Shining a Light on Biking in the Dark

Our clocks are turned back and suddenly many of us will find ourselves making our evening bike commute home in the dark. It’s a good time of year to remind ourselves and our loved ones of what we need to do to be confident we’re visible when biking in the dark and rain.

First, the Law:

Oregon Law requires that when biking in “limited visibility conditions” we use a front white light and a rear red light or reflector. (ORS 815-280)

Want to more details about how Oregon Law relates to biking?
Check out the next Legal Clinic on November 14th!


Front and rear lights are definitely the place the start to ensure nighttime visibility.

There are dozens of options, and the amount you spend may depend on a number of factors: your level of comfort/ability to see the road, how well-lit the areas you frequently ride in are, and what your personal budget is. There are many inexpensive battery-powered bike lights on the market, but they tend to provide less light than more expensive options.

Many times you can find a pair of front and rear lights together, like the Spaceship/RADBOT 500 set from Portland Design Works your see here on the right.

Regardless of how much you decide to spend, remember your batteries need to be kept relatively fresh to keep your lights at adequate brightness.

Ask your neighborhood bike shop about other options as well like dynamo lights that require a larger up-front investment, but can save you from ever having to buy or charge a battery again!

Also remember that multiple lights can add more visibility, and that lights can be attached to your bike, helmet, bags, or any other place where they are clearly visible from the front and rear.

Need to nudge a loved-one to buy or refresh their lights?
Send them a link to one of the fun bike light videos the BTA produced in 2011.


Many people bike daily in their regular work clothes or whatever else they were planning to wear, just as they are unlikely to put on a special outfit on a day that they may have to drive to work. 

That said, bright and reflective clothing can go a long way toward making you more visible in the dark and rain.

This short footage produced by Multnomah County for their defensive driving refresher course clearly illustrates the benefits of brighter clothing.

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If you’re buying a new raincoat or other cycling gear, consider the benefits of bright colors. If you find yourself wearing dark clothes on dark bike rides, consider wearing a reflective vest or adding other bright and reflective elements to your coat, bags, helmet, or fenders.

Have Fun with It!

There are more and more cool ways to light up: LED vests and arm bands, battery powered Christmas-lights, lights that attach to your spokes and tubes, and reflective material and stickers of all shapes and sizes. 

You can turn heads on the road with either your own DIY crafty creativity or with ready-made lighting options. 

If you think your light set-up is particularly inspired, submit it to TriMet’s Bright Ideas contest.


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