The end of October – and the clocks going back – is the traditional time for ‘road safety campaigns’ to start reminding people to get lights for their bike, or to make sure they’re fitted.
In my view a large part of the problem is that the vast majority of bikes sold in Britain for everyday use – not for sport, or leisure – do not come fitted with lights as standard. Lights are an optional extra that people have to go and out choose for themselves, and then fit to their bikes. It’s hardly surprising that lots of people don’t bother to do this, or that – come the autumn – the (cheap) lights they have bought have disappeared, or have flat batteries, or have stopped working altogether.
So the problem of people cycling around with lights could be fixed at source if bikes that were aimed at ‘commuters’, or for daily transport cycling, actually came with lights fitted as standard.
With that in mind, I’ve made a short (and hopefully not too rambling) video about the dynamo lighting set-up on my Dutch bike, and how convenient it is.
As I say in the video, what’s great about these lights is that I’ve never once had to think about them since I got the bike. They’re a permanent part of it, so I don’t have to worry about taking them on and off. More than that, because they’re powered by a dynamo in the front hub, I don’t even have to worry about charging batteries. The lights will work every time I come to use the bike, guaranteed. The lighting set-up is entirely hassle-free.
When I make this point about ease of use – and it’s usually at this time of year – a consistent objection is that ‘UK cycling consumers’ don’t want lights forced on them. Apparently they all want to buy a bike without lights (which is pretty much the standard option in UK bike shops) and then buy some additional lights (which will almost certainly be battery-powered, given that fitting dynamo lights after purchase is much more arduous, expensive and technical) which they have to fit themselves.
I don’t find this explanation very convincing. While it is true that ‘cycling enthusiasts’ – people interested in cycling already – may want to customise their bike and add things to it after purchase, your average consumer will want something that is convenient, and that just works, without any extra hassle. By analogy, people don’t go to a car dealership and expect to buy cars without headlights, and then having to go and buy lights separately and add them to their cars.
Lighting systems for utility cycling should work in precisely the same way – they should be an integral part of the bike that requires no extra effort on the part of the user. Since I bought my Dutch bike five years ago, I’ve always had lights that worked, without the risk of losing them, or worrying about charging them. The lights just work when the bike moves. It should be this easy for everyone else who steps into a British bike shop and wants a bike for everyday use.