Los Angeles Bicycle Accident Lawyer: How to stay safe while riding at night

November 8, 2013

Ellis Law Corporation


Cycling at night, if done carefully, could have you looking a bit goofy. And that’s OK.

Your bike will be lit up with two or three lights and a half-dozen reflectors. Your helmet could have a light on it. You could be wearing reflective and lit-up clothing. The possibilities are endless.

It’s all designed to make you as visible as possible to vehicles, and the abundance of affordable products on the market today can make sure you’re easy to see for pretty cheap.


In California, the law states that any cyclist riding at night needs to have a white headlamp, a red rear reflector, white or yellow reflectors on the pedals, and white or yellow reflectors on each side (usually in wheel spokes).

The law is similar in many states, but it’s not nearly enough. When it comes to night riding, it pays to go well beyond the law to make your bike noticeable. Some ideas include:

  • A rear red light, particularly one that blinks. A blinking red light is much more likely to get the attention of a passing motorist who might otherwise not notice you. These have exploded in popularity in recent years due to their effectiveness. Some have reflective material within them so it can double as the rear reflector required by law.
  • Many types of headlamps are on the market, including strobes. Some argue that strobes are TOO bright and can blind anyone the cyclist is approaching at night. But they do give the appearance of a blinking headlight and are hard to miss.


There have been some legal questions brought up around the country about the front-headlamp law. If a cyclist has a headlamp on his helmet, does that count as the headlamp required at the front of the bike?

That is up for debate, but ultimately, having the headlamp on your bike is more important because the purpose of it is for motorists to see YOU, not so you can see the road.

With that in mind, investing in a second headlamp that attaches to your helmet may not be a bad idea, so that you can have a light that follows your vision.

In addition, there are many products on the market designed to light up a cyclist, including:

  • A reflective vest. Nathan sells reflective and L.E.D. vests for cyclists, as well as products like reflective sleeves and reflective gloves for colder weather.
  • Other areas of your body can be reflective too. Use products like ankle bands and wrist bands to make sure nothing is invisible on you.


It’s debatable whether you want to seek out well-lit roads or not. On one hand, traveling down a dark road when you’re lit up like a Christmas tree will definitely make you visible to anyone who might come by.

But one could also argue that staying on well-lit streets will help you see potential hazards, like potholes, cracks and other things you might otherwise miss.

“All those become way more problematic at night because they’re way less visible to you,” Duggan said. “Pick a path and ride it through daylight hours before you ride it at night so you are familiar with it.”

Another problem, particularly in the fall, is leaves. Some trails and roads can be covered with autumn foliage, which can hide hazards like tree branches.

Whatever route you decide to take, never lose your focus. The lack of daylight leaves less room for error.


Much like daytime riding around vehicular traffic, never assume that motorists see you—even if an alert driver undoubtedly should. Make decisions like crossing an intersection with ultimate paranoia.

Keeping those four tips in mind can keep you safe when riding at night, but there are no guarantees so it’s important to always minimize the risk when riding on the roads.

“Cyclists need to do whatever they can to be as visible as possible so that they are making themselves aware to other cars,” Duggan said. “Cars will look right through you so it’s on the cyclists to make themselves visible.”

If you’ve been injured while cycling, contact an experienced personal injury attorney at Ellis Law at 1-800-INJURED or submit your case online.