Everything you need to know about lights
We want all our velofix riders to be as safe as they can on the roads, which is why we need to talk about the importance of having lights.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a statistic which states, 40 percent more bicycle fatalities occur between 6 P.M and 9 P.M. Can you guess why?
We don’t want to scare you, well, maybe a little, only to make sure you’re taking extra steps to be safer on the roads. One of the most effective ways to ensure your safety all year round is by installing bike lights. Though it’s not legally required to ride with your lights on during the day, they help make you more visible (we’ll come back to this later).
There are two types of light categories that you should know about: lights to see and lights to be seen. Andrew Ibanez said it best; “be-seen lights are just bright enough so nearby motorists or pedestrians can see you,” and “To-see lights are much brighter, illuminating the road or trail ahead.” There’s some crossover between the two.
FLASHING LIGHTS OR SOLID LIGHTS?
There’s a wide range of lights out there, so you have to determine which is right for you. Solid white light is one of the best options for cyclists to see the road ahead when riding at night. Solid lights are also are great for making you visible and not distracting other road users. According to Ryan Young, the youth-program coordinator at the Cascade Bicycle Club, Continuous lighting sources are less jarring than blinking lights”.
Meanwhile, studies show that flashing lights may be better at capturing our attention. According to Stein Optometric Center, light entering the eye at a consistent brightness activates photoreceptors at the back of the eye. If this concept is too complicated to wrap your head around, think of a car brake light, it’s the contrast that catches our attention more than if they were just on continuously.
This is one of the most common questions that our rider service technicians receive regardless of rider experience. We strongly recommend that you have at minimum two lights on your bike while riding at night. Having a front-facing light to ensure you’re able to see the road ahead, as well as a rear-facing taillight, so you are visible to drivers behind you. The general rule of thumb is to have a white, bright solid-beam option light in front so that you can see the road and any potential safety hazards. Your rear lights ideally should be red and bright enough for other cars to see you.
Lumens are a measure of total light output, something you should focus on when purchasing lights.
Generally, we recommend front lights to range from 250 to 2,000 lumens. To put this into perspective, the average headlights from a car are between 700 and 1,200 lumens. Your front lights are meant for you to be as visible as possible to motor vehicle operators. Your rear lights need to be between 50 to 100 lumens; remember, they serve the purpose of helping you be seen, not see. If you’re unsure about what’s suitable for your riding style, our Rider Support Techs are always happy to help.
You may be wondering, “why do I need my lights on during the day?”. Well, according to research sponsored by Trek/Bontrager, accident rates for cyclists are 19 percent lower for cyclists with permanent running lights. According to the same research compiled by Trek, “using a flashing tail light [during the day] can make you up to 2.4 times more noticeable than a rider using no lights at all (and up to 1.4 times more prominent than a rider using light in steady mode), can’t argue the research.
We’re passionate about bikes and want to ensure all of our riders are as well. We’ve covered everything from daytime to nighttime light safety, but all of this is useless if you do not position your lights correctly. “If your only front-facing light is on your helmet, you can always see where you are looking,” he says. “But if you turn your head, the traffic opposite your direction of travel will no longer see your light [or potentially you].” If you attach your taillight to your seat post or seat stays, be sure a saddlebag or your tire is not obstructing it. As with any new piece of gear, get familiar with your lights before taking them out on the road. Ask your local RST for what’s right for your bike