What Are the UK Laws and Requirements for Lights on E-bikes?January 17, 2023
It goes without saying that there are no specific laws or requirements for lights or reflectors on e-bikes, but there are laws and requirements for lights on bicycles. Provided your e-bike complies with UK laws and regulations it does fit under the “bicycle” category. So today I thought we would take a look at the letter of the law and try and understand some of the dated terminologies behind it.
When it comes to the highway code on lights and reflectors it says: “At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85). White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen. Flashing lights are permitted but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp.”
Lets break this down a little bit, because “at night” means “Lights and reflectors are required on a pedal cycle only between sunset and sunrise.” anytime between that you DON’T have to have them. And “Lights and reflectors are not required when the cycle is stationary or being pushed along the roadside.” plus, it is a requirement for them to be “clean and working properly”.
When it comes to that said front light the law says “At least one lamp is required, showing a white light, positioned centrally or offside (the right-hand side of the bike), up to 1500mm from the ground, aligned towards and visible from the front. If capable of emitting a steady light, it must be marked as conforming to BS6102/3 or an equivalent EC standard. If capable of emitting only a flashing light, it must emit at least 4 candelas.” – this means you are not allowed the helmet lights like some people wear as they would be above the “1500mm” requirement. And you are probably wondering what a “candelas.” is!
A “candelas.” in the old talk is the equivalent to 12.57 lumens, so roughly 60 lumens minimum. And while it is not a law it is suggested that it is no brighter than 600 lumens as it could be a danger to drivers heading towards you.
OK, so you should have lights on your bike, but the wording “Flashing lights are permitted” also comes with some caveats. The 2005 RVLR amendment to the highway code means that it is now legal to have a flashing light on a pedal cycle, provided it flashes between 60 and 240 times per minute (1 – 4Hz). Many bicycle lights have slower flashing modes to save power which is (on paper anyway) illegal, so you do need to have it on “fast flash” mode in which it appears to be mostly on for obvious reasons.
The same flashing restriction goes for the rear light and a suggested maximum brightness of 200 lumens.
While it is hard to get your head around some of these laws, requirements and suggestions (especially when you get into the nitty gritty of the wording and meaning) the easiest way to think about them is to make sure you can be seen by other road users and pedestrians. Do you have a 10,000-lumen bike light? Maybe tilt it downwards, don’t have reflectors? Make sure you have lights!
When it comes to lights on our e-bike we are lucky enough to have them built in and that is often more than good enough, but the easier to see you are, the safer you will be, even if that means you are outside of the suggestions the law states.