The following is an extract from my OutSPOKEn column in the current September/October edition of Southern California Bicyclist magazine:
Be Seen, Bike lights - they are not just for riding at night anymore
It is important for cyclists to do everything possible to be seen on the road. When a driver hits a cyclist invariably their first words are, “I didn’t see the bike.” It does not reduce the injury or lessen the pain whatsoever if you were in the right and the driver should have paid better attention. Cyclists, as a matter of survival, need to do whatever we can to make ourselves visible. My regular readers know I have in the past railed against the new fad for black jerseys—Team Sky are you listening? A black jersey with a blue stripe may be wonderful for racing on closed roads, but don’t sell them to cyclists. Cyclists need to wear multi colored bright jerseys or neon colored vests. Forget subtlety and think “in your face”. Avoid jerseys that are black or blue-grey which can blend in live with the color of asphalt.
But a bright and obnoxious jersey may not be enough. I discovered that when I got tapped by a car in December 2011 wearing a bright orange and blue Garmin-Transitions argyle kit. Sometimes nothing works, but let us try to improve our chances. Until recently I did not use lights on my bike. I do not ride at night and I figured I did not need them. Then I noticed other riders were so much more visible when they used small bright blinking lights- red in the back and white in front. This was so even during the day, and especially on an overcast or foggy morning. I now use a rechargeable white blinking light that easily hooks on to my handlebar using an integrated rubber strap and I use red blinking lights that attaches to my seat and another that hooks on to the back of my seat post. These lights are readily available, fairly inexpensive and are quite bright. The lights I am talking about are to get a driver’s attention, and not to light up the road for night riding. There are other lighting systems for night riding some of which are remarkably bright and cast a wider beam to light up the road ahead.
Someone I know who does double centuries and thus finds herself riding in pre-dawn conditions also mounts small blinking lights on top of her helmet, a white one facing forward and a red one pointed rearwards. (See the picture). Someone else I know attaches a red blinking light to her pony tail as she rides on the back of a tandem. In the set up I have with the lights mounted on the bike the vehicle immediately in front or behind me will see my lights. The next vehicle in either direction would not. But if the lights are mounted on top of a helmet the next car behind or in oncoming traffic will also see the flashing light and realize that something is there before they pass the car that is behind you that perhaps has appropriately slowed after seeing you, or in the case of oncoming traffic turn left right in front of you.
Finally, years ago cyclists used to be able to buy a two C-cell flashlight with a white light facing forward and a red light facing back. The light came with a strap to place around your lower leg. I had one. The set up was uncomfortable, a bit heavy and unreliable, but it did produce a very unusual and noticeable impact as the lights went up and down with each peddle stroke. It would seem to me that with the small and featherweight lights that are now available strapping one on to a lower leg or even clipping one on to the back of one of your shoes may be an effective option. If any reader knows of such a product, please send me an email to tell me about it.
Finally, if you have not already done so, please subscribe to my site by clicking on the word “Subscribe” by my byline just under the headline. It costs you nothing and you will receive an email notice whenever I post a new article about cycling or bike racing.