Bike Lights: Riding with What’s Required Has Benefits

A bike at night silhouetted against headlights, which emphasizes how tricky visibility can be in Oregon and how bicyclists can protect themselves through the use of bike lights and bright or reflective clothing.

I was biking home at dusk in northeast Portland, and I turned onto a particularly narrow street. I could see a car approaching, though at first it was several blocks away. Both of us slowed down as we got close to each other, and then I noticed that the driver was rolling down her window. She said something and at first I couldn’t hear it—at first I thought she might have been upset with me—but then she repeated herself.

“I love your bike light!”

“Oh,” I said, relieved she stopped to deliver a positive message. “Thanks!”

“I just love it. I could see you from two blocks away!”

As she drove away, I thought that was a pretty easy way to make a driver happy to meet a cyclist on the road.

Her comment also reminded me that visibility can be tricky for drivers in Portland, even at the best of times. For bicyclists in Oregon, lighting equipment must always be used during limited visibility conditions. A white light must be visible from at least 500 feet in front of the bike, and a red light or reflector must be visible from all distances up to 600 feet to the rear of the bike.  ORS 815.280(2)(c). Although the days are lengthening and the evening commute has been getting increasingly lighter, it’s still difficult for motorists to see cyclists and pedestrians in the roadway.

This experience was a great reminder that my bike light not only meets the requirement of a statute, but lets others out there on the road see me—and see me well.

So, I’m charging up my bike lights and getting ready for my next ride home.