Thursday, October 30, 2014

Daylight Saving & Being Seen at Night

(Disclaimer- we understand that not everyone is comfortable biking at night for various reasons, but we want to shed some light on safety when you do)

Daylight Saving is coming up this weekend and as you may have noticed, daylight is getting shorter.  What does this mean to you, as a biker? First and foremost- you must be visible. As a cyclists, you want motorists, other bikers, and pedestrians to see you. We wouldn't want you to abandon your bike for the San Diego winter because you feel ill prepared or even worse, you ride without proper equipment.

Think about this- when you are in a car at night, what are some of the signs that there is a bicyclist ahead on the road?
·      Blinking red light?
·      Pedal reflectors?
·      Ankle straps- reflective bands attached at ankle?
·      Reflectors- on the wheels or placed on the front or rear of the bike?
·      Reflective vest?
·      Headlight?

Thinking about these devices, it only makes sense that you would want to practice the same, so you can be visible. Sure, the more reflectivity you have on you and your bike will make you “that bike dork,” but you will be visible and that is the most important part about night riding with motorists around you.

In California (VC Section 21201), it is mandatory for bicyclists at night to have a minimum of-
·      A white front light from at least 300ft away
·      A red rear reflector
·      Pedal reflectors- or reflectivity built into cycling shoes or reflective ankle straps
·      Wheel reflectors- or reflective sidewalls on tires

At the bare minimum, the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition recommends-
Front and rear lights, a reflective high visibility vest, reflective ankle straps, and wheel reflectors.  Some additional ways to increase visibility at night would be to install reflective tape to various points on your bike and helmet, additional lights (in the event that your primary lights fail), and eye wear to help navigate when facing oncoming motorist headlights.

The blinking red taillight is a great start to increase visibility. They are inexpensive, small, and really attract alertness from motorists. They should not be used as the sole component in night time riding visibility as they are just part of a larger package. A small taillight can be lost in a sea of lights found in an urban environment. One note, blinking lights are also very effective for visibility when riding during the day as well.  

Reflective ankle straps are a great visibility device as the up and down motions reflected back to the motorist are synonymous with a biker. The added benefit of the ankle straps is that they offer 360-degrees of reflectivity, compared to the limited scope of the pedal reflectors. They also keep your pants out of your chain and derailleur!

A high visibility, reflective vest is a large part of being seen at night. It provides the largest sections of reflectivity visible from all sides. It is also highly visible for day time riding. If you need any convincing about wearing a reflective vest, just drive past a road construction site at night and notice how visible reflective vests are. For the fashion conscious cyclists, there are options for vests, not just the standard mesh or the construction worker ones.

Where can you find this equipment? The best place to look is at your local bicycle shop. Talk to them about your needs and see what recommendations they offer, they should be informative about what is best for you and be able to outfit you. Otherwise, there is an internet full of sources for lights and reflective gear, and opinions. Remember, shop local when you can.

All of these recommendations are intended to make you more visible at night, but do not address illuminating your path at night to see obstacles and hazards. Nor do they address the differences in riding at night and practices that you must take to be safe. That will be in the next installments of Smart Ways to Bicycle.

No comments:

Post a Comment