Monday, November 10, 2008

Headlights on Bicycles Required During Nighttime Riding

Last week we saw the implementation of Daylight Savings Time where we "fell back" an hour so that there is an extra hour of daylight in the morning. However, the reverse effect is that we lose an hour of daylight in the early evening at the same time as we are losing almost 1 minute of sunlight every evening until the Winter Solstice on December 21st when the days begin to get longer again. Currently, the sun is setting at 4:35 p.m. and will not set after 5:00 p.m. until January 29th.

The combination of shorter days and the adjustment for Daylight Savings means that Illinois bicyclists who commute to work via their bikes will be riding home in the dark. It is important to note that a headlight not only gives you greater visibility while riding and makes you more visible to drivers, but it is the law. Bicyclists riding at nighttime must have the following on their bikes*:
  1. A lamp on the front that emits a white light that can be seen for 500 feet; and
  2. A red reflector visible from 100 to 600 feet by a car with its headlights on.
Curiously, this Section also provides that a red light visible from 500 feet may be used in conjunction with the rear red reflector. This is somewhat awkward because it would make sense to allow a red light visible from 500 feet instead of a red reflector that may only be visible from as little as 100 feet. I'll give the drafters of this law the benefit of the doubt and conclude that this addition was to encourage bicyclists to use red lights on their bikes. In any event, the law (as well as sound safety measures) require the use of a headlight and a reflector and at least encourages the use of a rear red light. With winter nights approaching, the use of a headlight and a taillight will get you home safely - and legally.

*Section 11-1507 of the Illinois Motor Vehicle Code (a/k/a "The Rules of the Road)
reads as follows:

(625 ILCS 5/11‑1507) (from Ch. 95 1/2, par. 11‑1507)
Sec. 11‑1507. 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 headlamps 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.

If you have any questions regarding this post, Illinois Bicycle Law, or have been injured in a bike accident, please contact Mike Keating at