CYCLISTS are putting lives at risk by riding without lights in the New Forest.

Police stopped 125 cyclists in Forest towns last week in a bid to get them to use lights and high-visibility clothing in the dark.

Sgt Phil Lamb said: “Cyclists who ride their bikes without lights in the dark are a hazard to themselves and other road users.

“They can also find themselves issued with fixed-penalty tickets or even appearing in court.”

The week-long operation was carried out in five towns at peak morning travel times with the final purge in New Milton on Friday.

Officers handed out safety advice and high-visibility jackets, rucksack covers or snap bands to help them to be seen.

The AA’s head of road safety, Andrew Howard, said in the last quarter there was a one per cent increase in the number of accidents involving cyclists, which may indicate more people are taking to two wheels.

He welcomed the police initiative of giving out reflective kit and said: “Be seen and be safe is the message.”

Hampshire county councillor Mel Kendal said: “It’s so easy to make sure you’re visible in the dark, and it could save your life. Taking a few simple precautions will mean you’re much more visible to drivers.”

New Forest Cycling Club secretary Peter Weaver said: “There is no reason not to be seen nowadays. Good lighting and bright clothing go together. Bike lights work better than ever before and are cheap to buy and to use.

“Batteries need replacing when they start to run down. It’s no use going out in the rain, or in fog, at night hoping a driver will see a dim glow from a dirt-covered lens.

“A small investment in front and back lights will help keep you safe.

“You not only risk your own life, but could also blight somebody else’s life if you cause an injury.”