THE WIKE BLOG

Proper Bike and Trailer Lighting for Night Cycling

September 26, 2022

Cycling at night can be a great way to get your exercise or nature fill, but can you do it safely? Read through our tips for cycling at night and with a trailer to ensure you stay safe and seen.

Since 2017, WIKE’s President Bob Bell and his friend Harry Oussoren (President of Insitu Contractors) have been heading up to the University of Guelph, in our hometown of Guelph, Ontario, Canada, to install free bike lights on every bicycle that doesn’t have them. Bob was a city councilor and he had been getting many calls from constituents saying that there are too many bicycles on the road with no lights once the students come back. By installing the lights directly rather than handing them out, the results have been amazing – Bob and Harry have installed almost 4,000 lights total, and Guelph’s roads are getting safer and safer for cyclists every year.

We are pretty proud of this initiative, check out the articles below for more:

https://www.guelphmercury.com/community-story/7219343-free-bike-lights-for-cyclists-on-gordon-street/ (Posted Saturday, April 1, 2017)

https://www.guelphtoday.com/local-news/did-you-find-new-lights-on-your-bicycle-wednesday-afternoon-728149 (Posted September 28, 2017)

https://www.guelphtoday.com/local-news/get-lit-get-seen-guelph-duo-installs-500-free-lights-for-cycle-safety-on-campus-4539430 (Posted October 22, 2021)

Photo by Vladislav Klapin on Unsplash

With Autumn upon us and the Fall 2022 semester already well under way, we want to talk about some important things you should take into consideration before you set off on your next night ride!

Lights

Sometimes you’re biking in the city, other times you may be biking on a dark trail. It’s important to have the appropriate amount of light wherever you may be cycling. Many cities in North America now have by-laws that require you to have lights on your bicycle at night. You should have two lights: one front white light, and one red rear light. If you are pulling a bike trailer you should have a red light on the back of the bicycle trailer too. Your front bicycle light should be a white light of at least 400 lumens, bright enough to illuminate the road (or trail) ahead. This will help oncoming traffic see you, as well as help you to see what is coming ahead of you. Be sure to angle your front light down to ensure you are not blinding the oncoming traffic. Your rear light should be red, like a brake light on a car. This helps make you and your bicycle visible to drivers and other traffic approaching you from behind. This light can be solid or flashing; we prefer flashing as it is more eye-catching. With at least two lights, (three with a bike trailer) you will be bright enough to be seen by traffic and other cyclists. It’s also never a bad idea to have an extra light with you. This can be an additional front flashing light, or a secondary solid light in the event one of your lights runs out of battery or breaks.

Reflectors

Just like the lights, your bicycle also needs reflectors. The front or your bike, usually on the handlebars, should have a white reflector. Your wheels should have a white or yellow reflector as well. The colour may differ where you are located, so be sure to check with your local authorities to ensure your bicycle is up to standards. The rear reflector should always be red. All your reflectors should be always visible. Bicycle trailers need red reflectors as well on the back as well. Wike bike trailers have two red reflectors on the back, clear wheel reflectors, and a highly reflective silver strip on each side of the bike trailer. They should not be covered up with panniers, wheel covers, or other accessories that may affect their reflecting ability. The reflectors flash when moving, signaling to drivers and other cyclists that you are coming. Many drivers and cyclists will see a quick flash of your wheel reflector before they see anything else about you, so reflectors are very important.

Colours

We know that you probably didn’t have much say in the colour of your bicycle or it’s accessories, and we also know that they’re probably not neon, flashing colours that can be seen at night. When cycling at night, you need to also consider your wardrobe. While you should already have lights and reflectors on your bicycle, the shirt you’re wearing may blend in with your surroundings and make it more difficult to spot you. This tip is especially notable for busy cities where there’s a lot going on: lights, reflections in buildings, cars, tons of things to pay attention to. Your wardrobe will be the thing to set you apart from the regular hustle and bustle. Wear bright, reflective, standout colours to increase your visibility. If you want to get scientific about this, we can! During the day, our eyes best pick up the colours green, yellow, and then blue in that order, but at night is where things start to change. When there is less light, our eyes have a harder time noticing certain pigments. Red is often the first to disappear, and yellow is the easiest colour for our eyes to pick up at night. Nowadays there are many cycling jackets or athletic shirts that come in bright colours, but you don’t need to break the bank and run out to buy a yellow shirt. Something as simple as yellow fabric tucked into your backpack pocket or a brightly coloured sweatshirt wrapped around your shoulders will make you more visible than you were before. Before you set off on your next nighttime ride, double check what colours you are wearing to be sure that all the attention will be on you.

Bike Trailer

As more and more individuals gear up their bikes instead of their cars, bicycle trailers are becoming a more normal thing to be seen attached to bikes. Night riding with a trailer isn’t much different than riding during the day with a trailer, but there are a few nighttime points to take into consideration. Around dusk when the light levels start to drop, our depth perception, along with our colour perception, drops. If you are riding with a trailer, the overall length of your cycling setup increases anywhere from 24” to 55”. With the added length, cars and other cyclists may not allow you the correct space for turns, stopping, or an increased start time if they can’t see your trailer right away. This means it is important to also ensure that your trailer is visible. Children’s or Special Needs trailers often come in bright colours for exactly this reason. These types of trailers often come with safety flags to display at the back of the trailer, to offer a moving visual aid in a bright colour to increase chances of being seen. Flags are becoming a more standard offering with children’s or special needs trailers these days, as these types of trailers carry the most precious of all cargo. You typically won’t find flags included with cargo-only trailers, but adding your own flag is never a bad idea.

Your bike trailer should have come with at least rear red reflectors, as well as white or yellow reflectors on the wheels. If they did not, you may want to take this up with the manufacturer as all trailers should have reflectors as a standard safety feature. A light on your trailer will help drivers, pedestrians, and other cyclists see you and determine your overall size much easier, which will allow for more reaction time for all involved parties. We include a clip-on bracket for a flashing light on the back of our special needs and child bicycle trailer.

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