4 Tips for Cycling at Night

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Cycling at night, if done carefully, could have you looking a bit goofy. And that's OK.

Your bike will be lit up with two or three lights and a half-dozen reflectors. Your helmet could have a light on it. You could be wearing reflective and lit-up clothing. The possibilities are endless.

It's all designed to make you as visible as possible to vehicles, and the abundance of affordable products on the market today can make sure you're easy to see for pretty cheap.

More: Why Bike Lights Are Important...Even in Daylight

"The more lights the better," said John Duggan, a Seattle-based attorney who often represents injured cyclists. "I have 75 to 80 cases going right now. Almost every one of those, the car drivers never see the bike. They don't see us because they're not looking for us.

"At night it's a little different. There are all these flashing lights and bright lights and reflecting lights and reflecting vests. You could argue that you're more visible at night if you're lit up."

And that's a good thing. Bike commuters around the country will see their after-work ride home turn dark in the fall and wintertime. Shortened daylight can often mean being forced to train in darkness, either before the sun rises or after the sun sets.

Make sure you're as prepared as possible for night cycling. Here are some tips to keep in mind.

More: 6 Safety Tips for Bike Commuters

A Well-Lit Bike

In California, the law states that any cyclist riding at night needs to have a white headlamp, a red rear reflector, white or yellow reflectors on the pedals, and white or yellow reflectors on each side (usually in wheel spokes).

The law is similar in many states, but it's not nearly enough. When it comes to night riding, it pays to go well beyond the law to make your bike noticeable. Some ideas include:

  • A rear red light, particularly one that blinks. A blinking red light is much more likely to get the attention of a passing motorist who might otherwise not notice you. These have exploded in popularity in recent years due to their effectiveness. Some have reflective material within them so it can double as the rear reflector required by law.
  • Many types of headlamps are on the market, including strobes. Some argue that strobes are TOO bright and can blind anyone the cyclist is approaching at night. But they do give the appearance of a blinking headlight and are hard to miss.

More: How to Choose the Best Bike Light for You