Lights

It has been a week since British Summer Time ended, the clocks went back an hour, and suddenly the sun is setting around 4:30pm.

If you ride a bike, and work regular hours, that means that you’re going to be cycling home in the dark. Now I’m a pretty live-and-let-live cyclist, in that I’m not prescriptive about helmet use (I wear them for longer rides, but don’t for shorter ones), or the need to wear high viz jackets at all times.

However, I do take objection to people insane enough to ride around the streets after dark with no lights. Aside from anything else, it’s the law:

Rule 60

At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear 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.

Yet there are so many quite insane people who feel able to ride without lights.

Quite adequate cycle lights are ridiculously cheap. Chain stores like Halfords and Decathlon have very reasonably priced gear, as do larger supermarkets and stores like Robert Dyas. Then there are the myriad of online places.

Here are two examples from my commute home today. This took me along the Seven Sisters Road and onto Green Lanes. These are busy roads.

This guy had no lights, and ran the red light too.

This woman rode all the way up Seven Sisters Road and then along Green Lanes. No lights, and happily ran a few lights too. Compare the bright lights of the braking moped and the cars ahead, with the lack of similar on the cyclist.

I was in a black cab recently and couldn’t help noticing just how bad “Boris Bikes” are to spot on dark streets. These are bikes that have two flashing LEDs at the back. So imagine how invisible you are to drivers, even on well lit roads, with no lights on at all.

Beyond these, there are those people who do have lights but they’re so weedy or badly places as to be ineffective. You’ll see people riding along with one of these hanging from their saddle with no particular concern about which way the light is pointed.

Sorry. These are fine as supplementary lights – perhaps to strap to a rucksack – in addition to a proper light. And it can be useful to keep a set in your bag for emergencies – e.g. your regular light’s batteries have run down. But not for exclusive use on their own.

Then there are those who have a light, but have managed to hide it behind a pannier or have it pointing at some wild angle, so it’s just about ineffective since it’s not actually visible.

And then there are those who pop a front light onto the back of their bike, because it’s all they had available. White at the front; red at the back!

Finally, there are those who have not changed the battery in years, leaving them barely visible.

Of course, the other extreme is those who’ve bought lights that are really designed for mountain bikers in rural Wales, or are using 300 lumen bulbs that seem designed for small lighthouses. But aside from running the risk of inducing epileptic fits in the surrounding population, at least they are visible. (Hint: If you’re in an urban area, those super-bright settings are really designed for daytime use!)

It’s not hard. So turn some lights on.