Wednesday, November 17, 2010

How I roll when the light gets low

My sister Amy left a comment on the Bike Garden's FaceBook page about wishing that cyclists would wear light-colored clothing. Of course we all know that lighter colors are more easily seen than darker ones at night, but light colored clothing, in my opinion, simply isn't enough. An article in the December issue of Bicycling Magazine points out that someone in dark clothing can be first recognized as a person on a bicycle at 75 feet, while one in fluorescent clothing is seen at 150 feet. But a person in reflective clothing can be recognized as a cyclist as far away as 260 feet. Reflective material that moves (such as that on clothing) is the most effective for alerting drivers.

I don't ride at night. It's just too scary to me. Turn off the sun, add a driver who is tired and distracted at the end of the work day (or worse, one who is coming home from a bar at the end of a work day), put a cyclist on the side of the road, and you have a potential for heartache.

But now that the time change has rolled around again, it is often kind of dusky when I ride home at night from the office. This is compounded by the fact that this time of day is also when traffic is at its heaviest. So I have a dusk-n-dawn bag of tricks I use whenever the sun is low in the sky. At that hour, I don't need to see where I'm going so much as I need it to be seen. I strap a head light on the bike, turn on my permanently mounted tail light to blinky mode, and don some reflective clothing. Here is the kit spread out on a coffee table at home:

I'm not going to name the brands I'm using, since they are kind of high-end, and I don't want people to think you have to spend your retirement savings to be seen. Head lights and reflective clothing can be cobbled up from inexpensive sources found at your local hardware store. A reflective vest, an led flashlight strapped to the handlebars, and a tail light from your local bike shop all can be had for about ~$10-$15 each--less if you are a true thrift-shopper. 


  1. Good for you, Susan. So many cyclists in London seem to think that if they're invisible, you won't hit them.
    They seem to specialise in all-black ensembles with a bicycle light that has all the brilliance of a distant star in a galaxy far far away.

  2. I really appreciate people who wear these bright colored jackets while riding on dark and damp nights. I recently saw int he same night, one bicyclist wearing a black coat and one wearing a yellow with florescent stripes. Guess which one I almost did not see when I made a right hand turn in my car?

  3. A public service announcement to be sure. Reflective clothing is a lifesaver for everyone including the driver who doesn't want to hurt another human being or animal for that matter. I wish the deer in my neighborhood had reflective vests too. :)

    Good information my friend. Now, if all cyclists will just read it. Be careful out there. I worry about the drivers on cell phones.~~Dee


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