All About Lights when Riding Bikes at Night

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Daylight savings time ends November 2, and that will leave bicycle commuters riding bikes at night, some for the first time. Prepare yourself by arming your bike, and yourself, with the right lights and reflectors, making you impossible to miss.

Your bike probably didn’t come with head lights. Instead, most bikes are equipped with red and white reflectors on the front, back, pedals, and wheels. But lamps are the law under Michigan’s Motor Vehicle Code:

A bicycle…being operated on a roadway between 1⁄2 hour after sunset and 1⁄2 hour before sunrise shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear which shall be visible from all distances from 100 feet to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector.

Lights are essential for two reasons:

1. Be Visible to Cars

At night, drivers rely on the head- and taillights of the vehicles near them and can be blinded to unlit obstacles around them. That makes the risk of a bike and car accident much higher than during the day. Reflectors aren’t enough to be visible to cars. In fact, safety advocates recommend flashing lights and bright colored clothing to make you even more noticeable. Also, make sure your lights are aimed level to shine farther and help drivers see you sooner.

2. Watch Out for Unseen Hazards

Commuting by bike often includes back roads and off-road bike paths. But when the sun sets, street lights on these back ways are often few and far between. That can leave you guessing at potholes, parked cars, and other obstacles. But switching to well lit roads also means facing more cars and a higher risk of serious accidents. Instead, use bright headlights to give you advanced warning and help prevent painful bike accidents. You may even want to consider a light mounted to your helmet that will follow your gaze and help you see around dark corners.

Riding bikes at night can be nerve-wracking, but with the right lights and reflectors (on your bike and your clothing), you can ride safely even after the sun sets.

David Christensen is a no-fault auto insurance attorney at Christensen Law who represents cyclists who are hit by motor vehicles, day or night. If you or someone you know has been hurt in a car-on-bike collision, contact Christensen Law today for a free consultation.