Are Cyclists Allowed Flashing Lights?



Riding in Midtown on this one street that was extremely dark, I decided to put on my front bike lights in flash mode. But then later I realized it probably was not a good idea to do that. If I recall, I read somewhere that it’s actually not legal to ride with flashing lights.

Are cyclists allowed flashing lights?

Cyclists are allowed flashing lights but it really depends on which time of day you’re using them and the country you live in. If you’re riding at night you should not cycle with flashing front bike lights in areas where cars can visibly see you so as not to disorient the oncoming vehicles. Now, if you’re riding during the day time it may be wise for you to use flashing front bike lights because it may be difficult for oncoming vehicles to see a steady front bike light.

Knowing what stream of light you should use while on a bicycle can be confusing because the law doesn’t clearly state which is right and which is wrong. Finding out what cyclists are allowed when it comes to flashing lights is going to take having good judgment and being considerate of oncoming vehicles and pedestrians.


Is It Illegal For Cyclists To Use Flashing Lights?


Bicycle laws are going to be different from state-to-state and in different countries. So I can’t speak on your specific area in this regard but I will give you a general idea of what’s allowed.

In the state that I live in, which is California, according to their vehicle regulations code, vehicles are prohibited from using flashing lights except in certain circumstances. Since bikes have to abide by the same regulations as vehicles in California it is presumed that we are not allowed to use flashing lights.

If you were to go cycling at night, in most cases you will find cyclists using flashing front and rear bike lights in order to see and be seen. To me personally, I feel it’s important that oncoming vehicles and pedestrians can see you. If it means using flashing lights in order to be safe I would use them to depending on the circumstance.

What’s illegal in some states is cyclist riding at night without front or rear lights, and or reflectors.

It is probably safer to use flashing lights in these situations:

  • Your path is clearly visible but to oncoming vehicles, you’re not
  • Low light visibility areas such as fog, dusk, dawn smoke

In some states or even countries, they may allow both flashing front and rear bike lights. So, if you ever travel and plan to bike ride during the night or when there is low visibility, it may be a good idea to ask the locals what is prohibited and what’s allowed.


Bike Light Flashing Versus Steady


Using flashing lights or a steady light while cycling will be good in different situations. Some will choose to use flashing lights in areas that are heavily trafficked. While others may prefer to use a steady light so as not to annoy other vehicles or pedestrians.

A flashing front bike light will make you appear more visible, but one of the reasons why it may be prohibited, especially at night, is that it can disorient or hurt oncoming motorist vision.

Another con to using a front flashing light cycling at night is that it will be difficult for oncoming traffic to know how far you are and how fast you’re going.

Most cyclists would prefer a bright steady front bike light during the night as this allows them to see down their path and make them visible to oncoming vehicles.

Also, these ideas for flashing front bike lights also apply to rear bike lights, but it would depend if you are riding in areas where you have to compete with other distracting lights or traffic.

For instance, if you are cycling behind a lot of traffic in an urban city and need to make a turn or make yourself visible you might need to use flashing lights. In another instance, it’s advised to use a steady light when cycling in areas without light.

There are some cyclists who never ride at night but they ride during dusk or dawn and may feel the need to use flashing lights in the front and rear as needed.

It’s important that you have at least a front and rear bike light whether you plan to have it flash or remain steady. If there’s a need to use both, most cyclists advise having one flashing and one steady front bike light and the same setup in the rear,


Are Flashing Side Lights Okay?


You may find some cyclists on the road that use flashing side lights whether they are on wheels, helmets, and or other accessories.

Having flashing lights on the side of you and on moving accessories will make you more visible to an oncoming motorist on the side. In my opinion, flashing side lights are more than okay and probably more acceptable.

I highly recommend using flashing wheel lights because as your wheels move not only will it make you more visible but you will be seen from all sides and it’ll be safer for you when riding during the night.

If you want to use side lights other than wheel lights I recommend using low light LEDs to place on helmets, accessories, and clothing as these lights are not as bright and annoying as using halogen lights.

Flashing side lights on accessories and helmets have also become more popular and allow a cyclist to stand out more in low light areas. On Amazon, you’ll also find many gadgets like handlebar end caps or cycling gloves that have flashing lights.

See a list of bicycle LED lights and reflectors here.


Where To Position Bike Lights


We know it’s important to have lights on the front and rear of a bike but it’s even more important to know where to place them for better visibility and to be seen.

A good setup is to have the front-facing lights as far apart from the rear-facing lights.

Having front and rear lights separated will help you to be visible to low and tall vehicles. Have your front-facing bike light on the main handlebar. If you wish to add a helmet light to that, just be sure to have a helmet light that’s not as bright as the front-facing bike light.

Some bike handlebars have a lot of accessories on them so you want to be sure to allow some room for your front-facing light and mount it so it’s not restricted by chords and other things. If you have room on your handlebar for a second bike light, mount it appropriately so it’s not too busy.

Putting a red rear bike light on your seat post is the ideal place for most bike light setups. some bikes are equipped with rear racks in which you can also place a red bike light on the rack.

The best place to put accessory bike lights would be either on a backpack, the back of your helmet or movable parts of your body like an LED strap around your ankle.

For mounting sidelights, it’s better to apply specific LED wheel lights to either your wheel spokes, lights to the sides of your bike frame, or on the sides of your rear bike rack if you have one.

Check out this video on how to put led lights on your bike. The bike used in this video is a Pure Fix single speed road bike and the lights were made by a local cyclist/creator in Sacramento, CA. These lights can be placed on almost any bike wheel spokes, but you’ll have to consider what type of riding you’ll be doing and it your wheels can accommodate something like this.



Daytime running lights


When It comes to running lights during the day it may seem pointless to many cyclists as this is the time of day when you are most visible.

I personally don’t ride with a front-facing light on during the day because I’m trying to preserve my batteries or extend the use of my lights for when it is dark. Some cyclists may feel the same but might add to that by at least using a rear-facing red light.

Some studies have shown that day running lights help reduce accidents but it’s not enough to warrant day running lights across the board. 

One might reason that day running lights help you to see and be seen. But if you’re riding in a visible area it may not make sense to have day running lights. If you’re cycling during the day, some of the responsibilities on safety should be placed on the motorist, pedestrians and others that may not be paying attention to you on the road.

It’s a good idea to have your bike lights with you during the day for use when environments demand more visibility. But if one tries to say that a cyclist “Must” use day running lights this will be a controversial matter.



Related Questions


Can flashing lights cause epileptic seizures?

A small percentage of people who are exposed to flashing lights or intense images of light may experience a seizure. People with photosensitive epilepsy may have seizures when faced with even low lights less than flashing LEDs. For a majority of people without photosensitive epilepsy, they should be fine.

Are blue lights illegal?

In most states having flashing blue or even red lights are prohibited on motor vehicles. Bicycles are not motor vehicles but may have to adhere to the same regulations that motor vehicles do. Colored flashing lights are reserved for emergency and police vehicles. If might be ok in some states to use blue or red lights on a bicycle as long as they are not flashing lights. But then again, you will have to check with the road safety laws of your specific state or country to be certain.

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