On busy roads with distracted drivers, daytime bike lights are an essential accessory. Here we explain the why and the how of selecting the best lights to stay in sight.

Why every cyclist needs daytime lights

Why take the time to mount daytime cycling lights?

We all know that we should use bike lights at night. But what's not so apparent is why we should use them on daytime rides under a blue sky. Daytime lights help reduce accidents, and the best designs ensure increased safety with intricate flashing patterns that direct light efficiently. Here we dive deep on the psychology, the technology and fill you in on our very own daytime lights at Bookman.

Bike lights aren't just for nights

There was a time when it was uncool to spot daytime running lights on a bike, but in more recent times, the cycling community has done a U-turn on the matter.

The reason is that drivers sometimes get distracted on our ever-more crowded roads. And who could blame them? Where they once dealt with occasional billboards, they now have smartphones and the whole world at their fingertips. 

Cyclists face a constant struggle in the battle to remain visible and recognizable to other road users. The problem stems from the fact that driving a car is often a tedious task. And once we learn to drive, the human brain automates our driving to avoid over-burdening the conscious mind. As a result, cyclists need to employ something that'll grab the attention of a driver from a distance and pull them out of autopilot.

Science shows that one of the best ways to overcome this selective attention is with daytime cycling lights. But any old light won't do, we need lights with specific characteristics to increase our collective safety on the road.

The science on bike lights 

A 2013 study carried out at Aalborg University in Denmark, analysed the accident rates of 3,845 cyclists over a one-year period. In the study, approximately half of the participants used permanent daylight lights, while the other half didn't.

Researchers recorded the number of accidents per month per rider and found that accident rates for those using daytime lights were nineteen per cent lower than for those riding without bike lights. They concluded that the use of "permanent bicycle lights significantly improves traffic safety for cyclists."

So with the science clear, what daytime lights should you opt for?

Choosing daytime lights. Keep a finger on the daytime pulse 

Lumens are the official rating for determining light intensity in the cycling industry. And while lumens are important, they aren't the be-all and end-all. Our visibility as cyclists doesn't correlate to total light, but more with how our brains recognize and process the light. The secret is to capture the attention of road users, something best achieved by using a flashing pattern over steady lighting.

In a 2017 study carried out at Clemson University in North Carolina, researchers quantified the benefits of utilising lights with flashing patterns over those running in steady mode. They found that "the mean response distance for the flashing seat post configuration was 3.1 times greater than those for the steady seat post configuration."

A flashing pattern makes you more visible on the road by overcoming the "selective attention" that inhibits many drivers. By providing an eye-catching stimulus, blinking patterns help ensure increased visibility not only from behind, or head-on, but they also increase side visibility.

Where do cycling accidents occur most often 

Most accidents involving cyclists occur from behind on straight segments of road. The conditions most likely to provoke such accidents are when drivers have their vision obscured by a low sun directly in front. A rear light is of paramount importance in such cases, and for it to catch the attention of approaching motorists, a flashing pattern is much more effective than steady mode operation.

The second most likely place for accidents to occur is turn-offs and junctions. As drivers take an instinctive, and often all too short look to their side, it's here where blinking front lights make a tremendous difference in catching their attention before they pull out.

The characteristics of a good daytime light

While high lumen output and blinking patterns are essential, so too are details such as ease of mounting, battery life, charge time, weatherproofing, and beam patterns.

At Bookman, our Block Lights tick all the boxes. As some of the best lights on the market, they come in a sturdy yet compact enclosure and encompass a sleek lens for optimal light distribution and beam pattern. An easy-to-use intuitive strap makes for simple yet secure mounting and dismounting.

Inside, a Lithium-ion battery ensures long-lasting run times of up to twenty-five hours and a quick charge time of only two hours. With both front and rear light options available in four colours, they produce fifty and eighteen lumens respectively. Our lights also come complete with four different programmable modes of operation, including that all-important blink mode crucial for enhanced safety on the road.

Engineering Visibility: What else can riders do to stay visible?

While a good set of front and rear lights is your best investment, several other factors can increase visibility on the road. 

High-visibility clothing is particularly useful, and it's always more effective on moving parts such as shoes, overshoes, gloves and arm warmers. Another often overlooked factor is that of choosing clothing that contrasts with the environment.

At Bookman, our Eclipse range consists of wearable light clips that attach securely to bags and clothing. With each equipped with both white and red LEDs, it allows you to configure it as a front or rear light depending on your needs. Science also shows that lights attached to moving body parts will always capture the attention of approaching motorists over lights mounted statically.

Be seen, stay safe

Many cyclists overestimate their visibility on the road. But put yourself in the shoes of a driver approaching from behind heading into bright sunlight, and the reality becomes somewhat different. As cyclists, we're vulnerable; we're small fry on highways populated with multi-tonne trucks and cars all intent on getting from A to B with minimal fuss. It's our duty to stand out, to avoid mishaps and potential tragedies, and the best way to achieve this is with a set of quality daytime bike lights at all times.

Madsen JCO, Andersen T, Lahrmann HS (2013) Safety effects of permanent running lights for bicycles: a controlled experiment. Accident Analysis & Prevention. 50: 820-829.

Edewaard DE, Fekety DK, Szubski EC, Tyrell RA (2018) The conspicuity benefits of bicycle taillights and high visibility clothing in daylight. Manuscript in preparation