A guide to daytime cycling lights

Words by Kathryn Dickinson

on 13/09/2019 15:40:00


Riding a bike gives you a sense of freedom, speed and child-like innocence in a way that cannot be replicated by any other sport: The wind in your hair, blasting around bends, conquering hills, and smashing Strava times are, for many, one of the best ways to spend an afternoon. However, despite improvements to cycling access and safety on the roads, there are still regular reports of accidents involving a vehicle and a bicycle. Any way of making yourself more visible to other road users is heartily welcomed, giving the rider more presence on the road. For the most part, riding in daylight with bright coloured clothes and abiding by the rules of the road will be more than enough but it can still become safer and that can only be a positive. This is why daytime lights have risen in their popularity year-on-year since their conception, especially amongst rider's that regularly travel on busy roads or through highly-populated areas.

Since 2011, all new cars sold in the UK must have daytime-running front lights, yet daytime running lights, unlike night-time lights, are not legally required to be fitted to your bicycle. That being said they're a very quick and easy way to increase your visibility. The weather in the UK is notoriously unpredictable all year round and if the weather takes a turn for the worse, having an effective daytime light can massively increase your safety and ensures that you'll get home safely in one piece. Daytime lights are typically small and simple with a focus on being as bright and long-running as possible. Most products will use LED's to boost visibility and rechargeable batteries to reduce the size and increase the versatility of the product. These factors mean that daytime lights are an excellent all-year-round investment, whether you use them as additional light to compliment a stronger and brighter night-time light or wear them on the commute to be seen by other motorists and road users.

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Daytime lights have been shown to be effective in reducing traffic collisions during lighter times of the day. The 2011 introduction of daytime lights to motor vehicles saw a 25% and 13% drop in accidents amongst cars and motorbikes respectively. Such significant figures considering the sheer number of vehicles on the road, is particularly impressive and led to many brands within the cycling market to research the potential benefits of daytime lights for non-motorised vehicles. There isn't a plethora of information or studies into the effectiveness of daytime lighting for bicycles due to their relatively recent introduction to the mainstream market. That being said, a Danish study from 2004 found a 19% decrease in the chance of an accident for cyclists with permanent daytime lighting compared to the non-lit control group. Within the UK, official traffic statistics suggest that approximately 80% of cycling accidents occur during daylight hours, with around 40% of fatal cycling collisions occurring when the rider is struck from behind (I.e when the driver of the vehicle doesn't see the rider). This highlights the need for the development of daytime lighting to produce similar accident-reducing results as daytime lights have done for motorised traffic. Especially as participation in cycling continues to increase with the introduction of electric bikes and improved coverage of road and MTB events on social media and online.


How are daytime lights different to 'traditional' night-time lights?

In the past it was generally the over cautious and super-nervy riders that rocked flashing lights on their bike during the day. Daytime light modes were seen as heavy, battery draining, and ineffective at being visible enough to combat the effects of ambient light meaning that the lights were far less prominent than an identical light used in the dark. Yet the refinement of daytime lights over the last few years has led to the creation of systems that work in a distinctly different way to night-time lights. It's all about the 'to be seen' and 'to see with' spectrum, with daytime lights often utilising flashing modes and super bright LEDS with slightly less focus on beam spread, pattern, and lumen output compared to night-time devices. The reasons for this are numerous - When you have lights that flash brightly from both front and rear it can help to alert drivers to your presence quicker than a solid light, reducing the risk of a collision. Furthermore, the use of flash, rechargeable batteries and LED's allows the device to work for longer despite the larger power demands. By developing technology that can effect output and react to specific weather and lighting conditions to produce a light during the day that will be properly bright and visible, manufacturers are able to ensure that riders are more visible. Many companies have created all-in-one light systems that can switch modes between flashing (daytime) and solid (night-time) beams patterns, alternatively you can go for the smaller daytime options, using them as and when you need them in combination with a larger, night-time light and having them as spares in case you get a mechanical or hit some bad weather unexpectedly when out on your weekend pedal.

Beyond visibility, daytime lights could also help you out legally should you be in an accident.

�Anytime a cyclist can say they were doing everything right, such as riding in a bike lane, wearing bright coloured clothing, bright helmet, reflective gear, it decreases the chances of blame or fault being apportioned to the rider. So the addition of blinking lights in the daytime helps bolster the case for the cyclist."

Megan Hottman, Colorado-based attorney specializing in cyclists' rights through her company TheCyclist-Lawyer.com.

The possibility that a relatively minor investment could keep you safer should make daytime lights a must-have for road cyclists, commuters and many other groups of cyclists. Any device that reduces that chances of being hit by a vehicle is surely worth the relatively small investment? As is the case at any point of a product's innovation, there's no set-in-stone method of creating the 'best' daytime lighting system (yet!), so lets take a look at some of the biggest lighting companies out there working on daytime lighting, checking out how they do things whilst taking a look at what products they have to offer this year and in the near future.

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Bontrager are the accessories department working under the Trek brand name. They were one of the first manufacturers to see the potential of daytime lighting and how it could be used to improve the safety of cyclists on roads worldwide. Bontrager claim that a flashing light is 1.4 times stronger and more effective than a constant, uninterrupted beam. Although lots of bike lights on the market have flashing capabilities, Bontrager's day flash mode was created specifically to make the beam more noticeable by varying outputs on an interruptive flash pattern. According to Bontrager's research, to classify a light as one appropriate for daytime use, it needs focused optics, an interruptive flash pattern, and a visible distance during the day of at least 400 meters.


Exposure Lights

Exposure have developed 'DayBright' technology and kitted out a chunk of their popular front and rear lights with it. The new DayBright function uses an irregular flashing pattern and high outputs in an attempt to catch the maximum amount of attention from other road users, even on the brightest of summer afternoons. Exposure claims that the lights are visible to other motorists from over a kilometre away. Their ReAKT (Ambient Kinetic Technology) is interesting too, creating a light that adapts to the conditions of the ride. By flaring up under braking forces or automatically adjusting to the surrounding ambient light ReAKT Technology makes your rear light a beacon for safety.

The best of the rest

Other big brands have also jumped onto the daytime light bandwagon. Each with their own slight variations in terms of production and ideals, all the products have unique individual qualities. Certainly one to keep an eye on is the Garmin Varia, a device that uses radar, audio and visual prompts to both the rider and other road users to offer unrivalled protection on a ride.

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