Visibility Means Safety

Almost one in five accidents involving cyclists in Germany happens in twilight or dark conditions. Cyclists should therefore make sure to be visible, say DEKRA accident researchers.

  • Cyclists are spotted more easily with retroreflective elements
  • Switch on lights in time when dusk sets in

In Germany, more than 16,000 cyclists were injured in 2019 in crashes occurring at night, at dusk or dawn. According to the official statistics, almost 3,000 of them sustained severe injuries, 89 cyclists were killed. 90 percent of nightly crashes involving cyclists happened in built-up areas.

“Light from streetlamps, luminous advertising or shop windows is not enough to make cyclists visible in time, especially for car drivers”, says Luigi Ancona from DEKRA Accident Research. “Without their own sources of light as well as reflectors, cyclists are in high risk at night.”

Backlight and Reflections impede visibility
“One often forgets about the fact that car drivers are often blinded by the lights from oncoming vehicles. Add to that the diversion by a variety of light sources, as well as reflections on wet street surfaces. An ill-lighted cyclist offers little contrast in these conditions and is hard to see”, says the accident researcher. “To be in traffic on an unlighted bike after dark is extremely careless and almost suicidal.”

In their own safety interest, cyclists should make sure that, in addition to passive lighting equipment like reflectors, which are mandatory in many countries, also the active ones – head- and taillights – are there and are working. They should, of course, switched on in time. Lighting also helps in bad weather – rain, fog, hazy conditions – for cyclists not to be overlooked.

Easy and effective: Wear high-visibility vest
Another safety factor on a bicycle is eye-catching, high-contrast clothing with retroreflective elements. As easy as it is effective, cyclists can put on high-visibility vests known as a car accessory and safety feature in the building industry. Cycling clothes are being offered in a wide selection with big retroreflective areas, for example in fluorescent orange or yellow. Clothes like these, as well as bright-colored shoes stand out in a car’s headlights from a distance. “Eye-catching clothing and good lighting in the dark are half a life insurance for cyclists”, says accident researcher Ancona.

Bright LED lamps can be seen from great distances
For the headlight, a strong bright LED lamp is recommended. It can be seen from a great distance and lights the road well. Modern systems also offer additional features like daytime running light and upper beam lighting. To avoid blinding others, the LED lamp should not be positioned too high. This can easily be checked against a wall or garage door.

Battery-powered lights offer the advantage that they also work when the bike is stationary, making waiting at intersections safer. Riders must not forget, however, to charge them or carry spare batteries. In contrast, dynamo hub systems offer an unbeatable plus: You always have them with you, and they never run low.

More information on the safety of cyclists, among other thing, can be found in DEKRA’s 2020 Road Safety Report “Mobility on two wheels” at