In France and Germany there are laws so that new bicycles have to come with lights. Presumably the French and Germans thought that this would be a good idea for road safety and there must be some statistics that prove these laws to not be a waste of time. Presumably these laws did not make cycling so expensive, killing the trade in new bikes and deterring people from cycling.

Are there any statistics to show the effect of a change in the law to make lights mandatory with new bicycle sales?

The biggest problem for a cyclist is 'I did not see you mate' and one of the biggest complaints that the tin-box people have about cyclists is that they ride at night without lights. Given recent changes in legislation so that cars have to have daytime running lights, shouldn't new bicycles also have to have daytime running lights? Or mandatory lights that the cyclist must use at night and can use during the day?

Please put down your thoughts on mandatory bike lights and how this could be implemented. For instance, road bikes that are sold 'without pedals' currently do not have to comply with reflector legislation. Equally, bikes 'without pedals' could be sold without the mandatory lights.

An E.U. (or NAFTA) law could also impose a levy on imported bikes not supplied with lights with the levy being high enough that it is cheaper to supply the lights than pay the levy. There is also a matter of wheel size, does a law need to apply to just adult bikes or 'anything that does not have stabilisers'? Clearly there are requirements to be seen, but does a cyclist need mandatory lights to see with? Right now the approved lights in the UK are 4 candela, flashing 60-240 times a minute, constant flashing rate.

Bounty will hopefully be awarded for useful statistics and/or the makings of a draft UK law

Reply from RoSPA regarding why they think lights do not need to be mandatory (see notes below)

Thank you for your email.

Our policy is not ‘bicycles do not need lights’. Of course cyclists need to use lights in the dark, and we state this very clearly in the first paragraph of the policy you quote. The last paragraph concerns the separate question of whether the law should be changed to require bicycles to be sold with lights already fitted, and we do not believe that there is evidence to support such a change in the law.

Such a law would increase the price of bicycles, and presumably harm after sales of bicycle lights that are sold independently of bicycles because people would be less likely to purchase additional bicycle lights, if their bicycle already had lights fitted. It would also impose the cost of lights on cyclists who never ride in the dark, and so do not need lights. The advantages would be that it would presumably decrease the number of cyclists riding in the dark without lights, although it would not guarantee this as lights can be removed, just like bells (when the law changed requiring bells to be fitted with new bicycles, people were free to take the bell off outside the shop).

You make an interesting point that the amendments to the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations that permitted the use of LED lights (flashing or non-flashing) that are more reliable and have longer–lasting battery life mean that cyclists are more likely to use lights than previously. I can see some logic to this, but am not aware of any evidence.

The policy statement on cycle lighting was developed following a review of what little published research there is on the use of cycle lighting that we conducted in 1997 (copy attached). Obviously, this is all very old now, and we will look to see if there is any new research indicating that making it mandatory for cycle lights to be fitted to bicycles when they are sold would be effective.

The latest research into cycling accidents, “Collisions Involving Cyclists on Britain’s Roads: Establishing the Causes”, TRL Report PPR 445, 2009, shows that 78% of cyclist accidents occur in daylight, but accidents in the dark on roads with no street lighting are more likely to be fatal. These accidents more commonly involve the cyclist being struck from the rear, and it is likely that lights, reflectors and high-visibility garments would help to prevent some of these. The same research estimated that ‘Cyclist not displaying lights in the dark or poor visibility” was a factor in 5% of fatal cyclist accidents, and 4% of cyclist accidents resulting in non-fatal injuries.

I repeat, the question is not whether cyclists should use lights in the dark – there is no question that they should do so – but whether requiring bicycles to be sold with lights would decrease the number of cyclists riding in the dark without lights.

(1997 doc to follow...)

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    If this question hadn't an open bounty I would have voted to close it. I had started to reply, but realised it was just turning into a rant. I appreciate that the questioner has tried to turn it into a question, but I'm struggling to see how any answer is going to assist in actually answering the question rather than just being another opinion. Omitting phrases like "Please put down your thoughts on mandatory bike lights and how this could be implemented" would be helpful.
    – Unsliced
    May 25, 2011 at 9:08
  • It clearly reads like an opinion: i.e. the OP is of the opinion that the law would be good. The question, then, is about how to go about making it law: what statistics support the position? And what could be included in a draft of the law?
    – ChrisW
    May 25, 2011 at 13:42
  • To clarify, our French and German friends decided the law would be a good idea. I think it is too because there are too many bikes on the roads in the UK that have poorly fitted lights or none at all. I don't want to impose on these law breakers and 'tut tut', I would prefer it if they just had lights, end of. There is also something insidious about not having lights mandatory - it serves to keep bikes off the road, hence the US CPSC reflector legislation. Anyway, the bounty is for proper research from Germany/France or elsewhere that makes the case for mandatory lights. Thankyou. May 25, 2011 at 13:48
  • @Mathew - IMO it would be a great idea if you could also legislate having batteries which work forever. The bikes which I see without lights tend to look as if they're several years old.
    – ChrisW
    May 25, 2011 at 13:58
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    To anyone concerned with the answerability of this question, keep in mind that the core of the question isn't whether these lights save lives, but if there are any useful statistics about it. May 25, 2011 at 17:46

3 Answers 3


Requiring lights at the point of sale adds an unnecessary cost to bicycles and would in turn reduce the number of people cycling. Since the health benefits of cycling outweigh the risks, anything that reduces the pool of cyclists isn't worth it.

Essentially, while requiring the sale of lights with the purchase of a bicycle might increase bicycle safety, it makes life itself riskier. The same reasoning applies to the mandatory use of helmets while cycling. For every cyclist that dies in a spectacular crash, nine quietly continue their lives without dying of heart disease or diabetes.

  • As mentioned, in the EU we have import tariff on bicycles from outside of the EU. Given that we only make a small handful of bikes in the EU that means all mass produced bikes have an extra tax on them. This tax is not cast in stone - it changes from time to time, and it could be adjusted downwards to effectively make bikes with lights cost no more than they do now (without lights). Your 'safety' argument is upside down - more bikes with lights means more people riding at dusk/night and that means safety in numbers after sun-down. May 26, 2011 at 14:07
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    Read my argument again, this time more carefully. The risks of cycling are outweighed seven to nine times by the benefits. Increasing the cost of bicycles by requiring an optional component will reduce the number of bicycles purchased and therefore the number of cyclists. Anything that reduces the number of people cycling will have an overall detrimental effect. Also, if the tariff could be reduced, then it could be reduced without adding back in the cost of bicycle lights, which would have an overall greater effect on public health. May 26, 2011 at 14:16
  • By extension of your attitude, why don't you write to the powers that be and demand they take the bell and reflectors off bikes because they add un-necessary cost, therefore discouraging people from cycling? And ask them to take off anti-dumping duties on bikes so everyone can have some dirt cheap bike if they want it? I doubt this will encourage any more miles to be cycled, but it might lead to more road deaths. Sometimes there is no point being deliberately unconstructive - facts not attitude is what I was hoping for on this question! May 26, 2011 at 15:02
  • I gave you the facts. Cycling at all is more beneficial than not, regardless of the use of helmets or lights. Just over 40% of cycling fatalities occur at night, and I've seen estimates that peg perhaps 50% of those on inadequate lighting. Combined with the 9-times-safer figure, you would have to save forty-five lives for every person you discourage from using a bike. Not worth it. May 26, 2011 at 16:26
  • Furthermore, it's obvious from the content of your question that your mind was already made up on the issue (a rep bounty for a draft UK law?), and what you were really hoping for on this question was validation and support for your beliefs rather than counterarguments. I suspect that's why your question has been rated so negatively. May 26, 2011 at 16:28

Short answer: I doubt it. Insofar as the law works it might save a few lives but it will discourage far more people from cycling (who are then more likely to die from lack of exercise as per helmets).

I can't see any real statistics, but this page has a series of links to different stats and summarises them. It looks as though most accidents are "I didn't see you" rather than "I looked but didn't see you". RoSPA say "There is no evidence to indicate that mandatory fitment of lights to bicycles at the point of sale would increase the usage of cycle lights in the dark. Accident data does not suggest that such legislation is justified. ".

The Euro legislation has been around for quite a while and for the most part they have the bugs worked out. Copying the German laws would be an excellent place to start.

My view is that it should not be mandatory to have lights during the day. That just adds another disincentive to something we should be encouraging. It's unlikely to cut down on complaints by motorists, any more than the mandatory helmet law in Australia did. I think it will have the opposite effect by providing another legitimate-sounding avenue to complain about. A more effective technique is to get the whinger to focus on the ways motorists irritate each other.

One of the basics of activism is that complying with ever-more-stringent restrictions does not placate the oppressor, instead it encourages further rules. Cyclists are not really oppressed, but we are definitely a minority. The same setup applies. I think you're better off setting up a Critical Mass in your area to give them something to whine about.

  • RoSPA do not cite any statistics to assert their claim, plus their 'edict' is written before the study that you cite. And then that study is vague - 'I did not see you mate' being the big cause of accidents is no surprise and I do not see how having lights will not help. I understand the Australia helmets debate, however, lights do not have to be attached to your head, the current reflectors would merely have to have lights in them like any other vehicle. A consequence of lights as standard is that more people would cycle after dark giving rise to more bikes that could lead to more accidents. May 23, 2011 at 8:13
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    I have just written to RoSPA to see what the statistics are that they use to not recommend bikes to be supplied with lights. I doubt that they will reply, but, on the off-chance that they do, I will be updating this thread. May 23, 2011 at 8:17
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    @moz - In some areas the reaction to Critical Mass goes beyond whining. I'm all for activism and in general for Critical Mass. But in my area there are drivers who have violent reactions to cyclists because the drivers are mad about Critical Mass. I've seen it once and been the victim of it once. It's one of the few groups standing up for cyclists rights and I support them in that, but it is a double edged sword.
    – Mike Two
    May 23, 2011 at 14:09
  • @Matthew: the study I cite is only related to the RoSPA page in that both are concerned with cyclists. Having lights only helps if the motorist is aware of a connection between a little blinking light and an object they might want to drive around rather than through. In other words, they are looking for cyclists. If they're not, the light won't help.
    – Мסž
    May 23, 2011 at 22:05
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    @mike Two: absolutely. There's going to be a backlash against any reduction in privilege. I work with people who quite vocally believe no cyclist should be on the road because a friend of theirs met a guy in a pub who went out with a girl who knows a guy who once saw a cyclist with a non-standard helmet, therefore all cyclists are scofflaws and shouldn't be allowed anywhere near good, law-abiding citizens like us. Of course, they follow this up with bitching about the cost of fines from speed cameras...
    – Мסž
    May 23, 2011 at 22:09

Here in France a bicycle is required to be sold with lights.

The result is that all bicycles are sold with the cheapest possible lights, which are utterly useless. The usual model is a xenon light, which eats batteries like crazy and illuminates a tiny pixel on the road.

It is understood that the buyer will throw away the useless light and install another one (or not). More waste !

Mandatory reflectors make sense : since a decent reflector costs only a few cents, all bikes are sold with reflectors that work.

Mandatory lights at point of sale do not make any sense.

To ride in the day, and perhaps in the evening or in the city where public lighting is available, you don't need a light, you need a 3€ white blinkie on the front, and a 3€ red blinkie on the rear.

Any dirt cheap LED blinkie provides much more safety than a crap xenon headlight because :

1- The batteries in a blinkie last forever (several months).

So when needed, the batteries will be good, and it will work. On a cheap xenon headlight, the batteries last 1 hour, so when you need it, they will be discharged. Safety : zero.

2- All the 3€ blinkies I've, allow the cyclist to be seen much better than any cheapo xenon head light. Because they have non-dead battery, they blink, and LEDs focus the light pretty well.

Of course, a blinkie doesn't light the road. But a cheapo light doesn't either.

If you want to light the road, you need a 50-80€ LED headlight with stVZO compliant beam. Obviously, with this kind of price, you'd only buy one if you intend to actually ride at night, out of public lights...

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