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Are daytime bike lights a safety essential? Should you get daytime lights?

Trek thinks it's time cyclists started using bike lights even in bright conditions. Do you agree?
This article was originally published in August 2015

Should we ride with a rear light on during the daytime? Or perhaps we should go further and ride with both front and rear lights on even when the sun is shining?

We had a forum topic about this issue on road.cc a couple of years ago and what you might call a heated debate when Bontrager announced its Flare R rear light, designed specifically for daytime visibility, earlier in the year.

The reason we’re thinking about it again is that we went to visit Trek last week and the brand is really keen to promote the use of rear lights during the day. It even had the members of Trek Factory Racing ride the prologue of this year’s Tour de France on time trial bikes fitted with the Flare R “to promote awareness of the most important cycling accessory available today”.

Daytime light.jpg

Of course, your cynical side thinks that Trek wants to encourage the use of lights in the daytime because Bontrager, it’s sub-brand, produces that Flare R rear light. It’s simply a way of boosting sales.

Trek acknowledges that, of course, it has an interest in selling lights, but says that the key motivation for launching the Flare R was to keep cyclists safe.

“About two years ago, I was in San Diego, and I’m driving along during the day, and I see a biker, a road cyclist, and he’s got a blinking light on the back of his bike, and I thought, ‘That is a great idea,’” says Trek President John Burke. “The only problem is you could barely see his light.

“When I got back to Trek, I put together a team of engineers, and I said, ‘Listen, what I’d really like to see is a light on the back of a bike that can be seen during the day.’ If we could do that, I think it would significantly enhance the safety of cyclists everywhere.”

The result is the Flare R. Here’s John Burke’s short video presentation on the light.

Trek argues that using a light during the day makes sense because that’s when about 80% of cycling accidents occur.

Well, yeah, says your cynical side, but what percentage of cycling takes place during the day? Maybe that figure simply reflects the number of people on bikes during the daytime compared to the number who ride at night.

Trek also argues that, “Studies on accidents resulting in the fatality of a cyclist show that in 40% of all bicycle vs. car accidents, the victim was struck from behind.”

That statistic is from the US. Put a light on the back of your bike, the argument goes, and you’re less likely to be one of them.

Bontrager Flare R City Tail Light.jpg

“We think products like the Flare R allow a rider to have more control over their safety, putting us in both offensive and defensive positions on the road,” said Trek’s Chris Garrison. “We want to get people talking about increasing their visibility not just at night, but also during the day.”

Chris cites a recent AA-Populous poll as evidence that more cyclist visibility is required. In that poll 91% of drivers said that it’s sometimes hard to see cyclists while driving

John Sullivan, an RAF pilot and keen cyclist, advised in his paper A Fighter Pilot’s Guide to Surviving on the Roads, “Aviation research shows that contrast is the single most important factor in determining the likelihood of acquiring an object visually – this is why military aircraft camouflage is designed to tone down their contrast.

"On the ground, dark coloured vehicles or clothing will result in reduced contrast against most usual backgrounds, and this is why high visibility clothing (for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists) and/or bright lights are so important, in the daytime as well as at night.”

Back at Trek, John Burke says, “People should be able to see you all the time. And when they do, you’re going to have a better riding experience. Get a new Flare R, or buy something else. What I care about is making sure you have a really safe cycling season.”

Exposure Trace TraceR set

Of course, Trek didn’t invent riding with a rear light on during daylight. Some people have always done it and USE, for example, has been advocating it for years. The British lights brand says that its Exposure Flash front light and Flare rear light (yes, the same name as the Bontrager light) are designed specifically for both daytime and nighttime use (you could argue that USE, like Trek, has a vested interest in promoting more bike light use).

Our man Dave says, “I’ve used the Flare R rear light a lot and I’d say it makes a noticeable difference to the passes you get. Drivers tend to give you more space.”

Of course, that’s anecdotal evidence. If anyone knows of any scientific research that has been carried out, we’d be interested in hearing about it.

So, why do so few of us use lights during the daytime? We guess that most people don’t think it’s necessary, although some oppose the idea in principle.

“When a vehicle has lights on it makes any in front or behind without harder to see,” said Simon E in that road.cc thread mentioned earlier. “Every vehicle that runs with sidelights/LEDs/DRLs [daytime running lights] in the daytime is furthering the idea that you have to have lights on to be seen, so all the sheeple do the same. Baaaa! This means drivers to look only for lights, not other vehicles or people.

“Lights are NOT needed in daylight, whether on bikes, motorbikes or cars.”

In a comment under our story announcing the launch of the Flare R, McVittees said, “Whilst it is perfectly reasonable to want to run as bright a rear light as possible either during the day to warn cars or at night when riding on unlit country roads, I hate being stuck behind someone who is running a high output rear light at night during my urban commute. I find it distracting and obscures my vision of the road (and thus traffic) ahead.”

andyp said, “[Bontrager are] pouring money into something which will make them more money, not into solving a problem.”

What do you reckon? Do Trek’s arguments convince you that you should use a rear light during the day? Let us know what you think.

Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.

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212 comments

Avatar
KRSL64 | 2 years ago
1 like

Used a rear light for years, long before Trek said we should.  Just makes sense to give myself a better chance of being seen.  Even on a bright day a flashing rear light catches the attention of a driver who might otherwise be very sorry, but didn't see you.

 

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randonneur | 2 years ago
0 likes

If you can't wear visible clothing then you have to rely on lights.

So the answer to the question is that if your clothing isn't visible (I mean black tops, jackets etc.) as we were always taught in the highway code and elsewhere for cycling then its not as necessary.

I have noticed that even with lights those dark clothed cyclists are hard to spot.

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xerxes replied to willpom @GWRaudax | 4 years ago
3 likes
willpom @GWRaudax wrote:

I do, but then it is a dynamo set up so I'm actually always training with the increased drag....

On a similar vein though whilst attending a speed awareness course (I hold my hands up I was being naughty in a motor vehicle - no excuse) the instructors mentioned that the number of incidents involving motorcyclists being pulled out on has increased since cars began using daytime running lights as motorcyclists are no longer standing out amoungst the crowd.

If everything is lit up, nothing stands out, so the more lights there are twinkling away in an environment, the less attention grabbing they are.

Consider an urban environment with lots of vehicle lights, flashing shop signs, street signs, etc. and contrast the conspicuousness of a single light amongst that lot to the same light on a dark country lane.

Once everything is illuminated or flashing, the human brain just tunes it all out and you're no better off than being un-lit.

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brooksby replied to Pedal those squares | 4 years ago
1 like
Pedal those squares wrote:

Yes...why not???? 

The lights today a light and you can recharge them.

They give the drive a "better chance" (WTF LOL) of seeing you....YES THEY SHOULD LOOK WHERE THEY ARE GOING ANYWAY, most do....but as we know, a lot do not!

If the driver then still does not see you and hits you.  Then it is clear they were not paying attention.....I know if they hit you there were not paying attention lights or no lights.....but those F....ing lawyers ....well, they are worse than the driver that hit you!!!!!  Then there is the judge...need I say more?

Just pop light weight lights on....is it worth get seriously injuried or worse for that one hit not being a scary very near miss? 

Just remember to properly doff your cap while you're at it...  3

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schlepcycling replied to Markh8195 | 4 years ago
1 like
Markh8195 wrote:

I run a Garmin Varia2 radar rear light which gives me warning of a cars approach and flashes as they get close.

close passes have reduced and I’m much more aware of what’s behind me.

wouldn’t enjoy riding without it now...... ok I would but I would miss it!

Surely if you ride in a city or at rush hour this is going to be flashing all the time and therefore be meaningless.

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CXR94Di2 replied to lbalc | 4 years ago
0 likes
lbalc wrote:

I use day time front and rear lights. Some comments suggest cars with day time running lights don't stand out if and when every other car is using them too- I don't find this to be the case, especially when it's incredibly sunny out and you go through a shaded section of trees that almost block out all the sun- the contrast from light to dark can leave you as a cyclist being not seen. Having lights on in these shaded areas gives me confidence- and i notice in these conditions the cars with day time running lights. I have to say that Exposure and Cateye with their pulse settings really stand out in the day and the night- solid beam with bright pulse. I recommend them highly above other lights that don't have this setting. Also recommend an air horn! Every pedestrian stops dead when they hear that- and car drivers can't miss the 115Db. So if you survive being hit by a car and get into an argument after using a Cateye with 1200 lumen blast, 2 rear day time lights and an air horn- there's no excuse.

 

 

This in bold is the reason

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ktache replied to Markie G | 3 years ago
0 likes

Just wondering what colour your motorbike and leathers are?

Why wouldn't they be Day Glo, and reflective at night.

Makes sense doesn't it.

No brainer surely.

And I'm speaking as someone who uses lights and wears bright and reflective clothing, I've just decided that patronising people based on flimsy evidence is not the thing to do.

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Hirsute replied to Guyz2010 | 3 years ago
2 likes

You appear to be owning the term 'snowflake'.

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ktache replied to Pantster | 3 years ago
0 likes

Cars don't have daylight running lights on the rear, don't know why not.

Should we only use them on the front too?

Cars built before they became mandatory don't have daytime running lights, should I not run them on my old bikes, both over 20 years old, but only the front on my new bike?

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grOg replied to froze | 3 years ago
0 likes

The NiteRider Sentra Aero 260 has a dual cob,with one behind the other for side visibility - the rear facing cob is not that bright,so it would wash out in daylight.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIA2r4EAHqg

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brooksby replied to wtjs | 2 years ago
0 likes

I'll put my lights on during the daytime if the weather is bad (rainy, very overcast, fog, etc).  Other than that, no.

If someone honestly can't see you during the hours of daylight without your bike having flashing lights then in my opinion they shouldn't be driving.

And if they are only looking for lights, not for - you know - things, then again they should probably go and retake their driving test.

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wycombewheeler replied to Biggus-Dickkus | 2 years ago
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Biggus-Dickkus wrote:

Yes, we should be using lights in the daytime, especially at the rear.

Why? on a bright sunny day I often see the cyclist long before the rear light becomes visible, particularly if they have a bright top, or bright coloured frame. MAYBE for those that wear black clothes and ride black bikes, but probably not even then.

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Awavey replied to wycombewheeler | 2 years ago
1 like

I agree, though I do use a light in the daytime in bright conditions if Im riding into a low setting sun, and especially if the road is wet, as Im trying to avoid just being a silhouette lost in the glare and something red and flashing might just be enough of a cue to a motorist theres a cyclist in front of them, it might not but other than carrying a lucky rabbits foot in those situations it feels like youve done all you can.

Otherwise no I dont see the point of running them in the daylight, its only when there are other visibility concerns that I use them.

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chrisonabike replied to randonneur | 2 years ago
1 like
randonneur wrote:

If you can't wear visible clothing then you have to rely on lights.

[...]

If your clothing isn't visible I can promise you that you won't need lights.  You'll attract your own (blue flashing - and aside from the cold the lights will be too).

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grOg replied to ktache | 3 years ago
0 likes

I didn't think his comment was patronising - he just gave his opinion.

As for motorcyclists,they have the ability to travel at the same speed as other motorised traffic on the road; cyclists don't,which makes them vulnerable to being struck from behind,so wearing clothing/using lights that help cyclists stand out and contrast visually will assist drivers noticing them.

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wtjs replied to brooksby | 2 years ago
0 likes

So do I- my trusty Aldi light set is always ready- but it's not really ordinary daylight then. The problem would occur if a requirement for daylight lights turned up, with all the potential for the hyper-junk press to excuse their moron psycho readers for any offence against cyclists.

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HoarseMann replied to wycombewheeler | 2 years ago
0 likes

They're useful on bright days where there are strong shadows or when riding into a low sun. But they do have to be properly day bright.

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MTB Refugee replied to lbalc | 4 years ago
0 likes
lbalc wrote:

especially when it's incredibly sunny out and you go through a shaded section of trees that almost block out all the sun- the contrast from light to dark can leave you as a cyclist being not seen. Having lights on in these shaded areas gives me confidence- and i notice in these conditions the cars with day time running lights.

I started using a Moon Comet X at the rear and a Moon Orion W at the front running on the "day Flash" setting for exactly this reason. When going from bright daylight to heavily shaded, I found that my vision took a while to adjust and therefore a car driver would have the same issue. For me it's a matter of common sense and cost me nothing (I own the lights already). It's not going to prevent all accidents, but if it stops one then it's worth it. It also helps to remove the sorry mate I didn't see you as a default excuse.

 

Anecdotally I haven't had any SMIDSY incidents of drivers pulling out of junctions since I've run the strobe at the front, obviously this might just be my good luck...

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Hirsute replied to Markie G | 3 years ago
1 like

Because you are putting the onus on the most vulnerable to accommodate the least vulnerable. Those who choose to use vehicles need to take more responsibility; you are just giving them an 'out' to avoid looking, observing and improving their standards.

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wycombewheeler replied to willpom @GWRaudax | 2 years ago
1 like
willpom @GWRaudax wrote:

I do, but then it is a dynamo set up so I'm actually always training with the increased drag....

On a similar vein though whilst attending a speed awareness course (I hold my hands up I was being naughty in a motor vehicle - no excuse) the instructors mentioned that the number of incidents involving motorcyclists being pulled out on has increased since cars began using daytime running lights as motorcyclists are no longer standing out amoungst the crowd.

i remeber years ago reading about a study in Sweden which showed daytime running lights had no measurable impact on safety for cars, and were a detriment to motorbikes. But here we are, daytime running lights everywhere.

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wycombewheeler replied to froze | 2 years ago
0 likes
froze wrote:

The Bontrager Flare R is only 65 lumens, and being an experienced rider and one who does run a rear light (and a strobing front light) when I ride in the daytime I know for a fact that a 65 lumen light is not noticably visible in direct sunlight, 

This, I will trust my high vis yellow carradice over a feeble rear light during the day.

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Rich_cb replied to Hirsute | 3 years ago
3 likes

At the moment that you leave your house to ride your bike there is absolutely nothing you can to improve driving standards.

You know the standards are poor.

You can either choose to mitigate those poor driving standards or you can choose not too.

Wearing Hi Vis or running lights at all times is no different to taking primary at a pinch point.

If all drivers were perfect you wouldn't need to do any of those things but you do them precisely because most drivers are a long way from perfect and you have to minimise the risk to yourself.

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Hirsute replied to Rich_cb | 3 years ago
2 likes

I guess I had better give up on submitting my footage to the police portal.

How did you suggest the balance is redressed then? Because giving up and accepting does not seem a solution to me.

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Rich_cb replied to Hirsute | 3 years ago
2 likes

Keep submitting your footage by all means, every little helps as they say.

It doesn't change the fact that at the moment you set of on your ride there is nothing (further) you can about the standard of driving.

All you can do is mitigate.

Mitigating poor driving through your behaviour doesn't mean giving up on improving poor driving or campaigning for better infrastructure etc.

The two are not mutually exclusive.

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wycombewheeler replied to Markie G | 2 years ago
0 likes
Markie G wrote:

As a motorcyclist as well as a very keen cyclist I understand the need to be seen. Using lights night and day is a no brainer to me.

Is it though? when your light runs out at 10pm (leaving you stranded) because you were using it for no reason at 3pm. this is not a benefit, so there is a downside to daytime lights, it's not all upside.

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Leodis | 8 years ago
0 likes

Always use my lights during the day with the exception of daylight club runs, seems to make sense and its not doing any harm even if it doesn't make a difference.

I use the Flare and a Cateye 300 set on pulse on the front, both USB charged.

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crikey | 8 years ago
1 like
Quote:

Sounds like you need to battle your way through the Channel Tunnel and not come back if you feel so strongly negative about this country. Then just leave it for the rest of us who enjoy riding here with DRL's or not!

'Things could be better here'
'Well bugger off to somewhere else'

... strangely enough, that dim-witted attitude goes a long way to explaining why the UK is so far behind other places in Europe when it comes to cycling.

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t666dom | 8 years ago
1 like

Just another reason for humans driving cars to excuse their poor driving. 'Well your honour the cyclist wasn't riding with a rear light so it wasn't my fault I plowed into him on a straight road in broad daylight with the sun in my eyes'

DRL's along with hi viz and reflective spray will make not a jot of difference when the human driving the car is distracted by texting/facebook/Web surfing/I player whilst driving.

If lives are really to be saved then education is needed but a that is unlikely to happen us humans on bicycles will need to do all we can.

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ridein | 8 years ago
0 likes

Here in the US I'm in the majority of road riders that ride with daytime flashing lights. I also use vertical neon greenish-yellow conspicuity tape, on my shoe heels, which helps grab attention.

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matthewn5 | 8 years ago
0 likes

Looks like a copy of the extremely popular Smart Lunar 0.5w. I often use one on non-blinking during the day.

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