5 Reasons to Use Bike Lights, Day and Night

Jan Poshenko
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From a safety standpoint, front and rear running lights are a must-have accessory for your bicycle. Most states require these lights for any bicycle ridden during the daytime.

In addition to making you more visible to other people on the road, bike lights increase your safety for several reasons:

  • They minimize the chances of your bike being mistaken for a motorcycle or car

  • They make you more visible to drivers of motorcycles, cars, trucks, and recreational vehicles

What Bike Lights are the best option

When purchasing bike lights, it's important to have the following in mind:

Lighting systems use either a battery pack or an internal hub generator to power the lights. Although battery packs are less expensive, you’ll need to regularly replace the batteries, which may be difficult if you use them at night or in wet conditions. Hub-generators aren’t affected by wet and cold temperatures, so they’re usually easier on the budget, and replacement parts are relatively easy to find.

Lighting systems come with either incandescence or LED bulbs. The main difference is that incandescence bulbs produce light by passing an electric current through a gas. LEDs produce light when electrons are accelerated through a semiconductor. LED lights are more environmentally friendly and longer lasting (up to 100,000 hours) than incandescent lights (up to 1,000 hours).

The Difference between Night Time and Day Time

On you're on the road for many hours, if you're not paying attention you might not realize how dark it is. Even if there aren't streetlights, the sky tends to illuminate the ground, which is why it's important to wear reflective clothing. However, not every reflector is as bright as another. Over time, the reflector loses its effectiveness and may need to be replaced.

On the other hand, most bike lights can give off different levels of light. You may want to be seen at long distances, or shorter distances. Or you may want people to see where you're coming from. Much like your car's headlights, you can adjust the angle of the light. On your helmet, for example.

1. For Responsibly Riding

Although it seems like a no-brainer to use lights as you ride your bike at night, you might be surprised to find out that many people don’t.

2. To See

The phenomenon known as “dazzle” is what happens when contrasting light strikes your eye. Cyclists wearing a reflective jacket at night may not see an approaching car but they also may not be visible. When the car’s headlights hit the reflective surface, the driver’s eyes will see the bright light and be unable to filter out the contrasting dark shadows surrounding it. This confusion causes a glint. It’s a brief glare that isn’t harmful, but it can be distracting, especially if your pupils are dilated. When the dilated pupils relax in the dark, dazzle becomes a problem again.

Dazzle doesn’t only take place on headlights, it can also be caused by smaller, less noticeable lights. It’s very difficult for anyone to estimate speed. In low-light situations, cyclists rely not only on their eyes but on other sources to capture this information. Lights catch attention and that attention leads to better awareness of the cyclist.

3. To Be Seen

One of the best reasons to use bicycle lights is because they help with being seen by other road users.

One of the best reasons to use bike lights is because they help with being seen by other road users. If you are in a region without streetlights, it can get quite dark on the road at night. The NHTSA recommends using a white headlight and a reflector or a red headlight and a reflector for visibility at night. Both the white headlight and the red headlight must be flashed.

3. Be Prepared for Changing Conditions

Biking is a fantastic low-impact aerobic activity that has benefits for the entire body and mind. But, biking at night comes with risks. With so many obstacles to consider at night, it’s essential to continually be aware of your surroundings. Make safety your priority by using bike lights.

Most Car-Bike Collisions Occur in the Dark

Everything is more complicated when it’s dark: drivers are more likely to take a longer time to react. If you ride at night, make sure you use bike lights so you can see the road and other vehicles (and they can see you too).

A Bike Light is Harder to Miss

If you're paying attention, you can see a clear reflector (uniform color) therefore, it's harder to miss a flashing bright light, even at long distances.

5. It's Required by Law

If you ride on the road, using a front and rear white light and a red reflector is required by law in several states at least under some conditions. It's always a good idea to use them regardless, even if you live in a state where it isn't required.