Cycle Lighting - Legal Requirements

If you intend to, or might need to cycle at night, then a set of cycle lights is a legal requirement. There are a wide range of options to choose from so how do you choose the best bike light for what you need?


The minimum legal requirements are one front light, one rear light and a set of reflectors, to the specifications and fitted as described below:


Front Light

A minimum of one front light must be fitted, showing a WHITE light that is visible from the front of the cycle. It should be fitted centrally or to the offside (to the right hand side of the handlebars from the rider's view).  If the light emits a constant light then it must conform to British or equivelant EC standards. If the front light is only capable of emitting a flashing light then the output must be a minimup of 4 candela.

The main front light must be mounted up to 1500mm (1.5 metres) high, measured from the ground.

Additional front lights must show a white light but are exempt from any standards requirements.


Rear Light

A minimum of one rear light showing a RED light must be fitted positioned centrally or to the offside (to the right side of the bike viewed from behind). The light must be fitted at or towards the rear of the bicycle at a height of between 350mm and 1500mm from the ground. If it emits a constant beam then it must conform to British or equivelant EC standards. If the rear light shows only a flashing light then the output must be a minimum of 4 candela.


Additional rear lights must show a red light but are exempt from any standards requirements.



The cycle must be fitted with a rear facing red reflector plus four pedal reflectors (two on each pedal showing to the front and the rear).  Additional reflectors as supplied with many bicycles (i.e. wheel reflectors and front reflector) are not mandatory and can be removed if the rider prefers.


Flashing Lights

A common misconception is that flashing cycle lights are illegal.  This was the case for the main lights until 2005 however recognising the efficiency and effectiveness of flashing cycle lights the law was changed to permit flashing lights at the front and rear, regardless of whether used as the primary light or additional lighting.


How Bright?

The brightness and pattern of light that you need depends on where you need to ride. For morning and evening commuting in a well-lit city, then the main priority is not for lights to see with, rather it is for lights to be seen with. One should not make the mistake however than because you can see without a beam, that you can be seen. Even on the brightest lit street, an unlit cyclist must be illuminated, as alongside motor vehicles with their headlights on, an unlit cyclist disappears into the background of drivers' vision.

For riding on unlit rural roads then you will also need to choose a brighter front light in order to see obstacles, ruts and potholes. It is then advisable to have at least two front lights, one focused on the road in front of your path, and another supplementary light pointing forward so that you are visible from a distance to others.


Hi-Vis Wear

The subject of whether Hi-Vis clothing is necessary can often be the subject of some debate, however following an accident the wearing of hi-vis may rightly or wrongly infer that an injured rider was riding responsibly. Whether or not you choose hi-vis, it is important to realise that this only reflects light back at the source. If a driver has neglected to turn on their lights, or their vehicle has a faulty headlight, there will be no light to reflect back. Even in bright city streets, a hi-vis jacket must never be considered an adequate replacement for proper cycle lighting.