How Dangerous is Cycling at Night?

queens lane oxford night

I came across this thought provoking post at Commute by Bike. – Dangers of Cycling at Night

At the moment, in the UK, it starts to get darks from 3.30pm. Most of the time I am commuting in what could be termed ‘night’ or at least reduced visibility. There are a couple of reports which suggest how statistically dangerous night cycling is.

Nearly 60 per cent of all adult fatal bicycle accidents in Florida occur during twilight and night hours although less than three percent of bicycle use takes place at that time.

In many ways, it doesn’t surprise me. When I cycle or drive around Oxford, at least 60% of cyclists either have no lights or are very poorly lighted. Usually, they will be wearing dark clothes.

These are some of the worst mistakes that cyclists make, whilst cycling at night.

  • Assume that because you can see other cars – cars can see you.
  • Having no Lights
  • Having a very flimsy small LED light, often attached to a part of the body.
  • Lights covered by long coats (the cyclist is probably unaware his light is no good)
  • Wearing Dark Clothing.

When I was a student, I didn’t really think about the importance of visibility, but, as I see more accidents and many more near accidents. Cycling at night I feel like there are so many accidents waiting to happen.

The attitude of the police is disappointing. Occasionally (once or twice a year) they have spot checks and fine  cyclists £30. But, if you can produce a receipt for a new pair of lights you get your £30 back. Therefore, there is little to be feared from getting caught (from a financial point of view) The police say they can’t do it more often because they can’t afford to.

As an economist and cyclist I feel this is a mistake. The cost of not using lights is potentially very high (accidents, death e.t.c) Cyclists should be fined at least £80 for riding without lights. This would mean:

  1. At £80 there is a very strong incentive to make sure you always have lights.
  2. Students will say it is a lot of money. Maybe it is, but, how much would you pay not to die in cycling accident at night? If you always have lights, you never have to pay.
  3. Police would get sufficient revenue to justify the cost of mounting spot checks.
  4. There would be one less reason to bash ‘cyclists’ who break the laws of the road.


Photo by: Tejvan – Queens Lane, Oxford (All Soul’s College in the background) – Oxford is beautiful by night, especially on the small lanes where cars are banned.

4 Responses to How Dangerous is Cycling at Night?

  1. James Rai October 1, 2010 at 11:07 am #

    Lights are cheaper than fines!

  2. Jameison January 3, 2010 at 12:46 am #

    Response to Goodfellow’s post:

    You clearly have very well imprinted ideas, but the report cited in this article was an official report. I don’t understand where you got your info from. Being white or of any other skin hue doe not remove any need for proper precautions while cycling.

    While there are obviously some social issues with people of different backgrounds in the U.S society, it should not affect anyone’s readiness and quest for making cycling safer for all.

    I think your post could lead people into a false sense of security.

  3. Rod Goodfellow December 29, 2008 at 1:39 pm #

    The Florida cycling deaths at night comment is misleading.I live in Florida in the winter.The vast majority of the cyclists killed in darkness are black guys who customarily wear black clothes,have no lights and have a different view of the rules of the road from the rest of us,and change direction without looking behind.They are users of bikes (often in poor mechanical condition)as cheap transport rather than keen cyclists.I have not seen a report of a “proper” cyclist being killed at night.


  1. Common Mistakes in Cycling | Cycling UK - December 23, 2008

    [...] When I was a student I used to ride without lights. I think I had stupid ideas like ‘I can’t afford them’. Now I cringe at how I would cycle through town without lights. – How dangerous is cycling at night? [...]

Leave a Reply

3 + = 11