Cyclist on vacation in Massachusetts wearing a helmet but not using bike lights
Fireworks are lighting up spectacular skies this week. All the color makes us think about bike lights. If you are a cyclist, are you lighting up the road this summer? Are you using bike lights and wearing bright colors to stay visible to drivers?
Whether you are commuting to work or enjoying a leisurely ride on vacation, bike lights are essential to preventing bicycle accidents. And many cyclists don’t realize this, but bike lights are required by law in Massachusetts.
We encourage you to buy yourself bike lights as soon as possible. If you already have lights, please check to make sure they are working properly. Bicycle accidents have risen in the U.S., reaching a 25-year high in 2016, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The majority of accidents happened between 6 and 9 p.m. The second peak time was 9 p.m. to midnight.
Under Massachusetts law, cyclists are required to use bike lights if they ride after dark. The law is M.G.L c.85 § 11B.
Bicycles must be equipped with a white light facing forward and a red light facing backward. These lights must be in use from thirty minutes after sunset until thirty minutes before sunrise. The white light must be visible from at least five hundred feet away. The red light on the back must be visible for at least six hundred feet. Reflectors on both pedals facing front and back are also required. If a cyclist has no reflectors, they can wear reflective material around their ankles.
If you have your own bike, buy your own lights now. You can buy them online or at a local store for a few dollars. For everyone else, if there is a chance you may ride, purchase some small bike lights. They pack neatly in your work bag or travel luggage.
There are many different types of lights available. When you purchase lights, take note of the size, battery type and battery life and if they are designed for day or night use. Remember that lights are required for the front and back of your bike. Attaching lights to your helmet or other parts of your bike are helpful for safety, but are considered extra under the law. Here is an article about bike lights to help you get started.
There is good news for Boston commuters. There are built-in lights on the rental Blue Bikes in Boston, Cambridge, Somerville and Brookline.
Don’t stop at bike lights. Purchase a neon reflective safety vest, tape and any other clothing to help drivers see you. Amazon is full of ideas.
Know Your Bike Route
Before you ride at night, plan your route. Choose areas which are well lit and have clearly marked bike lanes. Travel the route during the day before you go at night.
Monitor social media accounts for local police departments and bike committees which serve the area. Sign up for the newsletters offered by bike committees. Cyclists write these newsletters specifically for other cyclists and their experience is invaluable, especially when riding and making decisions at night.