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Ask Chuck: Are Cyclists Legally Required To Have Lights?


This week, the kids went back to school and adults went back to work after a long Labor Day Weekend. For many, it felt like an especially early morning after a few days of sleeping in. It was possibly made to feel even earlier because of the late sunrise, now after seven a.m. If you ride to work, it’s time to toss on a light; it’s the law. 

We get this question a lot. Do cyclists need to use lights? In nearly every state, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’! Lights aren’t just an added degree of safety, they’re legally required and you can get ticketed for riding without one. 

In Michigan, for example, the law reads as follows:

 A bicycle being operated between 1/2 hour after sunset and 1/2 hour before sunrise shall be equipped with an appropriate white lamp on the front and a red reflector on the rear. MCL 257.662(1).

There are two important things to point out there. First, we tend to associate the need for lights when it’s dark, but that thirty minute window at dusk and dawn does allow for some leeway; maybe you were late leaving work and left later than anticipated. Still, if you’re even close to riding in the dark, you should always have a charged light ready to roll. Second, note that the rear of your bike calls for a red reflector. The difference here is between an active light for the front of your bike and a passive red reflector in the rear. A reflector relies on lights from cars and street lamps to be seen, which means it isn’t nearly as effective. If you ride in the dark at all, having a blinking red light is vital to ride safely. 

Additionally, riding at night or early morning can be made safer by adding reflective strips to your bike and clothing. Studies show that flashing or moving reflective strips on pedals, pant legs, backpacks, or even on the back of your helmet can add a degree of visibility that catches the eye of other road users. You can find these reflective stickers at bike shops or even your local hardware store. 

It’s important to check with your local ordinances to learn more about the legal requirements for cyclists at dawn and dusk. We’re big advocates of using lights front and rear, in addition to the reflectors that are legally required to be installed on your bike when you purchase it. If your bike doesn’t have reflectors, ask your local shop if they have any extra. Most will find you a set for free! 

These days, daytime lights for cycling are becoming more and more popular. There’s ample evidence that using lights all the time, even during normal riding conditions, can have a big impact on your visibility. This study found that daytime lights can reduce crashes by up to 30%!

Got questions about your rights as a cyclist? Contact us and we’ll answer anything we can!