Ask RIDE… What are the legal requirements for lighting?

It’s getting dark quite early in the evening and I want to stay safe while riding home from work. I have a couple of small lights but I don’t know if that is enough. What are the legal requirements for riding when it’s dark and what should I use to keep me safe on the roads?

Matt C, Sydney.

Thanks for the question. Having a look through the NSW Road Rules (available here) lighting requirements are set out as per below:

259 Riding at night

The rider of a bicycle must not ride at night, or in hazardous weather conditions causing reduced visibility, unless the bicycle, or the rider, displays:

(a)  a flashing or steady white light that is clearly visible for at least 200 metres from the front of the bicycle, and

(b)  a flashing or steady red light that is clearly visible for at least 200 metres from the rear of the bicycle, and

(c)  a red reflector that is clearly visible for at least 50 metres from the rear of the bicycle when light is projected onto it by a vehicle’s headlight on low-beam.

Maximum penalty: 20 penalty units.

Note. Low-beam and night are defined in the Dictionary.

And yes, you are required by law to have all three! I am not sure if I know anyone that rides with all three, in fact, I can’t remember ever remember seeing anyone with all three. While the reflector seems superfluous it is a legal requirement, and it is important to take note of point (a) and (b).

The 200m requirement is very important. A car traveling at 60km/h will cover 200m in 12sec – consider a scenario where the driver is turning a corner and has a lapse in concentration…that reaction time can diminish quickly, so it is vital to be using lights with the 200m minimum.

There is however, the minimum and then, the optimal. In the case of visibility the minimum may not be enough. This is where the difference between lights made “to be seen” and lights made “to see” comes into play, more particularly concerning front lights.

Nite Rider make very powerful and popular front lights – one used by the majority of my mates. Since the brand is used extensively in 24-Hr mountain bike races the brightness (measured in lumens) ensures that you are not only seen from afar but can see obstacles on the road and prepare for them. I had forgotten how dark the mornings were until I got off the main road and into Centennial Park (the main park in Sydney) and was suddenly straining to see what was ahead of me. The next morning, my more powerful light was back on the front.

Nite Rider makes very powerful lights that will allow you to see whatever is coming up on the road.

Nite Rider makes very powerful lights that will allow you to see whatever is coming up on the road.

This model from Nite Rider, the MiNewt Mini 150, has a separate USB-rechargeable battery pack.

This model from Nite Rider, the MiNewt Mini 150, has a separate USB-rechargeable battery pack.

Knog lights are popular and extremely useful due to their versatile elastic case that can wrap around many parts of a frame and does not require any mechanism to be installed on the frame for the light to be connected to. Their rear lights have a good level of visibility, and their ability to be connected anywhere means that you won’t need a separate brand to attach to the bike and then to the helmet. While I find their front lights great for commuting, or when I ride around the city, you may find that you will need something stronger if you are riding in the dark of the winter morning.

This is at least my configuration and I don’t doubt that every cyclist will have preferred brands though I would suggest some overarching guidelines for lights:

  • Buy the best you can afford. This is your safety, so don’t skimp on a dollar.
  • There is no denying that black clothing is in fashion but if you are in darker kit, try to use a second rear light – ie. one on the bike, and one on the helmet.
  • If the light is rechargeable, put it on the charger straight away when you get home! If it uses batteries, replace them with fresh ones as soon as the power starts to go down.

The upcoming issue of RIDE has a couple of new models so be sure to check it out when it comes out in April, along with some great winter wardrobe upgrades!

In terms of reflection, many brands are now integrating reflective strips into their products, specifically their Autumn/Winter/Spring ranges, to aid in visibility without having to resort to the rather unfashionable fluro.

Small lights like this one are versatile but will not always be visible over 200m, and therefore illegal. When used in conjunction with a stronger light, they can contribute to visibility.

Small lights like this one are versatile but will not always be visible over 200m, and therefore illegal. When used in conjunction with a stronger light, they can contribute to visibility.

This is one of the office utility lights. You can see that it has had some wear! Take proper care of your lights and ensure they have fresh batteries or a full charge.

This is one of the office utility lights. You can see that it has had some wear! Take proper care of your lights and ensure they have fresh batteries or a full charge.

I told Alex that I would be surprised if a policeman would pull anyone over for not having a reflector but he told me a story of his mate getting pulled over during the day and being given a warning for not having reflectors on the bike. I would hope individual discretion and common sense would prevail, but the law is the law and we all need to be aware.

Yes. A rear reflector is compulsory. While you might not want to attach one to your pride and joy, having one on your frame will ensure you are completely compliant with NSW road rules.

Yes. A rear reflector is compulsory. While you might not want to attach one to your pride and joy, having one on your frame will ensure you are completely compliant with NSW road rules.

Thanks for the question,

John

John is the Office Assistant in the RIDE office.

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