If you are a bicycle enthusiast, then you probably like to ride your bike at night. You should know that the law requires you to use lights when riding at night.
Throughout the United States, the rules on cycling at night are pretty consistent. To right after dark in most states, your bike must have a white front light that is visible from 500 feet away and a red rear light or reflector that can be seen at 600 feet. You must use your lights or reflectors between dawn and dusk. You should also turn them on when visibility is less than 1,000 feet.
Do I Have to Buy Lights When I Purchase a Bicycle?
In most cases, the answer is no. Bicycles in the US come with reflectors already attached. They tend to come with a white front reflector, side reflector, red reflector, and a pedal reflector. You can remove and replace your rear and front reflectors with proper lights. However, you should ensure the lights you buy don’t dazzle or blind motor vehicle drivers and your fellow bicyclists.
What is the Penalty for Bicycling at Night Without Lights?
Again, this varies from state to state. In most instances, the penalty for riding at night without lights and reflectors can include traffic tickets with fines up to two hundred dollars. You may also be required to attend a bicycle safety course.
You must also think about the consequences of getting into an accident. If you collide with another driver without your lights on, the insurance company of the other driver will hold you liable. Your insurance company will probably need to settle, and this will, of course, raise your premiums. Worst of all, you are likely to be injured or injure others in such a collision.
Why is Using Lights Mandatory?
Even if you only ride your bike at night in an area that you are familiar with, and you have an intuitive knowledge of the road, using lights is the only way to be safe. Bicycle lights are mandatory because you must be visible to other drivers and you should have good visibility while bicycling in the dark. A good feel for the road is not enough, as it is possible for discarded items, roadkill, and other objects to obstruct your path. Running over such things can throw you off balance and cause serious harm.
Whenever you use your bicycle for travel, you should ensure that your lights are attached. You may plan to come home before dusk, but things do not always work out. And you don’t want to be caught by the night.
What is the Difference Between Bicycle Lights and Reflectors?
The differences were only sketched above. Here, we will go more in-depth.
Bicycle lights are small, compact lights that are designed for the sole purpose of being mounted on bikes. They are bright and powerful enough to be noticed by other road travelers, and they allow you to see where you are going on the road, route, or trail you travel in the dark.
Front bike lights are white, much like car headlights. Rear bike lights, also known as tail lights, are red in color and help people see you from behind. Both front and rear lights are powered by batteries that have to be periodically replaced or recharged.
A bicycle reflector is a prism-based device that can be attached to the rear, front, pedal, or wheel of a bicycle. It is designed to enhance visibility in dark riding conditions. It works in the following way.
When light strikes a reflector, which is coated with beads, it is redirected through two tiny right-angle mirrors back toward the direction from which it came. The reflector is therefore only visible to the viewer in a vehicle that is emitting light (for example, the driver of a car with headlights on).
Bicycle reflectors can be effective at dusk and under certain other reduced visibility conditions. However, they are generally insufficient as visibility aids for night riding. This is especially the case if you ride in an area that get exceptionally dark at night.
What are the Best Bike Lights to Buy?
If the bicycle you purchase comes with reflectors but not lights, then you will need to buy them yourself. Here are some of the things you should consider before making such a purchase:
-Light power: you will need lights with enough lumens to ensure visibility
-Autonomy: it is best to purchase battery-operated lights
-Lightness: you will have to pedal the additional weight so make sure you get something that is relatively light
What are Lumens?
Just above, I mentioned the word lumens when describing light power. Lumens are a way of measuring a light’s output. Rear lights range from 5 to 100 lumens. Front lights tend to be upwards of 1000 lumens. To give you a more concrete idea of how this translates into actually lighting power, the backlight of your smartphone is about 20 lumens, while the headlights of a car can reach 1200 lumens.
The amount of lumens you will need depends greatly on where you live and where you travel on your bicycle. If you live in a well-lit city, and do not travel outside of the city limits, then you can get away with lights that are between 100 to 200 lumens. If you live in a dark and largely unlit rural area, then you should purchase lights that are between 500 to 100 lumens.
The Bottom Line
The short answer to the title question is no. You cannot ride a bicycle at night without lights. It is not only illegal to ride your bike without lights, it is against common sense. As a bicyclist, you are able to protect yourself from a fall by wearing a helmet and knee and elbow pads. But you are without any protection at all in a collision with a motor vehicle or another bicycle. The chances of becoming involved in such an accident will increase significantly if you ride your bike at night without lights.