Riding at night – more visible, more careful

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This lit-up bike may be a little overkill, but she’s got the right idea for riding at night. The main idea is to be visible.

I must admit that I have never ridden at night other than to my summer graveyard-shift job during college. But it’s mostly intuitive to know that a cyclist is at increased risk unless he/she is extremely visible to motorists. Besides having the lights and clothing for maximum visibility, the cyclist must be more conscious than usual about riding predictably and defensively.

Let’s begin with lights: Strong headlights and large blinking taillights; lights on top of your helmet since the taller the light, the easier it is to see you; new 360-degree lights whereby you can be well seen from any direction: http://www.orfos.bike/

Reflective clothing, reflectors in the wheels, and reflectors facing forward and behind are also mandatory for your visibility and resulting safety.

Riding predictably includes staying steady in your spot on the road, not swerving in and out around parked cars, and strictly obeying the rules of the road. If sidewalk cycling is allowed where you live, you must slow WAY down or stop at every intersection, and either ride across carefully if you’re on deserted streets or walk across the intersection like a pedestrian if there are cars around.

I’m always aghast when I see cyclists riding on the wrong side of the road during daylight, but at night it seems like suicide. Why, because it’s usually the same riders who don’t know enough to ride on the correct side of the road who also ride without lights or reflective clothing.

A nice development has been high-tech reflective clothing or bike strips, some with LED lights. New companies are offering fashionable reflective clothing for the ride-to-work-at-night crowd. Here are twos companies setting the trend: http://vespertinenyc.com/ and http://www.ridewithfiks.com/ .

If you are a fast cyclist riding in a city or with other vehicles, you should slow down to be more visible and predictable. And ALL night cyclists should ride even more defensively than they normally do – expect the unexpected, give way when normally you might not, and assume you’re not going to be seen.

As I said, I don’t ride at night. But for seven years, my cold-weather and rain jacket has been a reflective yellow wind breaker. I realize it’s old-style, but in inclement weather it allows me to be as visible as possible. In my book, two of the four photos of me riding have me in that yellow wind breaker. I’m actually surprised it has lasted so long.

If you have not yet ordered your copy of Head Over Wheels, hesitate no longer. (“He who hesitates is lost.”) http://www.amazon.com/dp/1620064987/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

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