biking at night | 511 Contra Costa

Tips for Biking After Dark

With the end of Daylight Savings Time, sunset will occur before 5pm for most of the remainder of the year. This means the majority of commuters will be traveling home in the dark.

When biking after dark, especially during peak commute hours, it’s important to be both highly visible and able to clearly see your surroundings. Along those lines, here are some tips to help keep you safe:


Minimum Requirements: Front White Light and Rear Red Light or Reflector

By California law, if you’re biking after dark you must have a white light on the front of your bike and a red light or reflector on the rear of your bike. The front light needs to be clearly visible 300 feet in front of and to the sides of the cyclist.

If Riding Unlit or Poorly Lit Roads, Choose a Light That Illuminates the Road

Where a low-power front light might work to announce your presence on well-lit roads, on poorly lit or unlit roads you’ll need a light that can show you the road ahead. You’ll want to consider a light with an ouput of 400 to 800 lumens. That way you can see the road up ahead, identify obstacles and hazards, and let oncoming vehicles know you’re on the road. You’ll also want to consider using a red rear light, instead of just a reflector, in these conditions.

Wear Bright Clothing and Reflectives to Increase Visibility

For biking after dark, Hi-Vis yellow and green are the best colors for visibility. Steer clear of dark colors. Reflective details on clothing can boost visibility in general, as well as provide side-visibility, which lights alone often can’t. Reflective piping on gloves can assist others in seeing you and your hand signals.

Stay in View and Ride Predictably

Drivers are generally looking ahead, so when cycling at night you want to make sure you’re in their field of vision:

  • On roads where there is no bike lane, be sure to make use of the full lane, so that you are clearly visible to the motorists behind you.
  • Don’t make sudden turns without signaling properly.
  • Come to complete stops when required.

Additional Tips

Get additional tips on biking after dark from REI.