« All blog posts

Cycle lights – James’ guide

9 December 2018

Winter time is upon us, so it is time to check your lights are working
So, how should a cyclist be lit? A summary of the not straightforward “The Road Vehicles Lighting and Goods Vehicles (Plating and Testing) (Amendment) Regulations 2009” can be found here :-https://www.cyclinguk.org/cyclists-library/regulations/lighting-regulations.

In summary, legally you need a BS 6102/3 front and BS 6102/3 rear lights and reflectors on your bike (with many caveats about mounting height, position, brightness, flashing rates, wheel size and cycle manufacture date).

What about dynamos?
Yes, dynamos are legal. The small print says if you have dynamo lights that go out when you stop, you should stop at junctions etc by the kerb, not out in a right hand lane for example. These days any half decent dynamo will have capacitor powered “stand by” lights, which keep your lights on for up to 4 – 5 minutes when you stop.

You can also legally use “approved” lights that don’t meet BS regulations so long they don’t contravene any regulations AND you have BS compliant lights on your bicycle.

Most police officers would struggle to recognise a none BS compliant light. Like the rest of us, they are interested in you being visible, The majority of lights sold are not BS standard, but are still perfectly good for the job.


So, how to be seen – rear lights
If you are short and your rear light is on the seat post, ensure it is higher than the top of the rear wheel/mud guard/carrier/luggage otherwise it will be hidden from view when seen from behind. If you are unsure, go a short distance behind your bike, crouch down to driver’s level and see if you can see your rear light.

If you have a long coat or jacket, sit on it to prevent it hanging down and obscuring your rear light.

Rear lights fitted to the right hand seat stay get seriously compromised if you have a rear rack fitted, as the vertical support strut obscures the light when viewed from behind.

So, how to be seen – front lights
Ensure that your front lights point forwards and level or slightly downwards and are not obscured by luggage in baskets. Align really bright lights slightly downwards – if you do not, it’s fantastically bright and you floodlight the trees. However you don’t need to floodlight the trees (or oncomers eyes), you need to see the ground in front of you. A level or upwards pointing front light will dazzle and annoy your oncoming fellow cyclists (and pedestrians/drivers) especially with a strobe flash.

To be legal, the light must be attached to the bicycle, not bags or clothes. Lights attached to bags/clothes are often not visible because they point in the wrong direction, or are completely hidden by straps or folds in fabric. The same often happens with helmets. Be wary of those modern loopy stretch-fit lights, these invariably cannot be aligned to point directly level, so rendering them a lot less visible if at all. Worse are the really small ones with a tiddly and hard to see light. Get something properly bright with a broad beam for side visibility.

If you have trouble positioning your lights, ask a decent bike shop, they will probably have various devious light brackets you wouldn’t have thought of.

The regulations state you need to be lit from sun set to sun rise. Sometimes (especially when cloudy) it is quite dark long before sunset. My test is to look at other cyclists and pedestrians, if they are hard for me to see – put your lights on as you will be hard for others to see.