Today is the first workday since Daylight Savings Time ended, so almost all of us will be riding home after dark tonight. You need to be seen! What's that you say - you can see well enough by streetlight/moonlight/starlight to get home? Maybe so, but riding in the dark is about 25% seeing where you're going and 75% being seen by others on the road. So make sure the people driving 2000 pounds of steel can see you way before they get near you.
Reflectors Alone Don't Cut It: Most bikes come with reflectors, but these tend to be too small, too dim, and, worst, only shine when light is pointed directly at them (so a car pretty much has to be heading right for you to have a chance of seeing your reflectors). Lights can be seen from much further away.
Headlights And Tail Lights Are A Great Start: That's a huge improvement over reflectors alone, but think about this: most lights cannot be seen from the side. So you are only visible to cars approaching from side streets when they are coming right at you!
The Total Visibility Solution: Ideally, you want to be visible from all angles. This does not mean wrapping yourself in holiday lights or looking like a disco ball - there are many options to satisfy both safety and style. Massachusetts actually has a law about bicyclist visibility, and it provides a good checklist:
- White front light (it must be white, but it can be solid or flashing)
- Red rear light or reflector (red only, and forget the reflector and get a light)
- Pedal reflectors or reflective ankle straps (old-school pedals come with reflectors, ankle straps do double duty by keeping your pants away from your dirty chain, and some very stylish cycling shoes have reflectors built in)
- Reflectors or reflective material visible from the side (lots of options, including wheel reflectors, reflective tires, jackets, vests, and reflective tape and stickers that can go on almost anything)
You don't have to dress in fluorescent yellow clothes, but don't be a bike ninja - there are no extra points for stealth.
Check your local bike shop for lights and other safety gear. Found a great deal? Post it here so everyone can light up!