential dangers of night-time cycling.
Should I Change My Cycling Route?
There are two schools of thought when it comes to adjusting cycling paths for better night-time visibility, of course assuming in both instances that you and your bicycle are both well lit.
On the one hand, many argue that taking a less busy route home puts you in less danger as you’re less exposed to the risks of other drivers. Further to this, it’s also argued that by taking a less populated, and perhaps well-lit route, you are less likely to be hit because your hazard lighting may stand out more.
On the other hand, however, travelling via a less busy route may throw up obstacles of its own; for example, if you are travelling on a less busy and therefore less used street – there may be poorer street lighting available. Without lighting, dangers such as potholes, foliage or other obstacles, that may be more prevalent on less travelled routes, may remain hidden by the way-sides of the road and are potentially dangerous.
Regardless of whichever option you choose, ensure that you ride a test run of the route during daylight first to make sure you’re familiar with the journey. When you’re familiar with your route, it’s easier to maintain focus, and this focus will ultimately bolster you against the potential threats the lack of light poses on your route.
Where day-time cycling calls for vigilance, night-time cycling calls for hyper-vigilance; when cycling around day-time traffic, best practice dictates that you should never assume a motorist has seen you – this should be taken to the extreme when cycling at night.
To put it simply, it should be your priority when cycling at night and dealing with junctions and intersections, to make sure that you do whatever you can to be as visible to other road users as possible.
Here at Cycle-SOS, ‘The Cyclists National Helpline’, we deal entirely with road cycle accident claims. As cyclists ourselves, we believe that cyclists have a right to be safe on the roads, regardless of whatever time of day they’re travelling. So, if you’ve been involved in a bicycle accident and aren’t sure whether you’re entitled to some form of compensation check out our handy cycling injury claims calculator, and we’ll get you up to speed.