Light up your life

Bike with five lights strappped to handlebarsLighten up: there’s a huge range of lights available so being seen in the dark is easy. Photo: Mark Slater

The mornings are dark, the sun goes down earlier in the evening – it’s definitely time to be thinking about lights again.

Many cyclists seem unconcerned about lighting up because they can see well enough by street lights. They might be able to see, but they can’t be seen and that makes a cyclist at night very vulnerable.

Lights are legally required under low light conditions. You should have a white light on the front and a red light on the rear of your bike, and both lights must be visible for at least 200 m. That probably means those tiny lights that are hardly bigger than the watch battery they use are not going to be seen far enough away – although they’re a great addition to a bigger set of lights.

Research has shown that flashing red lights are more easily seen by motorists. Just don’t be tempted to put a flashing red light on the front as well as the back of your bike. I have seen it more than once and it causes nothing but confusion.

What should you get if you’re buying a new set of lights? Ask yourself whether you want to see or be seen. A good front light that illuminates the road properly can set you back $300 or more. But if you simply want to show you’re there, you can find a decent white light under $50.

When you’re dusting off your lights from last season, change or recharge the batteries just to be on the safe side. And check your lights, especially your back light can actually be seen. Sometimes rear lights hung from a tool bag end up pointing at the road. Even if they’re fitted to the bike, a tool bag can partially obscure them.

If you’ve ever lost a light hung from a tool bag, try wrapping a rubber band around the bottom half of the light and its bracket to make sure it can’t jump off the hook.

Lights fitted? Try complementing them with a reflective vest or ankle bands. The bands are great because they appear to move up and down as you pedal.

You may not be worried about the law or being vulnerable. But if nothing else, spare a thought for the motorist who would like to get home without smearing a cyclist over their bonnet.

Light up and get to your destination safely. See you on the road soon, God willing.

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