Now that summer is kind of here, I bet there are plenty of riders who like to take a ride around town in the evening. I know I like to take a leisurely stroll on my bike, just to see what is going on in the neighborhood or head down to the village for some dinner.
As the early evening turns to nightfall (though this applies to any “hours of darkness”), it is important to remain visible while on your bike. Under Wisconsin law (Wis. Stat. §347.489(1)), a person may not operate a bike during the hours of darkness unless:
1) The bicycle is equipped, or the operator is wearing, a lamp emitting a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front of the bicycle; and
2) The bicycle is equipped with a red reflector that has a diameter of at least 2 inches of surface area.
Of interesting note (maybe just interesting to a nerd like me- yes, I finally admit it) is that “a lamp emitting a red or flashing amber light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in addition to but not in lieu of the red reflector.”
So, even if the salesman at the bike shop gets you to spend some extra dough on a red rear light, just know that using the red rear light does not mean you can now remove the red reflector. But hey, the red reflector comes with almost every bike- score!
Why get the red rear light? To be more visible of course. Think of all the things that pass by you from behind that do not emit light that would reflect of your rear red reflector (say that 3 times fast). Like a runner, a cyclist with no front light on, an automobile driver with no front lights on and/or no working front lights, etc.
In the end, as I always note, it is important to do as much as you can to stay safe while riding outside (or inside sometimes). The use of lights is just another way to make you visible to others. Also, you will avoid a possible fine of not more than $20 (Wis. Stat. §347.50(5)), which is about the cost of a set of lights.