By Alison Hill
If ‘ere you ride without a light,
Keep at your fingertips at night
The name of someone else afar
To tell the bobby who you are.
Now the evenings have drawn in and are dark, wet and gloomy I am reminded of this bit of doggerel that my grandfather loved to repeat.
In no way am I recommending you to have the ‘name of someone else afar’, particularly as the Thames Valley Police have been running a positive campaign to encourage people to use lights (by issuing a set of lights alongside a warning to people seen cycling without lights). It still shocks me to see how many people ride on a dark, wet night without lights and I wonder if they realise the level of risk they are exposing themselves to when practically invisible to people driving motor vehicles (let alone breaking the law). So, I am in full support of police action to try to enforce and educate.
What is the law and what lights should you put on your bike? Don’t forget that if you are involved in a collision and you don’t have the right lights, you could be said to be at fault, and you will risk not being able to claim compensation.
Firstly, between dusk and dawn you must have a red rear reflector and amber pedal reflectors. The rear reflector is cheap and easy to fix onto a seat post, rear rack, or mudguard. Check you have one on your bike. If not get one fixed to your bike as soon as possible. And you may need new pedals if your reflectors have fallen out.
What about the lights? You must have a white front light and a red rear light which sounds pretty obvious, and they must be on. They must be attached to the bike – being attached to a coat, or helmet, won’t do. Some people think that flashing lights aren’t legal, but the law changed a while back, so lights can be steady or flashing as long as the flashing frequency is 60 to 240 times per minute. Oddly most lights sold now aren’t British standard approved, they are manufactured to meet much higher German standards. People in your local bike shop will tell you what lights are best and many cycle riders now have more than just the basic front and rear lights. It is worth the investment.
I have a hub dynamo powering my lights, which I would really recommend. I can’t forget them as they are fixed to the bike, and they don’t have batteries that fail. LED lights are very bright, and they no longer go out when you stop as they have a ‘standlight’ which means they stay on when, for instance, waiting at traffic lights (apparently another German standard).
Police won’t worry about what kind of lights you have. They are concerned to see that you are well lit. So I have changed the verse for modern times…
If ‘ere you cycle on dark nights
Keep your bike adorned with lights
The bobby stares amazed since she
Mistakes you for a Christmas tree.