Many lawyers, certainly in central London, cycle to their offices, chambers and courtrooms. These include eminent members of the senior judiciary, at least one of whom has been witnessed shooting a red traffic light. But none of us can cast the first stone.
When I originally researched and wrote on this topic in 2003, use of flashing lights was not in fact legal. This was despite the fact that in an urban environment, bicycle lighting is not about seeing but about being seen. It’s about conspicuity, not about illumination. Being seen at night by other road users is a priority.
The detailed regulations, covering all motor vehicles (Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989, as considerably amended, most recently in 2009) are fiendishly complex and little is served in an article of this nature by detailed citation or reference.
The fact is that in 2005 an exception was made to permit flashing lights on pedal cycles. This is the case as long as the lights flash between 60 and 240 times a minute.
Let us just summarise the present requirements. As to technical matters and compliance with British standards, I think we have to assume that modern manufactured products sold by reputable dealers will comply.
What lighting should you have?
What lighting can you have?
What lighting can't you have?
A police officer is unlikely to stop you for riding with no lights or wrong lights unless they have nothing else to do. However, defects or non-compliance may impact adversely in the event of attributing responsibility for a road incident.
You only need to be in a car behind an unlit or poorly lit cyclist at night to know that common sense should always prevail.
Bike lights recommendations
There is a vast choice of all sorts of lights with differing price ranges. There is no excuse for not complying with the law. It is worth going a little further without going over the top.
Richard Harrison is a partner at Laytons Solicitors LLP specialising in commercial litigation