Now that daylight savings time has ended and most of us in the U.S. have “fallen back” to standard time, many more of us face dark commutes home. But – on the bright side – literally – we have daylight again for the commute to work in the morning. The fall back could not have occurred for me at a better time, since I had to be at work earlier than usual on Monday morning and was so glad to have the sun grace my commute in.
But the evening commute is all dark. My route typically takes me through an area of Chicago with many tourists. I found myself grinning from ear to ear upon hearing a couple of businessmen comment to each other, “Look – she’s all lit up like a Christmas Tree” and then to me they said, “There’s no way you won’t be seen.” That’s the point – to be seen and hopefully be safer in the dark. My helmet has a Cateye Opticube headlight strapped to the top and a Planet Bike Superflash secured to the back (with a small kitty collar), along with reflective tape and stickers along the side.
My fellow cyclists get creative when it comes to being seen, and I admired this woman’s hi-vis rear reflectors and lights! What a great use of old CDs.
Yesterday I read a post on the Bicycle Victoria site about visibility and was surprised to read “Riders seem generally have a poor understanding of what makes them visible.” The article went on to state: “Reflective vests, rated highly by many riders, were nowhere near as effective as reflective strips worn on the ankles and knees‹which riders thought poorly of.” And it rated flashing lights as most effective.
I never assume any driver sees me, so I just use a combination of visibility tactics – hi-vis jacket or vest, flashing lights front and back and reflectors.
My next addition to my bike will be a Fiber Flare, which should add even more 360-degree visibiltiy.
In Chicago, it’s the law for cyclists to have a headlight on their bikes after dark and at least a rear reflector. The Active Transportation Alliance recently ran a campaign to raise funds for headlight distribution to cyclists. Don’t be surprised to volunteers out there – flash mob style – in the attempt to equip more than 200 cyclists with free headlights and educate cyclists about staying safe on the street after dark.
If you need some advice as to what the differences between all those lighting choices are, Noah’s recent review of lighting systems should help you assess your lighting needs to get all lit up, too.