8

Many countries have rules or regulations that specify what color your lights (headlights or rear lights) or reflectors must be. What are they?

In your answer, please note the country (and state, if applicable) and link to the regulations if possible.

Related: Reflective tape instead of rear reflector (Queensland, Australia)

  • 3
    @nhinkle It gets a little more complicated. In Ontario we are not only required to have a front and rear reflector, but also have white reflective tape on the sides of the forks as well as red reflective tape on the seat stays. This is in addition to the rear red light/reflector and the front white light/reflector – Kibbee Dec 7 '16 at 18:56
  • 2
    Note that there may be a difference between what's required and what's permitted. Whether one can cover the bike with flashing neon tubes is not a question of "requirements", but rather what the law permits. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 7 '16 at 21:30
  • 3
    And note that the CPSC rules in the US just state what must be present on a standard bike at the time of sale, not what may actually be required on the bike if ridden on the road at night. The actual legal requirements for riding are in the individual state laws. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 7 '16 at 21:31
  • 2
    I guess the corollary question also needs to be asked - what is not legal on a bike? Anyone see value in that for a separate topic? – Criggie Dec 8 '16 at 10:27
  • 2
    @Criggie - not legal might be too broad. – Batman Dec 8 '16 at 23:37
4

New Zealand

Legal requirements for your bike:

  • Brakes on front and back wheels (just on the back if it was made before 1 January 1988).
  • A rear reflector visible from 100 metres when light shines on it.
  • If you want to ride your cycle on the road during the hours of darkness, it must have:
    • one or two white or amber headlights that can be seen from a distance of 100 metres (one of these headlights may flash)
    • one or more red rear facing lights that can be seen from a distance of 100 metres (this may be steady or flashing), and
    • pedal retroreflectors on the forward and rearward facing surfaces of each pedal (or if the bike does not have these the cyclist must be wearing reflective material).

Your responsibilities

It’s up to you (the rider) to:

  • make sure your cycle is fitted with brakes, lights and reflectors that comply with the law
  • wear your cycle helmet
  • follow the road rules.

If you don’t, you could get an infringement fine or be taken to court.


What are the ‘hours of darkness’?

Legally, ‘hours of darkness’ means:

  • any period of time between half an hour after sunset on one day and half an hour before sunrise on the next day, or
  • any other time when there isn’t sufficient daylight for a person or vehicle to be clearly visible at a distance of 100 metres.

That's all from the accessible "fact sheet" http://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/resources/factsheets/01/docs/01-cycles.pdf dated February 2014.

Note the onus is on the rider of the bike to make sure its legal, not the owner should that be different.

  • Interesting: "Please note that if a police officer stops you and asks to inspect your helmet, you must give it to them." – Criggie Dec 8 '16 at 10:20
  • Interesting: "Where there is a cycle path, you may ride on the cycle path or on the road. Where there is no cycle path, you must ride on the road and keep as far left as you safely can. If specifically prohibited by a sign from riding on the road, you must ride on any cycle path provided or use an alternative road. " – Criggie Dec 8 '16 at 10:21
  • 1
    Interesting: "You can only ride on the footpath if you’re delivering newspapers, mail or leaflets." I believe this applies to adults, and there are provisions elsewhere for riders under 12 and who have a wheel size no greater than 16". – Criggie Dec 8 '16 at 10:22
  • Interesting "You may use a bus lane, as long as there are no signs or road markings forbidding this" – Criggie Dec 8 '16 at 10:23
4

Japan: Lights and Reflectors

Surprisingly, Japan's requirements for safety equipment are very lax only requiring a brake and a bell to be installed for daytime use. According to this summary, bicycles in Japan are required to have a front light and a single rear reflector only when operated at night or in dark tunnels. Front reflectors, pedal reflectors, and wheel reflectors are entirely optional.

The light requirement seems vague to me and requires someone with better Japanese language skills but it appears there is no requirement for headlights or tail lights to be installed on the bicycle itself. As long as there is a light (a headlamp, for example; or a red LED on your backback) that is shining at nighttime, you are ok:

ライト(前照灯・尾灯)は装備義務がない

夜間の道路等、前述の場所を通行する際には、ライト(前照灯、反射器材を装備していない場合には加えて尾灯)を点灯しなければならないが、これらについては、装備義務までは法律に定められていない。 そのため、適切に点灯することができるのであれば、例えば前照灯にはヘッドライトを用い、尾灯にはリュック等に付けた赤色LED灯を用いるなどしても、法律上は差し支えない。

You must, however, have an orange or red tail reflector at night that is visible if a car shines its high beams at you from 100 meters away:

反射器材の基準

反射器材は、次の基準を満たすものでなければならない。

性能: 夜間、後方100mから自動車の前照灯(ハイビーム)で照らし、反射光を容易に確認できること

色: 橙色または赤色

3

USA (CPSC) for reflectors (at point of sale):

The CPSC as coded in the Federal Regulations (§1512.16) says that the bike must have reflectors at the point of sale (when the bike is sold as new):

(a) Front, rear, and pedal reflectors. There shall be an essentially colorless front-facing reflector, essentially colorless or amber pedal reflectors, and a red rear-facing reflector.

(b) Side reflectors. There shall be retroreflective tire sidewalls or, alternatively, reflectors mounted on the spokes of each wheel, or, for non-caliper rim brake bicycles, retroreflective wheel rims. The center of spoke-mounted reflectors shall be within 76 mm (3.0 in.) of the inside of the rim. Side reflective devices shall be visible on each side of the wheel.

(c) Front reflector. The reflector or mount shall not contact the ground plane when the bicycle is resting on that plane in any orientation. The optical axis of the reflector shall be directed forward within 5° of the horizontal-vertical alignment of the bicycle when the wheels are tracking in a straight line, as defined in §1512.18(m)(2). The reflectors and/or mounts shall incorporate a distinct, preferred assembly method that shall insure that the reflector meets the optical requirements of this paragraph (c) when the reflector is attached to the bicycle. The front reflector shall be tested in accordance with the reflector mount and alignment test, §1512.18(m).

(d) Rear reflector. The reflector or mount shall not contact the ground plane when the bicycle is resting on that plane in any orientation. The reflector shall be mounted such that it is to the rear of the seat mast with the top of the reflector at least 76 mm (3.0 in) below the point on the seat surface that is intersected by the line of the seat post. The optical axis of the reflector shall be directed rearward within 5° of the horizontal-vertical alignment of the bicycle when the wheels are traveling in a straight line, as defined in §1512.18(m)(2). The reflectors and/or mounts shall incorporate a distinct, preferred assembly method that shall insure that the reflector meets the optical requirements of this paragraph (d) when the reflector is attached to the bicycle. The rear reflector shall be tested in accordance with the reflector mount and alignment test, §1512.18(m).

(e) Pedal reflectors. Each pedal shall have reflectors located on the front and rear surfaces of the pedal. The reflector elements may be either integral with the construction of the pedal or mechanically attached, but shall be sufficiently recessed from the edge of the pedal, or of the reflector housing, to prevent contact of the reflector element with a flat surface placed in contact with the edge of the pedal.

(f) Side reflectors. Reflectors affixed to the wheel spokes shall be mounted either flat on the spokes or within the spoke cage such that the angle between the optical axis and the normal to the plane of the wheel shall not exceed the angle of the spokes with the plane of the wheel. The reflectors shall not interfere with any wheel adjustments. The side-mounted reflector devices shall be essentially colorless or amber on the front wheel and essentially colorless or red on the rear wheel.

(g) Reflector tests. The pedal, front-mount, rear-mount, and side-mount reflectors shall be tested in accordance with the reflector test, §1512.18(n), to assure the reflectance values over the angles given in tables 1 and 2.

(h) Retroreflective tire sidewalls. When retroreflective tire sidewalls are used in lieu of spoke-mounted reflectors, the reflecting material shall meet the following requirements:

(1) The retroreflective material shall form a continuous circle on the sidewall.

(2) The retroreflective material shall adhere to the tire such that after the tire has been subjected to a temperature of 50° ±3 °C (122° ±5.4 °F) for 30 minutes, the retroreflective material cannot be peeled or scraped away without removal of tire material.

(3) The retroreflective material shall be as resistant to abrasion as is the adjacent sidewall material so that when retroreflective material is removed from the inflated tire by abrasion with a wet, steel bristle brush, tire material will be removed along with the retroreflective material.

(4) The retroreflective material shall be tested for performance in accordance with the retroreflective tire test, §1512.18(o), to assure the reflectance properties over the angles given in table 3. When a portion of the retroreflective material is selected (and the remainder is masked as specified in §1512.18(o)(2)(i)), the selected portion shall not contact the ground plane when the assembled bicycle is resting on that plane in any orientation.

(i) Retroreflective rims. When retroreflective rims are used in lieu of spoke-mounted reflectors or retroreflective tire sidewalls, the reflecting material shall meet the following requirements:

(1) The retroreflective material shall form a continuous circle on the rim.

(2) If the retroreflective material is applied to the rim in the form of a self-adhesive tape, the following requirement must be met: Use a sharp knife, razor blade, or similar instrument to carefully release an end of the tape material sufficient to be grasped between the thumb and finger. Grasp the freed tape end and gradually pull in a direction 90° to the plane of the rim. The tape material must break before additional separation (peeling) from the rim is observed.

(3) After the retroreflective material is abraded in accordance with the abrasion test for retroreflective rims at §1512.18(r), the rim must then be tested for performance in accordance with the retroreflective tire and rim test at §1512.18(o), to assure the reflectance properties over the angles given in table 3.

[43 FR 60034, Dec. 22, 1978, as amended at 45 FR 82627, 82628, Dec. 16, 1980]

Image from CPSC website

As Daniel Hicks and Punctual Emoticon note, the CPSC / Federal regulations are for bikes that are for sale. Each individual state has rules that govern bikes that are on the road. These should be separate answers.

  • I'll note that that cryptic "shall not contact the ground plane" clause for the front/rear reflectors means that if you lay the bike down or set it upside down, the reflector should not come in contact with the ground (causing it to be bent or broken). – Daniel R Hicks Dec 7 '16 at 21:26
  • Huh, I've had many bikes with rear reflectors on the seat stays that would bend out of shape if the bike was laid down. Guess they were non-compliant. – RoboKaren Dec 8 '16 at 2:54
  • If you notice where the rear reflector is in the above image, that typical for the bikes I see. I would guess that sometimes a reflector is added by clamping it to the seat stay, but that's not standard. – Daniel R Hicks Dec 8 '16 at 3:54
  • 1
    This is for bicycle manufacturers and sellers, not riders, correct? – PunctualEmoticon Dec 8 '16 at 5:25
  • 1
    @PunctualEmoticon - The above rules basically define what can be transported in "interstate commerce" for the purpose of selling new. CPSC rules cease to apply as soon as the bike is purchased (but most states will include much of the same in their rules). – Daniel R Hicks Dec 8 '16 at 12:59
3

Luxembourg - Required accessories on a bike

  1. Bikes must be equipped with a front light of at least three watts. Mountain bikes, however, can instead be fitted with white or red reflectors when travelling during the day and in good weather conditions.
  2. A bell, which can be heard at a distance of at least 50 metres.
  3. Front and rear brakes attached to the left and right handlebars. These brakes must function independently of each other and be operated by the rider of the bicycle. If using coaster brakes, instead of usual bike brakes, then in addition to the coaster brake, another brake lever must also be available to use which must be attached to the handlebar.
  4. Yellow reflectors on the spokes or wheels of the bike.
  5. Reflectors on the pedals. If you are using a racing bike where you cannot fit reflectors to the pedals, they should be attached to the back of footwear.
  6. Red reflector on the rear of the bike.
  7. A backlight. Bikes must have a functioning red rear light. For mountain bikes, the same exception applies as for the front light.
  8. A yellow reflective strip, three cm wide and 10 cm long fitted to the back of the bike.

Some of these rules can be ignored for road bikes, as the fitting spaces are not available, but the police can choose to fine you if they find your bike not up to the required standards

Sources:

  • Interesting about the front light wattage requirements. 3 watts is quite bright for an LED - not so for incandescent. And interesting regarding brakes - so coaster brakes are illegal? And dual-brake levers which allow one lever to control two brakes with one hand (for disabled people, for example) are also illegal? – RoboKaren Dec 9 '16 at 8:24
  • The law does state it requires two brakes, with regards to coaster brakes, that's a good question, only the (State owned) newspaper article talks about making sure they're on the handlebars, else where it just states you need two. So I guess you could have a coaster brake with a separate brake lever to also do the front, that would be legal. However, these rules are very rarely applied and seriously need updating, they're a bit archaic these days – Draken Dec 9 '16 at 8:29
  • 1
    Found it, it's under article 32 of the code de la route. It states: De deux freins indépendants, fixés soit à gauche et à droite du guidon, à activer manuellement ou d’un frein manuel au guidon assorti d’un dispositif à rétropédalage Which says coasters are fine, as long as there is also a 2nd brake lever on the handlebar. But it does say there has to be two brakes on a bicycle. I've updated my answer to reflect that – Draken Dec 9 '16 at 8:37
  • 2
    @RoboKaren In Germany the road regulations also stated 3 watts. The regulations were written sometime in the 1970s before anybody even dreamt of LED lights (or even halogen bulbs!), so it was just a standard way of expressing brightness, and basically nobody bothered to change the wording (in Germany it was finally changed a few years ago, 2014 I think). The "3W" was generally understood to mean a suitable light with a brightness equivalent to an incandescent 3W bulb, just like on domestic energy-saving bulbs you also often find "15W - equiv to 60W bulb" or something like that on the pack. – Stephan Matthiesen Dec 12 '16 at 19:22
2

USA - Minnesota

Minnesota Statutes section 169.222 OPERATION OF BICYCLE

Subd. 6.Bicycle equipment.

(a) No person shall operate a bicycle at nighttime unless the bicycle or its operator is equipped with (1) a lamp which emits a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front; and (2) a red reflector of a type approved by the Department of Public Safety which is visible from all distances from 100 feet to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle. A bicycle equipped with lamps that are visible from a distance of at least 500 feet from both the front and the rear is deemed to fully comply with this paragraph.

(b) No person may operate a bicycle at any time when there is not sufficient light to render persons and vehicles on the highway clearly discernible at a distance of 500 feet ahead unless the bicycle or its operator is equipped with reflective surfaces that shall be visible during the hours of darkness from 600 feet when viewed in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle. The reflective surfaces shall include reflective materials on each side of each pedal to indicate their presence from the front or the rear and with a minimum of 20 square inches of reflective material on each side of the bicycle or its operator. Any bicycle equipped with side reflectors as required by regulations for new bicycles prescribed by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission shall be considered to meet the requirements for side reflectorization contained in this subdivision.

(c) A bicycle may be equipped with a front lamp that emits a white flashing signal, or a rear lamp that emits a red flashing signal, or both.

...

Subd. 7.Sale with reflectors and other equipment.

(a) No person shall sell or offer for sale any new bicycle unless it is equipped with reflectors and other equipment as required by subdivision 6, paragraphs (b) and (e) and by applicable regulations for new bicycles prescribed by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission.

(b) Notwithstanding paragraph (a), a new bicycle may be sold or offered for sale without pedals if the bicycle otherwise meets the requirements of paragraph (a).

  • Interesting that MN doesn't require that the front light be visible from the sides, like the People's Republic of California. – RoboKaren Dec 9 '16 at 18:35
2

Poland

bike - a vehicle up to 0.9 m width, up to 4.0m length, powered by the rider's muscles; bicycle can be equipped with a pressure activated pedal auxiliary electric drive supply of voltage not higher than 48 V with a rated continuous power of 250 W, the output power gradually decreases and drops to zero at speeds above 25 km / h; "bicycle trolley" - the same as above, with width more than 0.9 m

bicycle must be equipped with:

  • at least one front light, white or yellow, blinking or continuous,
  • at least one rear red passive reflector, which is not in the shape of triangle
  • at least one rear red light, blinking or continuous

All this lights should be mounted no lower than 250mm and no higher than 1500mm above the groung. Passive reflector, lit with another vehicle's high beam, and all lights should be visible at night with good clarity of air from a distance of at least 150 m. Except rear red passive reflector, all lights can be dismounted when not required (eg. during the day)

  • turn indicators, when bike construction make it impossible to indicate turn with hand

List of the rest of obligatory equipment:

  • bell or other warning signal of non-shrilling sound
  • at least one effective brake

Optional equipment

  • front, white, passive reflector,
  • yellow, passive reflectors on the pedals
  • yellow, passive reflectors on the side surfaces of the wheels with the proviso that on each side of the vehicle should be visible at least two lights: at least one, located at the wheel of the front axle and on the rear wheel axle,
  • reflective strip-shaped continuous ring on both sides of the tire or reflective elements in the form of a continuous ring placed on the side surfaces of the wheels of the vehicle.

Source: official regulation, extract with comment

1

USA - California: Lights and reflectors

The road legal code in California is as follows:

(d) A bicycle operated during darkness upon a highway, a sidewalk where bicycle operation is not prohibited by the local jurisdiction, or a bikeway, as defined in Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, shall be equipped with all of the following: (1) A lamp emitting a white light that, while the bicycle is in motion, illuminates the highway, sidewalk, or bikeway in front of the bicyclist and is visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and from the sides of the bicycle. (2) A red reflector or a solid or flashing red light with a built-in reflector on the rear that shall be visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle. (3) A white or yellow reflector on each pedal, shoe, or ankle visible from the front and rear of the bicycle from a distance of 200 feet. (4) A white or yellow reflector on each side forward of the center of the bicycle, and a white or red reflector on each side to the rear of the center of the bicycle, except that bicycles that are equipped with reflectorized tires on the front and the rear need not be equipped with these side reflectors. The reflectors and reflectorized tires shall be of a type meeting requirements established by the department. (e) A lamp or lamp combination, emitting a white light, attached to the operator and visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and from the sides of the bicycle, may be used in lieu of the lamp required by paragraph (1) of subdivision (d). (Amended by Stats. 2015, Ch. 549, Sec. 2. Effective January 1, 2016.)

Headlights are required after dark. What's interesting about this is that the headlight must be visible from 300 ft (~100 meters) from the front and from the sides. Many bike lights do not have side illumination, so they fail the code.

The taillight may be either a red reflector, a solid red light, or flashing red light.

And the legal code actually allows for headlamps, which is interesting.

And totally off-topic, the first clause is that "(a) No person shall operate a bicycle on a roadway unless it is equipped with a brake that will enable the operator to make one braked wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement." which would make bicycle anti-lock brakes illegal! :-)

  • To clarify - this permits a passive red reflector to be "the taillight" ? If so, that's setting a low bar. – Criggie Dec 8 '16 at 10:25
  • 1
    Yup, there's no requirement for a light in the rear, a rear reflector is fine. – RoboKaren Dec 8 '16 at 15:57
  • @Criggie - I think it's fairly standard, in US cycling law, that a reflector is all that's required on the rear. (It's hard enough just enforcing the rule about having a headlight.) – Daniel R Hicks Dec 8 '16 at 20:07
1

USA - Alabama - Nighttime Lighting and Reflectors

http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/alison/CodeOfAlabama/1975/32-5A-265.htm

Section 32-5A-265 Lamps and other equipment on bicycles.

(a) Every bicycle when in use at nighttime shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the department which shall be visible from all distances from 100 feet to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector.

(b) Every bicycle shall be equipped with a brake which will enable the operator to make the braked wheels skid on dry, level, clean pavement.

(Acts 1980, No. 80-434, p. 604, §12-107.)

  • Other bike-related sections are in Title 32, Chapter 5A, mostly Sections 260-266 and 280-286: alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/alison/CodeOfAlabama/1975/… – compton Dec 8 '16 at 19:40
  • 1
    So interesting that there's the same language about skidding. Don't they realize that not all bike tires will easily skid nor that skidding isn't always desirable? – RoboKaren Dec 8 '16 at 22:46
  • @RoboKaren - I've never ridden a bike with brakes that can't lock up the rear wheel under heavy braking since the weight transfers to the front, which results in less traction at the back. Skidding to a stop may not be desirable, but it's a quick and easy test to prove that the rear brake is capable of providing as much braking force as possible for a rear wheel stop. – Johnny Dec 9 '16 at 21:13

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.