Riding at night is perhaps the most dangerous time for cyclists. Reading international statistics on cycling accidents at night makes for sobering reading- according to the People Powered Movement, more than half of biking accidents occur at night. I’ve been riding an e-bike at night for several years and can offer some tips for keeping safe and being seen by other road users.
If you are thinking about taking your e-bike out for a ride after sunset, here are some tips to help keep you safe and visible on the road:
1) Try to choose a quiet route that is not next to, or on, a busy street with traffic
2) Plan ahead by making sure your bike has proper reflectors
3) Use lights as required by law – white light for on the front, red light on the back; both must be lit when biking at night
4) Be aware of traffic around you (especially cars turning left without signaling), and know where you are going
5) Consider wearing helmet or head mounted lights, these allow you to see better but also to be seen by car drivers more easily
As always, it is important to wear a helmet and other safety gear when biking.
Read on for the full details of being seen on your e-bike at night.
Let’s start by thinking of completely free ways to stay safe 🙂 I like to offer value to my readers for free, where possible, that don’t necessarily involve buying expensive gear! Changing your normal route is one way to increase your safety at night on your e-bike.
If you’re regularly riding in the dark for a commute, take a look at your route on Google Maps. Is there an alternative route, perhaps that’s longer, that has more street lights? Perhaps a route with a cycle lane or even a hard shoulder along the roadside that you could take advantage of? A walking path? (Check that biking is allowed on the path first!)
If you’re struggling to identify alternative routes, try out OsmAnd maps. It’s a Google maps alternative that has a special bike routes mode. You may be able to find another route by looking through the cycling map mode. With some searching, perhaps you can identify another way that keeps the thundering traffic further away, even if it’s just for part of the journey.
Ideally, you should first try out a new route during the day time so that you can identify any potentially unsafe areas- such as potholes, manhole covers, areas with wet leaves or high curbs. You don’t need to discover these hazards when it’s dark and you’re in a hurry to get home.
If you are trying out a new route on a dark country lane or forest path without street lights, make sure you have some adequately powered headlights to safely light up the way so you can avoid hazardous obstacles. It may be worth investing in a separate high power front light (Amazon link) so that you can flick it on when driving through an area without streetlights. Make sure that you are a considerate road user- adjust the front light so it doesn’t blind other road users! You don’t need to make the road unsafe for others.
E-Bike Lights and Accessories
Every e-bike on the road should have front and back lights, front and back reflectors, and reflectors on the pedals. If your bike does not, buy lights before setting off on the road. Here and some good, cheap bike LED lights on Amazon (Amazon link). They are USB rechargeable too. There’s no excuse for not having decent e-bike lights- in most jurisdictions it’s the law in any case to have adequate front and back lighting. You can quickly and cheaply increase your safety by attaching and using these. You can even get a special red back light that has a GPS tracker cleverly hidden inside!
The most common types available today include LED headlights that mount onto handlebars for daytime use as well; these typically have three settings: low beam (brightest), high beam/full brightness mode, and flashing modes. You should never use the flashing mode on your front light, this is too distracting and won’t properly light up your route.
I personally turn on the e-bike lights constantly when on my e-bike, not just at night. More visibility is always a good idea, especially with inattentive road users around you.
Other types of lights to consider are helmet lights (Amazon link) or headlamps (Amazon link). I personally wear a headlamp with a strap that goes around my forehead, which fits snugly under the rim of my bike helmet.
The big advantage of having a head-mounted flashlight is that they always illuminate the area you are focusing on, rather than where the e-bike is currently facing, especially when turning or looking around upcoming corners. Another big safety boost is that the light is high up, so you are more easily seen by car drivers that might miss the lights that are lowered down on your bike. If you do decide to get these types of head-mounted lights, make sure that it’s not too heavy as this will be tiring to wear for long time periods.
It should go without saying, but e-bike helmets are essential at all times, particularly at night. Many newer helmet models come with reflective strips and even front and back LED lights for additional safety. Here is one helmet model (Amazon link) that comes with front and rear LED lights, and even turn signals and brake lights! It can achieve this via Bluetooth connectivity.
Having lights on your helmet is a nice bonus as car drivers might not see your e-bike lights lower down due to obstacles or being inattentive. If you’re looking for some ideas for a helmet, take a look here at my list of recommended e-bike helmets.
Highly Reflective Jackets and High Visibility Vests
It’s vital to wear a reflective vest or something that will help drivers see your body. This is especially important for cyclists who wear dark clothing because they are more difficult targets when it’s nighttime out there on the road – I always recommend wearing neon colors if possible! You can also attach reflectors onto bags with zip ties so cars know where and not just what direction but also how fast someone might come from behind them; this makes people visible in all directions which helps avoid collisions even better than lights alone do! The best way of being seen by other motorists though? Don’t ride against traffic! This is something that some inexperienced riders unfortunately still do.
There’s a new type of reflective cycling jacket available that looks like a normal cycling jacket in daylight, but when hit with car headlights or other lights in the dark, glow extremely brightly. Your torso is arguable the largest, most visible part of you that a driver can see, so having a jacket that glows extremely visibly is a great addition for safety reasons. Check out this video for a nice demonstration:
For those that find older style high-visibility reflective vests (Amazon link) or armbands (Amazon link) unattractive, this is a great way to be safe and seen at night while retaining a stylish, understated look during the daytime.
Some years ago, Volvo sponsored a new type of highly-reflective safety paint. This temporary use paint can be quickly sprayed onto many surfaces- such as your e-bike itself or onto your cycling jacket, which instantly makes any surface highly reflective when hit with a car’s headlights.
This video below dramatically illustrates the difference this paint can make when sprayed on a cyclist that is in the beams of a car.
The most important thing is to make sure you have a front and rear light. Other factors that can help are reflective clothing, vests, and helmets, wearing a head-mounted flashlight, choosing a quiet route away from traffic, wearing bright colors at night (especially if the cycling clothes match your bike), using extra lights or reflectors on both sides of an e-bike for extra visibility, and finally making yourself as visible from behind by having reflectors mounted in back or adding them onto shoes!
I hope these tips will be helpful. Good luck out there and happy riding!