UK Bike Light Laws - A Guide on Cycle Lighting Regulations

If you own a bike in the UK or plan to get one, you should learn about the pertinent bike light laws. Bicycles are considered vehicles when on the road, which means that bike riders should observe the same traffic laws that car owners follow, such as stopping whenever the traffic lights turn red, in addition to a particular set of bike-specific rules. 

However, even long-time bike riders are confused about these rules, including whether flashing lights are legal, how bright is considered too bright, or what the rules are when it comes to reflectors. This article will set the facts straight for you. 

The Current Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations (RVLR)

The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations (RVLR) that the UK follows was originally published in 1989, but it has since been amended several times. The most recent amendment was made in 2017. 

According to the RVLR, here is the golden light rule you should not do:

  • Cycling on a public road after dark without any lights or reflectors

If you are a biker who does not want to get into trouble, there should be a white light coming from the front of your bike and a red light from the rear. The RVLR also specifies adding reflectors to the front and back of each pedal as another requirement. 

The police will less likely pull you over if you have illuminated lights in the front and rear of your bike. In fact, The Highway Code also has a rule for cyclists relating to this. Rule 60 of The Highway Code states: 

"At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85). White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen. Flashing lights are permitted but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp."  

Some bikers think that adding lights to their helmet is already enough. Unfortunately, the law states that lights should be mounted on the bike. There is also a stated height limit for the bike lights. According to the law, they should not be placed higher than 1,500 mm from the ground. 

Not following the directions means that you are disregarding both the RVLR and The Highway Code. 

The consequence: If you do not abide by the rules and find yourself involved in an accident, your act will be considered as "contributory negligence," which means that the accident is partly your fault in the eyes of the law. 

The Minimum Must-Haves Equipment for Your Night Bike Ride

  1. Front lamp with white light - It should be placed up to 150 cm from the ground and face forward. If it is capable of emitting a steady light, the light should comply with BS6102/3 standards. If it is only capable of emitting a flashing light, it should emanate at least four candelas.
  1. Rear lamp with red light - This light should be placed between 35 cm and 150 cm from the ground, and it should face rearward. Like the front lamp, if it is only capable of emitting a flashing light, it should emanate at least four candelas. Otherwise, it should comply with the BS3648 or BS6102/3 standard. 
  1. Pedal reflectors - Your pedal reflectors should be in amber colour. They must be positioned between 25 cm and 90 cm from the ground, and they must face rearward.
  1. Rear reflector - This reflector should be in red and positioned between 25 to 90 cm from the ground. It should also face rearward. 

Other Helpful Reminders and Tips

  • On Maximum Power Light: There is no maximum power limit for bike lights, but you should not be dazzling oncoming vehicles. If your lights are causing discomfort or undue glare to other road users, the police have the right to fine you. With the help of the latest technology, bike lights have improved in years, especially since the introduction of LED lights. Now, they are lighter and run brighter and longer. 
  • On the Use of Flashing Lights: There is still an ongoing discussion about the safety of using flashing lights on the road. For now, flashing lights are still allowed in the UK as long as they follow the stated candela and placement noted above. The light should also only flash between 60 and 240 times per minute. 
  • On Usage of Older Bikes: Using older bikes does not exempt you from the laws, but here are some considerations: 
    • Bikes manufactured before October 1990 can use any kind of white front lamp as long as it is visible at a reasonable distance. 
    • Bikes manufactured pre-October 1985 do not need pedal reflectors.

Conclusion

Whether you use your bike or rent one, it's important to know and follow all the biking rules mentioned above. Bike riders also have their fair share of rules to follow on the road. Ignorance of the law is not an excuse, so all active riders need to learn about the rules and regulations they should abide by. After all, these rules were created for everyone's safety, including yours. 

Are you looking for accessories you can add to your bike? At Cushbike, we have white and red LED bike lights that you can attach to your bike's front and rear. We also offer comfortable bike seats to make bike riding more pleasant for you. Get one for your bike today!