Road Respect: Be seen, be safe

Excellent safety combination of a reflective helmet and rearview mirror to see traffic coming from behind, Ivins, Utah, Oct. 3, 2016 | Photo by Tim Tabor, St. George News

FEATURE —  As the days become noticeably shorter, I’m struggling to respond to my normal 6 a.m. wake-up call when the message from the darkness is “No, no, not yet, no – surely it can’t be time.” The light-infused summer warmth already seems a distant memory, and for cyclists, cold and dark mean several things: get out the warmer windproof layers and make sure you stand out.

For riding in the dark or in other conditions when visibility is difficult, Utah law requires cyclists to have an operational white headlight, red taillight or reflector and side reflectors that are visible for at least 500 feet. And these are just the basics in the quest to be seen.

Several features fit into what one might call a “visibility plan.” Clothing, lights, reflectors and defensive riding all contribute to staying safe at night or during the edges of the day. I’ve even been noticing a greater number of cyclists with bright clothing and active lights during the day (the word “notice” indicates it’s working).

When devising your own visibility plan, consider the following gear suggestions and other tips for this ideal late fall/early winter riding season.

Blackburn 2Fer convertible head/taillight running at $24.95 at Bicycles Unlimited. October 1, 2016. Bicycles Unlimited, St. George. | Photo by Kristine Crandall, St. George News
Blackburn 2Fer convertible head/taillight running at $24.95 at Bicycles Unlimited, St. George, Utah, Oct. 1, 2016 | Photo by Kristine Crandall, St. George News

Lights

The advancement in light technology is hard to believe, especially for someone like me who hasn’t ridden much at night since college. My gear still includes an old Cateye headlight that takes AA batteries and a clunky blinking light that straps on to my leg.

Now we can say hello to the lightweight, rechargeable and bright and goodbye to heavy, awkward and dim.

I recently went into Bicycles Unlimited for a tour of the bike light world – illuminating it was indeed. Rechargeable headlights range anywhere from 300 to 1600 lumens, costing $49 to $300.

Just 10 years ago, a 100-lumen rechargeable headlight was $200. The effectiveness of these in lighting one’s way opens up new possibilities on dark roads and trails.

Taillights are supremely important since cyclists who are riding on roads are supposed to be going in the same direction as traffic, with motorists coming up behind them. These lights typically flash red. Many models only weigh a few ounces, with the ability to be used in different locations on the bike or on a helmet. Some headlight models also have the option of helmet mounting.

One light that really caught my eye is the Blackburn 2Fer. At $24.95, it is a versatile strap-on light that has settings for both headlight and taillight use. And it comes with a USB cord for recharging.

Check out this video for a telling comparison of riding at night without taillights versus riding with them.

Apparel

There is an amazing variety of reflective, brightly colored clothing on the market for cyclists these days. In addition to neon yellow or green colors, strategic reflective striping and shapes are used to generate a striking appearance.

As an example, Arrowhere makes vests and jackets with a large directional arrow pattern on the back alerting drivers to stay left. These come in various styles for different weather conditions, ranging in price from $45 to $89.

Arrowhere jacket with reflective striping and arrow shape. $89. October 1, 2016. Bicycles Unlimited, St. George | Photo by Kristine Crandall, St. George News
Arrowhere jacket with reflective striping and arrow shape for $89 at Bicycles Unlimited, St. George, Utah, Oct. 1, 2016 | Photo by Kristine Crandall, St. George News

Another practical wearable item is a reflective leg band, which offers 360-degree visibility. One such band made by Jogalite can be seen up to 1,200 feet away at night and costs $6.49.

Smart Riding

Borrowing the car-oriented “defensive driving” strategy works very well for cyclists.

As we know from driving, it’s no fun this time of year heading into the sun just before sunset and after sunrise. If possible, adjust your cycling route or schedule to avoid being directly in the sun at those times when motorist visibility is compromised.

After all is said and done in terms of being as visible as possible, when mingling with traffic in the dark, Bicycles Unlimited owner Mark McLaughlin offered the following simple precautionary strategy: “I always just assume the motorist can’t see me.”

Put yourself in a motorist’s shoes. Compared with daytime, cyclists riding at night aren’t very common, and as such, they aren’t expected.

Overall, there is no need to be shy when riding a bike. Put yourself out there. Be seen and be safe. Motorists, pedestrians and other cyclists will be glad you are unmistakable.

Road Respect Utah logo, used with permission; St. George News
Road Respect Utah logo, used with permission; St. George News

Resources

St. George News Road Respect column is developed with the Southern Utah Bicycle Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy organization devoted to making cycling safe and convenient for everyone who rides a bike. Opinions stated are those of the columnist and may not be representative of St. George News.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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