The ability to see and be seen is crucial whether you are travelling on two wheels or four, and whether you are negotiating a quiet country lane or a busy urban dual carriageway. Your manoeuvres must be clearly visible to other road users.
Visibility is a crucial issue for cyclists because they are the most vulnerable form of road traffic. What may be a mere prang to a car driver could result in serious injury for someone who doesn’t have the luxury of airbags and side-impact protection.
It becomes an even more crucial issue in the hours of darkness. But ensuring that you are visible is not simply a case of commonsense, it is the law.
The Highway Code states – and there is no mitigation in pleading ignorance because if you don’t know the code, you shouldn’t be on the road in the first place – that at night, cycles must be fitted with both front and rear lights and a red rear reflector.
Amber pedal reflectors are also compulsory for machines manufactured after October 1985. If your machine doesn’t meet these requirements you are not only breaking the law, but you also represent a hazard both to yourself and other road users. So get it sorted.
Current British law
Given that your bike is fully equipped in line with current British law, the next area to address is clothing. Again, it is all a matter of commonsense. The lighter and brighter you are, the easier it will be for other road users to make out your entire profile rather than just the light sources emanating from the bike.
Specialist cycling gear incorporates reflective strips as well as being manufactured in a range of garish colours. At the very least, invest in a jacket that neatly packs into your saddle bag so that it is readily available should your intended route take longer than anticipated and you find yourself on the homeward leg after dusk.
Once you have taken every precaution in terms of equipment, the next aspect of riding at night is to think about your manoeuvring. Even the most careful of cyclists should aim to take extra time in terms of observation and speed to account for the conditions.
Remember that it is not only your behaviour that can contribute to an accident, so never second-guess another road user’s intentions or presume they are going to slow down or otherwise make allowances for your presence: ill-disciplined motorists will still be around and the reduced visibility will make them more dangerous.
Presence of pedestrians
Away from the highway, cyclists should pay extra attention to the presence of pedestrians. On a minor road or track, remember that while you may well be paying attention and be highly visible, those out for an evening stroll or walking the dog may not be so alert to the presence of others.
So when approaching sharp bends, or emerging onto another thoroughfare, slow down accordingly.
In addition, don’t forget that poorly lit tracks may also be a favoured hang-out for those who prey on unsuspecting cyclists.
It’s always better to cycle an extra quarter mile or so than run the risk of being attacked by taking the shorter, but less secure, route home.