It’s a fact of life that the majority of cycling done in the UK is on roads without dedicated cycle ways meaning that cars and cyclists must share the same space, be aware of each other and respectful of each other. This is not the place to get in to a political argument over the car v cyclist debate but what we will do here is show you some ways to be more visible when you’re out on the bike which will hopefully prevent an accident from happening in the first place.
Pretty obvious this one – the more you have and the brighter they are the more chance you have of being seen. The law as it currently stands demands that cyclists have a white front facing light and a red rear facing light during the hours of darkness. They can be flashing if you want, but must have a minimum 1100 field of view. We would recommend two of each, one steady and one flashing. If you are riding in the dark then you will need a steady front light to see by anyway.
Lights come in all manner of brightness’s, sizes, styles, colours, etc – we suggest you do plenty of research and talk to other users to get the right ones for you. Beware though of using lights for off-road riding on the road, these tend to throw a very bright, and very wide beam potentially dazzling car drivers and causing the accident you are trying to avoid!
Hot on the heels of good lighting is bright reflective clothing – you don’t need to be a rocket scientist to realise that black clothing worn at night is going to make you less visible to other road users than brightly coloured clothing. If you’re looking to buy something for darker conditions also look out for clothing that has reflective details sew in as part of the construction – there are some really good highly reflective jackets available these days that will make you stand out like a beacon.
Along with reflective clothing adding some reflective detail to your bike in the dark, especially on the moving parts will help to make you stand out. In fact in the UK it’s the law that all cycles sold should have orange reflectors on the pedals although in practice this isn’t always the case. But just the simple addition of a couple of spoke reflectors will make you much more visible to other road traffic, especially those approaching from the side. In the absence of reflective pedals, a good alternative is to wear a reflective flexible strap on each ankle. These will catch the light pretty well, and are visible from 360° making them very eye catching.
Where you can, stick to using roads that are well lit, wide, and quiet. We appreciate that getting all three at the same time is pretty much impossible in the UK but so long as the road is well lit then you can deal with the rest. If you can utilise roads that have cycle paths then that’s even better.
Also in the dark you probably want to think about positioning yourself more in the centre of the road where you will be visible to road traffic. This also has the added advantage of keeping you away from the dreaded potholes and puddles that tend to be in the gutter more than the middle of the road.
Ride As A Group
If you can, ride with one or more other people – the more of you there are (taking the precautions above) the more visible you will be to other road users. A group of lit and well reflected cyclists is going to be pretty hard to miss.
Whilst this post is particularly applicable in the winter when the nights are long and the days are gloomy some of the advice here is actually useful all your round. We are big advocates of having ‘running lights’ on during the day with a flasher front and back as well as the bright clothing. We have to share the road with other users so let’s do our bit to help them see us.