Published on by

Flat batteries, broken lamp, slipping dynamo - however hard you try to keep you bicycle lights in good working order, inevitably they fail you when it’s dark, you’re miles from home and the shops are closed. Do you risk riding home without lights? Not if it’s up to the Dutch Cyclists’ Union. Their solution is simple: a bike light vending machine.
The bike light vending machine at Amsterdam Centraal train station. Photo © Holland-Cycling.comThe bike light vending machine at Amsterdam Centraal train station. Photo ©

Increase safety

Midwinter is approaching and the days are rapidly getting shorter, but the dark isn’t going to keep Dutch from commuting to work or school by bike - even if one of their lights are not working. Cycling in the dark or when visibility is bad without lights is not only dangerous, it’s also illegal in Holland.

The Dutch Cyclists’ Union regularly campaigns to encourage awareness of the dangers of riding a bike after dark without proper lights. Part of this year’s I want to see you campaign is the introduction of the bike light vending machine in strategic locations. The idea behind this initiative is that if cyclists can purchase a simple emergency light on the spot, the number of cyclists with lights - and thus road safety - will increase.

Best locations

“The most interesting places for the vending machines are locations where at least two thousand bikes are parked,” says Arjen Bijlsma, producer of the bike light vending machines.

At the moment there are only eight vending machines, but the Dutch Cyclists’ Union hopes the number will increase. They are lobbying with local councils, schools and universities, sport centres, libraries and other locations visited by large numbers of cyclists in the evening, to get them to place bike light vending machines. An alternative is to offer the bike lights in existing vending machines, as Dutch rail is considering to start doing in 2014.

Emergencies only

Although the Dutch Cyclists’ Union encourages the simple emergency lights, they don’t consider it the safest way of cycling through the dark. The small lights give little light and the batteries don’t last very long and should only be used to see you home safely in case of emergency. “With larger lights you are more visible. And in the long run it’s cheaper and better for the environment.”

For more on cycling safety read: Traffic rules & regulations for cyclists

Requirements for bicycle lights and reflectors

Government campaign poster. [br]Photo © Holland-Cycling.comGovernment campaign poster.
Photo ©

Bicycle lights:

  • Front light - white or yellow
  • Back light - red
  • Lights have to shine straight ahead
  • Flashing lights are not allowed
  • Loose lights (i.e. not fixed to the bike) are allowed if properly visible and attached to your upper body, not to your head or limbs

Bicycle reflectors:

  • Red reflector (not triangular) - on the back of the bicycle
  • Yellow reflectors - on the pedals
  • White or yellow reflective tyres