Lights are an essential accessory for bicycles and it is a legal requirement in the UK and EU to have a white light at the front and a red light at the rear.
The 1968 Vienna Convention on Road Traffic set out some guidelines to apply across EU countries, and Article 44 refers to requirements for bicycles. (Brexit dependent for UK residents)
All bicycles must have:
- An efficient brake
- A bell – and no other audible warning device
- A red rear reflector
- Red rear lamp
- White or selective yellow front lamp
Whilst lights are essential riding after dark in winter months, it is also a sensible idea to use them during the day as well, to help aid visibility and make you more noticeable to other road users, 80% of accidents taking place in daylight. One study in Scandinavia found those using daytime lights had a 19 per cent lower rate of accidents.
What to consider when buying bicycle lights:
Most lights contain lithium ion/polymer batteries similar to those that power our mobile phones and are easily rechargeable via USB. Make sure you note the manufacturer’s instructions about how to preserve battery life when storing the lights for long periods of time when not in use.
“Seeing” vs. “be seen” lights.
Be seen lights mark you out on the road and are designed to be used on lit roads.
Seeing lights highlight the road in front of you and are designed to be used on unlit roads.
These help to see ahead of you and help others see you. They can be set to blink mode or a steady light.
One is required, showing a white light, positioned centrally or offside, up to 1500mm from the ground and aligned towards and visible from the front. If capable of emitting a steady light it must be marked as conforming to BS6102/3 or an equivalent EC standard. If capable of emitting only a flashing light, it must emit at least 4 candela.
For general commuting, 100 lumens is a good starting point - but 300+ will let you see more of the road ahead of you in the darker months.
If you’re going to be on unlit roads, you may need a light with a bright, flat beam which can be focused on a point on the road ahead of you.
These help those behind you to see you. They can be set to blink mode or a steady light.
One is required, showing a red light, positioned centrally or offside, between 350mm and 1500mm from the ground, at or near the rear and aligned towards and visible from behind. If capable of emitting a steady light it must be marked as conforming to BS3648, or BS6102/3, or an equivalent EC standard. If capable of emitting only a flashing light, it must emit at least 4 candela.
You also need a rear reflector and four pedal reflectors to fully comply with the RVLR.
CYCL WingLights are indicators and sidelights that fit into the handlebars of your bicycle. With one tap they flash bright amber indicating direction intention to other road users. They can also be used as permanent sidelights (a white front facing light and a red rear facing light) - this emphasises the width of the bicycle to other road users. Indicator lights can help reinforce hand signals for turning as well as increasing overall visibility to other road users.
Things to consider:
What will you primarily be using the lights for?
A quick commute to the train station or the shops, or through wooded areas that may not have any lighting. This will help you decide the strength of the light as well as expected the battery life.
How often will you be using the light and for how long?
Consider how long your commute is and ensure the lights you choose will have more than enough battery life to last your entire journey.
What conditions will you be riding in?
If you lights will be regularly exposed to the elements, you may want to opt for a better quality set to keep out rain and dirt.
We also recommend that it’s a good idea to have a backup set with you - lithium batteries tend to just die rather than slowly run out of juice and fade. There are plenty of more affordable and light front and rear lights available on marketplaces which can be easily carried in case you run out of battery on your main set of lights.
You might also be interested in reading our Beginner's Guide to Bicycle Locks or How WingLights Can Improve Your Safety on Bicycles and Electric Scooters