Riding at Night

It’s bike light season again!

Lights are one of the most important safety features on your bike. If you don’t have lights, get some lights! You can buy a good set of front and rear lights at any bike shop, most hardware stores, or your preferred online retailer. If you can’t afford lights, let us know and we’ll help.

Most of the region requires bicyclists to have a front light and at least a rear reflector. We recommend full front and rear lights to improve visibility. Lights help you see ahead and be seen by others on roads and trails.

Graphic of a bicycle with text above saying Bike Lights 101. The bike has a bright red beam coming from the back and a bright white beam coming from the front. Below is says, "Red light in the back. Reflectors are OK. A Light is better. Law requires at least a reflector." "Wheel reflectors are good! They increase your side visibility. Some tires also have reflective sidewalls." and a third text box says "White light in the front. Front lights are required by law. Angle down on trails."

Light tips

  • Keep a spare battery or a charger at work or in a little bag on your bike.
  • Make sure you have lights that meet your needs:
    • If you’re likely to be riding on an unlit road trail, make sure you have a light that’s bright enough to let you see where you’re going.
    • If you’re just riding on city streets, a small blinking light is probably enough.
  • When you’re riding on a trail, be aware of the angle of your front light. Modern LEDs can be quite bright, and you don’t want to blind oncoming trail users.
    • We generally recommend against strobing lights. Strobe makes it hard to judge how far away and how fast an object is moving.
    • Many people experience disorientation, headaches, migraines, and nausea from flashing LEDS.
  • Helmet light – An option that lets you see what you are looking at (vs. lights that are fixed to bar).
Same graphic of a bike as the image above but now the text reads "Good. Top of beam is roughly horizontal" in reference to how the light is illustrated coming (red and white) from front and back of the bike.
Same graphic as previous but now the image says "Not so good. Brightest part of beam hits oncoming trail users rather than the trail in front of you."

Other tips and ways to stay visible

Reflectors are another safety device on a bicycle that uses retroreflection to alert another road user of the bicycle’s presence on the road. They reflect light in the direction it came from.

Reflectors can come in many different forms and be added to various places on your bike or directly to the rider. Here are some examples:

  • Reflective vest – Usually found in bright fluorescent colors and brings attention to the rider
  • Wheel reflectors – Reflectors on moving parts like wheels or pedals help catch light and attention to movement. 
  • Tires with reflective strips on the sidewall 
  • Reflective bands the wrap around the riders ankle 
  • Backpacks 
  • Stickers/decals that can be added to your clothing or bike

Note: WABA gives away thousands of bike lights every year. We’ve found that we can get more lights into the hands of folks who don’t already have them if we do not announce times or locations in advance. Instead, we seek out places where we see lots of people riding without lights. If you see us out there, say hello! Pick up a set of lights only if you need them.