Can You Get a Ticket for Riding a Bike Without Lights?

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We talk a lot about safety at Bikes Haven. And that’s because we strongly believe that cycling safely is one of the ways to get an exceptional cycling experience. 

We’ve written about bike helmets, tested and reviewed mountain bike kneepads, and recommended that you invest in the best bike bells. We even went as far as to recommend using cycling phone mounts to avoid distraction, not to mention wearing the right pair of cycling gloves for your safety. 

But is an accessory like bike lights necessary? Or can you just ride your bike fine even if you don’t have lights fixed on the handlebar and at the back of your two-wheeled steed?

More so, does the law demand having bike lights installed? And can you get a ticket for cycling without lights? 

In a way, I think lights are a must-have, whether there are federal, state, or municipal laws or otherwise. 

Is it Illegal to Ride a Bike without Lights?  

Here’s a question you need to ask yourself: 

How does it even feel to ride my bike without lights at night?  

Let’s be honest: 

It feels weird and insecure. 

You can’t see clearly, and other road users can’t spot you either. The worst that could happen is an accident, which can leave either you seriously injured or maybe even worse. 

From a legal standpoint, it’s illegal to ride your bike without lights. According to this post, cyclists in the United States must not only have lights but also reflectors for safety. 

So before you take your bike to the streets, make sure, that besides dressing up for a safe right, your bike has lights and reflectors. 

Already, many manufacturers work hard to make sure that every new bike they design has reflectors. But old bikes don’t have these, unfortunately, so you’ll have to buy them. Add the best bike lights to the reflector and you’ll always be safe. 

Classifications of Bike Lighting

We can classify this into two categories: 

  • Active lighting 
  • Passive lighting

Let’s look at each category even further. 

1. Active Lighting

Active lighting refers to the light you turn on. They’re what we’re used to, but they don’t come fixed on your bike at all. You have to buy your own, from a brand of your choice, and then have them fixed on your bike before you can take it to the streets. 

Bike lights are relatively cheap. So even if you’re on a budget, you can get a model that will fit you just fine. Just remember that the number of lumens will vary from brand to brand. It will also depend on the cost of the item. 

Usually, motorists can see lights with 10 to 100 lumens. That means they should be able to notice your presence on the road easily. Front lights have their brightness levels starting at 10, and this can go up to hundreds or even thousands of lumens. The brighter the bike lights, the easier it is to see. 

While the law requires you to fix lights on your bike, it doesn’t state how many lights you should have. So it’s up to you to decide. While that’s the case, you need to make sure the light you buy is visible from at least five hundred feet away from other road users. 

2. Passive Lighting

Passive lighting has nothing to do with actual light. Rather, it focuses wholly on the reflectors, which are bound in bike laws in the United States. Mostly, the law requires that you have reflectors on the rear, and you can also customize your bike by adding more reflectors on different parts of your bike if you wish.

Unlike actual bike lights, there aren’t strict laws that require you to have reflectors on your bike. That’s because alone, they don’t work too well. And besides, they may not be as effective in dark streets or areas with low lights. As such, you can’t rely on them for full visibility. 

There’s a reason why motorists wear reflectors and still have their front and rear lights on. That’s because, on their own, reflectors aren’t always effective. They can only act as a backup in the event that your rear light goes off without you noticing. But you can’t rely on them for full immunity. 

What are the Charges for Not Using Bike Lights?

Let’s get one thing straight here: 

Authorities in your state won’t punish you for riding without bike lights in broad daylight. But you can get a ticket if you cycle in areas with low light if you don’t have lights on your bike. 

As for the fine, you can get a penalty of a hundred dollars or more. In some places, you’ll have to take a mandatory traffic school to lift the ticket. This applies if you don’t want to pay the fine. 

Getting a ticket isn’t the worst consequence of riding a bike without lights. 

So what is? 

You can possibly get into an accident. Remember, riding without lights is like shooting in the dark and waiting for an aim. You simply can’t see where you’re going. And if you happen to run into a car by bad luck, you’ll more than likely be blamed for the accident by the driver’s insurance company, even if the accident wasn’t your fault. 

Things to Keep in Mind

It’s not mandatory to have lights at the back of your bike, but we think it’s important to get one if you can. If you choose to include the rear one, it must be red. Also, we suggest that the light should be steady all the time unless your state considers a bike to be a vehicle. 

Many cyclists have become fond of using the bike light at night. But that’s not exactly how it should be. To be clear, you should have your bike lights on in low lights. And make sure you turn them on at least an hour before dark and an hour after sunrise. 

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