Lights: To Be Safe, Be Seen
Updated: Apr 11, 2019
Being visible is an important element of being safe. Lighting up your bike the right way can go a long way towards improving visibility. Having lights at night is an obvious necessity, (and required by law in Denver) but a bright light with an attention-grabbing flash pattern can help make sure drivers notice you in the daytime too, particularly on busier roads. Every one of our B-cycles are equipped with a front white light and a rear red light that lights up while the bike is moving, as well as front and rear reflectors. If you want to feel more visible, there are options for detachable and wearable lights that you can use while riding a B-cycle.
Whether you are riding a B-cycle or your personal bikes, we have a few tips about lights that will help you stay visible while riding.
1) Make sure your lights are bright enough: Even if a light seems bright up close, it might not be bright enough to be noticed by the driver of an approaching vehicle until they are uncomfortably close. The brighter a light is, the further away it will be visible, and this will give motorists more time to react to your presence. If you want your lights to be visible in daylight you should look for a tail light that is at least 100 lumens and a head light that is at least 500 lumens. Brighter lights are generally more expensive (be prepared to spend $50- $100 for a top-quality light), but your safety is priceless!
2) Location matters: Make sure your light is mounted some place where it will not be obscured by your clothing, bags etc. It doesn’t matter how bright your light is if it’s covered! If you’re carrying a large bag on your back or on your bike rack, consider mounting your light either on the bag itself or on the rack. Some riders also like to mount their lights a little to the left – on a left mounted pannier or on your seat stay instead of the seat post. This creates an initial impression that you are a little further into the roadway than you actually are, encouraging motorists to give you just a little more space.
3) Side coverage: Many lights have a pair of smaller side-facing lights built in. This can make a big difference, particularly at intersections, where a driver who did not notice you on approach might otherwise enter an intersection you’ve already started crossing.
4) Trail etiquette : If you’ve got a particularly bright headlight and are riding on an off-street trail in the dark, please consider using one of the lower power settings. The higher settings are great for competing with car headlights and for being visible from the greatest possible distance. On a separated trail, you’ll be coming much closer to cyclists going the opposite direction whose eyes have adjusted to a much lower level of ambient light, and blinding them right before you pass each other is unpleasant and potentially unsafe for them and you! Some riders will even cover their light with a hand as they approach an oncoming cyclist on the trail, just be sure they’ve seen you first.
5) Redundancy: Having multiple lights is a great thing! When they’re all working you’ll be that much more visible, and if one of them fails mid-ride you’ll still be covered. Also consider reflectors for night riding, either mounted on your bike or incorporated into your clothing or bags. These can appear surprisingly bright when lit up by vehicle headlights. Some tires also have a reflective strip around the sidewall, not only do these greatly improve your visibility from the side when crossing intersections, but they make an unmistakably bike-shaped image when lit up!
Recommendations for bike light products:
For front lights we really like the Light and Motion urban series ($50-$250) . These USB rechargeable lights are very bright, feature amber sidelights, and offer the ability to ‘pulse’ rather than flash. In this mode, the intensity of the light fades between high and low power without actually going dark. This means it's more attention-grabbing for motorists than a steady light, and effectively illuminates the road for the cyclist better than a flashing light.
For rear lights we recommend the Light and Motion Vis 180 Pro ($80), the smaller Vis Micro II ($40), or the Planet Bike Superflash Turbo ($30). Any of these are bright enough to be visible from a mile away in daylight and even further at night, and feature side as well as rear illumination. The Superflash uses replaceable AAA batteries, while the more expensive Light and Motion lights are USB rechargeable. While both provide excellent illumination, we have found the Light and Motion lights to be more shock resistant and better weather sealed, which are important considerations if you are rough on your gear or ride in wet conditions a lot.