Can I claim if I was injured cycling at night without lights?

Cyclists view of cycling at night without any lights on

Cycling without lights or reflectors at night complicates accident claims but, while illegal, does not necessarily prevent you claiming compensation if injured. We explain the legal intricacies of night cycling accidents, the consequences of not using bicycle lights, and the potential for claiming injury compensation.

What does the law say about cycling at night without lights?

The Highway Code

Most cyclists learn about road safety laws from the Highway Code. The Highway Code is a set of rules, some of which are legal requirements and others that are included for guidance.

Where the Code refers to a specific law, it will clearly state (in bold and caps) that cyclists MUST or MUST NOT adhere to the rule.

If the rule is published for guidance purposes only (i.e. not legally enforceable), the rule will use less authoritative phrases like 'you should'.

According to Section 60 of the Highway Code Rule 60:

'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.'

The specifications of lights and reflectors, where to fit them, and when to use them, are defined by the Road Vehicle Lighting Regulations (RVLR). The regulations basically require your bike lights to be clean and in working order.

The finer details of the RVLR are rarely enforced and using a white front light red rear light is usually sufficient. However, any slight illegality with respect to lights and reflectors may impact negatively on any injury compensation you might be awarded.

See also:

How does the Highway Code relate to a road injury claim?

Are there any exceptions to the rules?

There are a few exceptions allowing bikes:

  • manufactured before October 1990 to have any type of white front lamp fitted - as long as it is visible from a reasonable distance, and the lights do not need to conform to BS6102/3 or equivalent EC standard.
  • made before 1st October 1985 an exemption from the need to have pedal reflectors.
  • to be stationary or be pushed along the roadside without lights.

What's the legal definition of 'night'?

Night (the 'hours of darkness') is defined as the period between 30 minutes after sunset and 30 minutes before sunrise.

However, cyclists MUST have reflectors fitted and white front and red rear lights lit at all times between sunset and sunrise. Drivers must also switch on their sidelights during this period and their headlights during the hours of darkness.

Although it would be wise to display lights at times of for or reduced visibility, and arguably at all times in the day, there is no legal requirement for cyclists to do so.

    Contributory negligence

    If you're injured while cycling at night without lights, the defendant's solicitor may offer a defence of 'contributory negligence', where you're seen as partly responsible for your injury because you took inadequate measures to make your self visible. This legal principle applies when an injured party hasn't sufficiently minimised their risk of injury.

    The court may decide that if you had been using bike lights you would have been more visible and the accident may have been avoided or your injuries would be less severe.

    Another common example of contributory negligence is when a cyclist is injured when not wearing a helmet.

    If contributory negligence is successfully argued by the defendant, your compensation may be reduced under a split liability agreement reflecting your share of responsibility in the accident.

    If the defendant successfully puts up a contributory negligence defence, your compensation award would be subject to a split liability agreement.

    How does a split liability agreement work?

    A split liability agreement proportionately adjusts your compensation based on your level of responsibility for the accident. For instance, if cycling without lights at night is deemed to have contributed to your accident, the court will reduce your compensation to match your level of fault.

    For example:

    if liability is agreed on a 75:25 basis in your favour, it means that the defendant accepts 75% liability for the accident and you accept 25% liability. In this example, you would receive 75% of the overall claim value.

    If liability is agreed on a 75:25 basis in favour of the defendant, it means you accept 75% liability for the accident and the defendant accepts 25% responsibility. In this example, the claimant would receive 25% of the overall value of the claim.

    Read more:

    How do split liability agreements work?

    Conclusion

    Most cyclists would avoid taking the risk of cycling at night without lights. It may be that your lights have run out of batteries or failed, tempting you to run the gauntlet to get to work or home. Considering the risk, it would be ill-advised. Even if you are not injured yourself, your lack of visibility could lead to a pedestrian or other road user being injured.

    Ignorance of the law cannot be offered as a defence. Even if you did not know about the cycle lighting regulations, you are still obliged to comply with them.

    Riding at night without lights may not prevent you from making an injury claim, but it could make it more difficult to get the full amount of compensation you need when recovering from an injury.

    See also:

    How do I make a cycling injury claim?

    I was injured when cycling on the pavement - can I claim?

    Can I claim if I was injured cycling without a bike helmet?

    Is it illegal to ride a bicycle when drunk?

    Should I take out cycle insurance?

    What happened?

    If you were injured as a cyclist, or you were involved in a collision with a cyclist, click on the icons below to read more about claiming:

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    Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor

    Author:
    Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor