26 ways to stay visible on your bike after dark

By Genevieve Walker

Okay, so usually snow is not on the ground before the clocks fall back an hour, but this year is obviously special. The winter light may still be catching up to the winter weather, but the end of Daylight Saving Time this Sunday means we will be riding in the dark more often. It’s time to consider lighting for cycling safety . First, what are the rules? In New York City, use of lights is required for bicycles 30 minutes after sunset until 30 minutes before sunrise: a Rudolf-red one for the back of the bike (visible from 300 feet away) and a clear white light for the front (with a visibility of 500 feet). New bicycles sold at retail must be equipped with reflex reflectors on the spokes of the front and back wheels, or with reflective tires. That means you don’t have to add reflectors to your current bike, but it’s highly recommended for lateral visibility. For the nitty-gritty of New York State laws that apply to bicycle lights, scroll down to the bottom of this page. Thankfully there are plenty of effective, fun and creative ways to illuminate your bike, your body and the road ahead. Below you’ll find our list (a double baker’s dozen) of lighting ideas to inspire you to get creative in the dark. Please weigh in and tell us your favorite lighting system in the comments section!

Illuminating Ideas for Night Cycling Safety:

1. Knog Gekko Knogs are great, simple lights made of silicon that wrap around your bike bar (or backpack strap, or elsewhere). Gekko lights have three small LEDs  in white or red versions. Probably the cheapest option out there, Knogs make good backup lights to carry for those just-in-case days. ($29.95 per pair) 2. Planet Bike SuperFlash Tail Light This one’s a favorite among NYC cyclists for the high-visibility light output  it offers in a compact package. It’s equipped with a three LEDs, offers steady and flashing options and is weatherproof. Two AAA batteries are included. ($17) 3. Topeak HeadLux Helmet Light This small, dual-sided light mounts atop a bicycle helmet. The forward-facing light is white, the rear red. It features four LEDs with wrap-around lenses that provide visibility from all angles. ($14) 4. Planet Bike Blaze Headlight: The Blaze headlight clips in and out of a fixed handlebar mount, so it’s easy to remove when you park your bike. It comes in varying strengths; click this link to view Planet Bike’s breakdown of  levels of illumination for each light. ($40 range) 5. CatEye Rapid 3 Tail Light This horizontal bar of lights is designed to sit beneath your seat and has three flash and still modes for ultimate visibility. It requires only takes one AA battery. ($50 range). 6. MiNewt.Mini.300 – USB & Plus The MiNewt.Mini headlight is a powerful tool for night riders. With a brightness of up to 300  Lumens, this lamp comes with a rechargeable battery pack that mounts along with the light to a bike bar, or on top of a helmet for use as a headlamp.  This light comes with its own mounting kit, which includes a handlebar or helmet attachment. ($60 – $100 range) 7. Light Motion Multi Sport Stella: For the hard-core adventurer, this light is high-quality and high-functionality (at a fittingly high cost). It comes with a rechargeable lithium battery and can be fitted to a headband or a bike-bar and has an output of 300 Lumens. ($229) 8. Serfas Tail Lights: This sturdy tail light has three flash modes and a long battery life. Simple and effective, the light is centered in a horizontal silicon bar with small white lights abutting a main red light. ($20)   9. Dinotte Lights This line of solid aluminum lights, with sleek designs, is worth checking out. Offering small single headlights, tail lights and dual-function headlamps, the Dinotte company (located in New Hampshire) claims high quality and consistency based on in-house fabrication of components. ($170 – $350) 10. The Princeton Tech Push This Push is highly functional, powerful and easy to operate. It comes with a clip-on mount and its tubular design (that’s literal, not 1980s surfer slang) emits light from little “windows” along the cylindrical sides, creating “260 degrees of visibility.” ($29) 11. Bookman Light (top photo): The Bookman Light is a fun rectangular light that looks like a Lego, and comes in primary colors similar to those building blocks. This light has a simple push-button on top and attaches to bikes with an elastic the size and width of a standard hairband. ($30, set of two) 12. Silva Sport Safety Lights Silva’s head lamps are powerful, yet small enough to toss in your bag. Recently though, they came out with the Sport, a tiny clip-on light that looks like a button. The multi-use design makes it as easy to clip onto a jacket as handlebars. ($13 range)     13. iPhone Safety Flasher App: Back in February velojoy wrote about the free iPhone’s Safety Flasher app that makes your phone into a functional bike light. And that was before iPhone 4S could remind you to bring lights with you. The  new iOS includes “Siri,” which allows you to talk into your phone. Ask Siri to remind you to grab your lights…and as if by magic, your phone will alert you upon leaving the house. 14. Knog Boomer Wearable This red light is designed to clip onto a back pack or shirt-back and flash at cars behind you. A nice, inexpensive option for added visibility. ($24.95) 15. Wendy Legro LED Coat This fashionable coat features diamond-shaped, raised pleats folded around LEDs. The trim, waist-length garment is beautifully designed, and the diamonds are fun features that happen to be highly functional for cycling. (Price upon request.) 16. Vega One Coat Earlier this year velojoy wrote about this amazing (and beautiful) coat with built in LEDs: “The Vega One spring coat incorporates tiny, super-bright LEDs into the upper area of the front and back for visibility and safety. Subtle design features keep the lights out of sight during daytime wear.” ($449) 17. BetaBrand Bike to Work Pants Like the Levi’s commuter pant for cyclists, these awesome jeans are made for men only. However, that doesn’t mean women can’t rock them, too. These denims are lined with reflective tape around the ankle (on the inside; you have to roll them to show the reflectors), and in the back pockets (pull out the pockets and let them hang, inside-out). These features make the Bike to Work “britches” kind of like a superhero costume: Upstanding jeans wearer by day, avid city cyclist after dark. ($98) 18. Planet Bike BRT Strap: This ankle strap glows and blinks. It is marketed as a “tail light” and claims to be visible up to 2,000 feet away. Not only can you keep your pants away from grease, you can add some visibility to your ride. And for kicks, you can use the BRT Strap as a dog collar. At least, that’s what the product description says.  ($15.99)   19. Dargelos Lightning Vest This vest, hand-netted of double-sided reflective material, is pretty enough to keep on after your ride. Featherweight, it fits easily into your bag or even a pocket. Dargelos also makes additional stylish gear with reflective elements. ($80) 20. Vespertine Reflective Vest For the couture conscious, Vespertine offers stylish vests, corsets and belts that come in safety-yellow, hot pink, Lady-Gaga-feather boa, and silver — all with reflective striping. ($40 – $328)     21. Cyclelogic spoke reflectors This is a great little kit of reflective “tubes” you can fit onto bike spokes yourself. ($7) 22. Monkey Lights Featuring strips of colorful LEDs that attach to your spokes, this lighting system is also a fashion statement. Monkey Lights come in different patterns, and will likely assure that cars, pedestrians, kids, and even birds-that-like-shiny-things will notice your bike when you roll by with these installed. (Available for pre-order on Kickstarter). 23. Revolights Revolights, still in development, are an amazing spoke attachment. A string of blinking lights attached to the spokes are timed so that, when the wheels are spinning, it appears as though half of the wheel is a bike light pointing at the ground. Check out the video on Kickstarter for a demonstration. 24. Make your own reflective clothing (two helpful videos): This fun video walks you through creating your own reflective pants. It’s a simple and low cost project. Supplies: jeans, extra fabric of your choice, and reflective tape. In addition, an Esty Craft Night video with Nona Varnado, local cycling advocate and women’s cycling apparel designer, teaches how to stitch reflective tape onto your clothes for cycling. Watch the video here. 25. Bright Thread Bight Bike Kit A New York City artist and cyclist created a reflective-tape kit to convert any bicycle into a night-ready ride. Many design and color options are available on their website. ($18) 26. Turn a jacket into illuminated cycling apparelThis tutorial and pattern walks do-it-yourselfers through sewing lights into a jacket. Equipment required: Strips of LED lights, conductive sewing thread, “puffy fabric paint,” clear buttons, basic sewing tools and patience. The result is a coat that sports strips of illuminated buttons. Very neat.

The Fine Print: Bicycle Lights and the Law

Vehicle and Traffic Law, Section 1236. “Lamps and other equipment on bicycles” (A) Every bicycle when in use during the period from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible during hours of darkness from a distance of at least five hundred feet to the front and with a red light visible to the rear for three hundred feet. Effective July first, nineteen hundred seventy-six, at least one of these lights shall be visible for two hundred feet from each side. (B) No person shall operate a bicycle unless it is equipped with a bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least one hundred feet, except that a bicycle shall not be equipped with nor shall any person use upon a bicycle any siren or whistle. (C) Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement. (D) Every new bicycle shall be equipped with reflective tires or, alternately, a reflex reflector mounted on the spokes of each wheel, said tires and reflectors to be of types approved by the commissioner. The reflex reflector mounted on the front wheel shall be colorless or amber, and the reflex reflector mounted on the rear wheel shall be colorless or red. (E) Every bicycle when in use during the period from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise shall be equipped with reflective devices or material meeting the standards established by rules and regulations promulgated by the commissioner; provided, however, that such standards shall not be inconsistent with or otherwise conflict with the requirements of subdivisions (a) and (d) of this Section.


  • Fun list! At first I thought this was going to be another boring list of bicycle lights, that was to be outdated in a year. But the further down I got, the more exotic the solutions!
    However, no love for hub-powered?

  • Unfortunately my own experience is from a now three year old Shimano hubgenerator, but I have been reading up on the latest developments.

    The SONdelux generator and Edelux led-headlight are a well known combo, but the Supernova E3 Pro headlight is an excellent alternative, as are the current Shimano generators.

    I still haven’t found a good option for a rear light, but that should be less of a problem, since there are some excellent long-lasting options there. I would love a good alternative though.

  • For dynamo-powered lights, I really like the Busch and Muller Lumotec IQ Cyo headlight. It has a powerful, but focused beam. It illuminates the road without blinding oncoming traffic. I also like the Busch and Muller 4D taillight. It’s slightly larger than your average taillight with a rounded globe that helps sideways visibility.

    As for battery-powered taillights, the often overlooked, Nite Rider “Cherry Bomb” works really well. It’s bright, with steady and flash modes, and a stable mount that can be adjusted vertically to angle the light up or down. The light is also easily removable when parked.

  • you guys should check out BIKE AFTER DARK’s lights. They go on your wheel and light them up. I saw someone posting about them on one of those blackberry commercials, they are very cool!

    • Lauren, thanks for mentioning this. We saw those blackberry commercials, too. Seems like there are new options for better visibility coming online every day — a good sign for cycling’s popularity.

  • Great post. Cyclists sometimes think it’s only the driver’s job to pay attention and see them, regardless of how dark it is. Let’s look at it from a car driver’s perspective for a moment: you’re cruising down the road, on your way home from work and taking the same route you usually take. The radio is on and so is the AC so it’s nice and warm. The phone rings; you sneak a peek and make a note to get back to them. Traffic ahead of you is moving at a constantly low speed and you pretty much break when the guy in front of you does. Suddenly, a dark figure crosses your lane, out of nowhere; it was a bicyclist changing lanes to get to the left turn. You honk your horn and he gives you a hearty one-fingered reply. Another near-miss that could have ended a whole lot worse. All of this could have been avoided with good visibility gear which is available anywhere and is not very expensive.

    I would also add to your list a tail light diffuser, which takes the directed beams of LED tail lights and difusses them to achieve active side visibility, not just front and back.

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