Lighting Regulations

Finally we have an answer to one of the most frequently asked questions in the shop. Namely: “Am I allowed to use my lights on flashing mode?”

Well now, the DVLA have issued some proper guidelines, and hopefully the manufacturers will (if they’re not already) produce their lights within them.

Fortunately, the Police use their common sense on most occasions, as after all a bike with any lights is better than one with none, but as the article says, in the event of an accident, there can be serious ramifications if you haven’t followed the letter of the law.

Many thanks to Alison from Bournemouth Hospital for the information.

Lighting Regulations

Abbreviated to RVLR: the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations 1989 (amended in 1994 and 2005) require pedal cycles to have various lights and reflectors fitted, clean and working properly, when being ridden on a public road between sunset and sunrise. Cyclists may also be required to light up in conditions of seriously reduced visibility during the day, but only if they have functional lights already fitted. Lights are not required when the cycle is stationary or being pushed along the roadside.

It has to be said that the fine details of RVLR are seldom enforced; and provided you show some kind of white light in front and red behind you are unlikely to be challenged. If you are involved in a night-time accident however, any slight illegality with respect to your lights or reflectors may be regarded as contributory negligence. The following items are the minimum required, on a bicycle or tricycle, in order to ride it legally at night:

Front Lamp

One is required, showing a white light, positioned centrally or offside, 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 candela.

Rear Lamp

One is required, to show a red light, positioned centrally or offside, between 350mm and 1500mm from the ground, at or near the rear, aligned towards and visible from behind. If capable of emitting a steady light it must be marked as conforming to BS3648, or BS6102/3, or an equivalent EC standard. If capable of emitting only a flashing light, it must emit at least 4 candela.

Rear Reflector

One is required, coloured red, marked BS6102/2 (or equivalent), positioned centrally or offside, between 350mm and 900mm from the ground, at or near the rear, aligned towards and visible from behind.

Pedal Reflectors

Four are required, coloured amber and marked BS6102/2 (or equivalent), positioned so that one is plainly visible to the front and another to the rear of each pedal.

Exceptions and explanations

Age brings privileges. To name but two: cycles manufactured before October 1990 can have any kind of white front lamp that is visible from a reasonable distance, and pre-October 1985 cycles don’t need pedal reflectors.
Cycle trailers need a rear lamp and reflector; sidecars also need a front lamp.

The Euro-friendly clause

Thanks to a European Directive of a few years ago, wherever a British Standard (BS) is referred to, equivalent standards from other EC countries must now also be recognised, but only if they provide an equivalent level of safety etc. It’s not exactly clear which do. However Germany has arguably the strictest cycle lighting laws in Europe so we consider it safe to use equipment that is marked accordingly, with a “K~number”.

It should also be noted that wherever a British Standard is referred to, that reference applies to a specific edition. In the case of BS6102/3, that is the 1986 edition, as amended on 15th April 1995 and again on 1st September 2003. These amendments removed the filament bulb design restrictions, so that lamps may now get their light from LEDs – or indeed anything else!


Dynamo powered lights are legal even though they go out when you stop. That’s allowed so long as you stop on the left. Usually it’s much safer to stay where you are (e.g. in a stationary queue with left-turning traffic filtering up your inside), since most cars do stop for red traffic lights and those that don’t are unlikely to pay more heed to a bike lamp! Nevertheless: dynamos and lamps are now available with reliable back-up (standlight) features that either keep them on or light up a diode instead of the bulb.

Additional lamps and reflectors

Some cyclists like to fit extra lamps and reflectors, in addition to the approved ones, specified above. This is perfectly legal provided they are the correct colour and in an appropriate position. These optional lamps and reflectors do not have to comply with any standards, but it’s illegal to use some designs of lamp or reflector that have specific other uses. You must not, for instance, show a red light at the front, or a white light to the rear, or fit triangular-shaped rear reflectors on anything except a trailer.

The Pedal Cycles (Safety) Regulations (PCSR) ensure that every new bicycle is sold with several extra reflectors, not required by RVLR, but (strangely) does nothing at all to facilitate the fitment of front and rear lamps. These additional reflectors are found on the sides of the wheels, clear white or coloured yellow, and there’s also a “white” reflector on the front of the bike. You are at liberty to remove the surplus side and front reflectors, which in any case are of dubious benefit, but be sure to fit the necessary front and rear lamps.


Thanks to the enactment of  Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 2559: on 23rd October 2005, it finally became legal to have a flashing light on a pedal cycle. Even better: it became possible for a flashing light to be approved, meaning no other light would be needed in that position. And since BS6102/3 does not yet cater for flashing (but is likely to be amended to do so quite soon), approval is for the time being, granted simply on the basis of brightness.

Because DfT very much prefer anything that possibly can be evaluated against a proper technical standard, so to be evaluated: any flashing lamp that is also capable of emitting a steady light is approved only if it conforms with BS6102/3 when switched to steady mode. Since most (probably all) flashing lights do also have a steady mode, and since none of their manufacturers can be bothered to test and mark them to the pernickety standards of one small country on the fringes of Europe, it’s unlikely that any flashing light actually qualifies for approval. But since it became theoretically legal to ride a bike with only flashing lights on it, the Police are nowadays no more likely to quibble its legal status than one equipped with steady lights – unless they’re rather dim or involved in an accident of course.


Guidance about lights on pedal bicycles

The use of lighting and reflectors on pedal bicycles is regulated under the Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989, as amended. The most recent amendment is Statutory Instrument SI 2005 No. 2559 which came into force on October 23rd 2005.
The main effect of the new Regulations was to permit flashing lights on pedal cycles. The flashing lights do however have to conform to certain requirements which are elaborated below.

Obligatory Lighting and Reflectors

Any cycle which is used during the hours of darkness or during periods of poor visibility MUST be fitted with the following:
– white front light
- red rear light
- red rear reflector
- amber/yellow pedal reflectors – front and rear on each pedal.
The lamps may be steady or flashing, or a mixture – e.g. steady at the front and flashing at the rear. A steady light is recommended at the front when the cycle is used in areas without good street lighting.

If either of the lights is capable of emitting a steady light, then it must conform to BS 6102-3 and be marked accordingly, even if used in flashing mode.

Purely flashing lights are not required to conform to BS6102-3, but the flash rate must be between 60 and 240 equal flashes per minute (1-4 per second) and the luminous intensity must be at least 4 candela. (This should be advised by the manufacturer).
The pedal reflectors and rear reflector must conform to BS 6102-2.

Lights and reflectors not conforming to the BS, but conforming to a corresponding standard of another EC country and marked accordingly, are considered to comply as long as that standard provides an equivalent level of safety.

Lights are NOT required to be fitted on a bicycle at the point of sale – but IF they are fitted, then they must comply with these regulations.

Optional lamps and reflectors

Additional lighting to the above mentioned obligatory lights is permitted under certain conditions:
– It must not dazzle other road users
- It must be the correct colour (white to front, red to rear)
- If it flashes it must conform to the required flash rate (1-4 equal flashes per second)

Optional lights are not required to conform to BS 6102-3 and there is no minimum level of intensity. So for example, on the rear of the cycle a cyclist may wish to have both a steady red lamp which conforms to BS 6102-3 and an additional flashing lamp which is not meeting the minimum level of 4 candela.

Exemptions from the Regulations

The only case of exemption from regulations is for cycles which are used ONLY in good visibility during daytime. These cycles are not required to be fitted with lights.

Application and enforcement of the Regulations

The Regulations concern the construction and use of bicycles. Bicycle and lamp manufacturers, importers, retailers and riders should all ensure that they are familiar with the law.

For non-lighting construction and use aspects of bicycle safety such as brakes, other regulations are in force – The Pedal Cycles (Construction and Use) Regulations 1983 (Statutory Instrument 1983 No. 1176).

In addition, at the point of first sale the bicycle must comply with The Pedal Bicycles (Safety) Regulations 2003 (Statutory Instrument 2003 No.1101).

The Regulations apply to mainland Great Britain but not Northern Ireland. They are made under powers provided by the Road Traffic Act 1988. Enforcement is a matter for the Police.

Additional information and advice

Copies of Regulations are available from:
The Stationery Office
The Publications Centre
PO Box 276

Tel: 0870 600 5522


Virtual Bookstore:
Further information and advice about the regulations may be obtained from:

Transport Technology and Standards Division 6
The Department for Transport
Zone 2/06
Great Minster House
76 Marsham Street

Tel: 020 7944 2078

Fax: 020 7944 2196

Issued November 2005

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