How to stay visible on your commute as the days become shorter
As the days become shorter it's likely that some or all of your commute will be in the dark or low light conditions. Therefore it's a good idea to take a look at the lighting options available for commuters, to make sure that you stay safe and visible on rush hour roads. It's also a good time to remind yourself of the minefield that is current UK cycle lighting legislation.
What The Law says...
The Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations (last amended in 2009) states the following requirements:
Front: A white lamp positioned centrally or offside up to 150cm above the ground. If the lamp is capable of emitting a steady (i.e. non-flashing) beam it must conform to BS6102/3 or equivalent EC standard. If it is a flashing-only unit, then it must produce at least 4 candela.
Rear: A red lamp positioned centrally or offside, between 35 and 150cm above ground and visible from behind. Like the front lamp, if it's capable of emitting a steady beam, it must be compliant with BS3648 or BS6102/3 or EC equivalent (this will be clearly marked on the packaging). If your light can only emit a flashing beam it must produce at least 4 candela.
Rear Reflector: You must have a red BS6102/2 approved rear reflector visible from the rear of the bike.
Pedal Reflectors: Four are required, amber in colour, attached to the front and rear of each pedal so that they are visible from the front and rear. They must be marked BS6102/2 or equivalent.
LED Battery: The cheapest, most convenient and effective lighting these days are battery powered LED units. They emit powerful beams, boast long battery life, are usually easily removed from the bike, fit any kind of bike without modifications and are cheap to buy and run. Many units boast multiple lighting settings, with high and low beams, flashing and constant settings. Remember to check legal compliance if choosing a light which is capable of producing steady and flashing beams.
High Powered Lighting Systems: Borne out of the demands of 24 hour MTB racing, many upmarket commuters are choosing powerful lighting systems combining high powered LED emitters and long life, lightweight Lithium Ion battery packs. While undoubtedly packing one hell of a punch, these lighting systems are expensive to buy, possibly overkill for commuting purposes and, despite their power, may not be compliant with UK lighting regulations.
Dynamo/Battery Free Systems: Many dedicated commuting bikes are fitted with Dynamo lighting systems, which are powered either by a bottle dynamo on the sidewall of the tyre, or by a dynamo hub built into the front wheel. These systems have the advantage of being permanently attached to the bike and, as electricity is generated by the bike, there are no worries about running out of battery power mid-commute. There are other dynamo style systems available, such as the Reelight system, which uses a combination of magnets attached to the spokes and LED/generator units attached to the axle. These are ideal green, permanently attached options for those who don't want to go to the expense of fitting a true dynamo system.
Additional Measures: As well as lighting, there are also other things you can do to heighten your visibility by day or night. Wear something bright or hi-viz or attach something hi viz to your bike. If you don't want to go down the hi-viz bib route, you can buy hi-viz rucksacks that will draw attention to you out on the road. Look for clothing or bags with Scotchlite reflective material, which will be picked out hundreds of metres away by oncoming headlights. Many riders attach Scotchlite tape to their bikes too, to increase visibility.
A combination of good lights and hi visibility reflective clothing or accessories will make it a lot harder for drivers to play the ‘sorry mate, I didn't see you game' when you're next out on the road.
British Cycling Members get 10% off at Halfords stores nationwide at a minimum of 12% off at Wiggle, making kitting your bike for winter commuting a little less painful!