What is the minimum for reflective gear and lights one should use to be safe on the roads as a cyclist?
I want this thread to be a place where we can exchange our different ideas to benefit one another as the days get shorter and we continue to training into the winter months. My hope is that we at least eliminate some of the risk involved in these activities.
I use a light on the front of my bike and the back. I also use a reflective ankle strap on my left leg.
What do you use?
Rear TWO CatEyes TL-LD1100 (http://www.cateye.com/en/product_detail/550) on flash mode; I get the most comments and complements on these - they are VERY bright, even in the daytime
On my helmet in the rear two very small Planet Bike Spok Tail (http://ecom1.planetbike.com/3043.html) LEDs on flash mode.
I only use the Nightrider when light level is low (dusk and dawn). I use a reflective runner's vest when dark or some other bright clothing in the daylight.
My commute is only about 30-45 minutes, approximately 3 days a week + a 2-4 hour ride on the weekend now that it's fall. I have only changed the battery in my Planet Bike Spoks once in 3 months and not at all on the Cateye or the other Planet Bike Blace. The MiNewt I charge about every 3-4 times I ride.
Good question and the previous rider will live a while with his set up. I don't like to think of minimums. Over do it with the lights. I use a high end light on my bars and usually a head light as well. Nightrider products for me but others are good as well. I always keep a small inexpensive handle bar light on as well and usually have that as the blinker and will turn that on first saving power for the big battery lights so I can stay out longer. They should also be easily removed to use as a flashlight if you have a mechanical. If my main digital headlight fails I still have a modest light to get me home. Slower but safely none the less.
Also, put the reflectors back on your spokes. They actually work. Or get those motion sensitive blinker lights that screw onto the valve stems. You may need a presta adapter to do this. Did you know, I've been told, that 70% of the night hits are from side impact. Ok, even if half that, illumination from the side is crucial.
Get reflective clothing. The booties, jackets, gloves even, or the sidewalls of tires now illuminate when struck upon by car beams or other bike lights.
Also, to ride safely, ride a mountain bike. Avoid the road bike. Your position is too prone if you hit a crack or bump. Ride with others and the group light is almost religious.
I'm amazed at how my night rides are safer as cars stop when they see all the blinkers and strange head light beams. And you can tell a car is coming from their lights. My biggest concern now is hitting a deer. I saw deer on five consecutive evening and one morning ride in September here in Oakland County which is a suburban but sometimes wooded area. Their population is growing big time. Skunks are a risk too but not for a collision. You should be alert to the reflection in their eyes.
I look forward to other replies as good as the previous one. Use more than one red rear light. Consider you could lose one or have it burn out. I keep one on my saddle bag, on the helmet and my seat post as well.
I've been commuting year-round 18+ years.
Always have at least one tail light on steady mode and one on flashing...the flashing gets motorists' attention, but the human eye cannot accurately judge distance to a flashing light...the steady light will give the motorist something to fix on and know when and how much to slow down and/or pull to the side.
Don't go overboard buying a fancy headlight...a $400 light will not be substantially safer than a $150 one. The quality will not be much better, either...most lights will fail due to weak switches, broken wires, or worn out batteries, not a failure of the light itself. I've owned over a dozen lights from all different manufacturers.
The fact is that riding at night is not as safe as riding in the daytime...slow down and ride within the beam of your headlight...if you can't stop within the distance you can see, then you're going too fast or need a brighter light.
Remember, there are a hundred "good" reasons not to ride...just do it.
Well, this leads to a disagreement. Convert. is generally correct but I don't concur on several points. The more expensive lights have greater luminosity, have a broader path of coverage and the run times are usually longer. Lately the technology has improved so that $200 lights are pretty darn good and lightweight but the stronger the light the safer you are. The point about having a sustained rear red blinking light is consistent with some new research that states a steady light is safer. Depth of field is relevant to trailing autos. Can you get by with a less expensive light? Of course. But if the simple fact was that the less expensive light was as good, the more expensive lights would not sell.
Batteries do wear out. I get mine rebuilt about every other year. You can usually tell when they are failing by diminished run time. Use side liglhts and reflectors and as the earlier rider noted, tape on the bike if you don't mind the aesthetic disruption. Illuminating clothing is important to use if you ride frequently. Where I ride it is much more quiet at night. I commuted home Monday evening and was not passed by even one car on the ten mile route. I seek out dirt roads when I can. Approaching cars announce they are coming with thier headlights. I may not know a car is coming in the daytime. Now, with electric cars, they are nearly silent so relying on hearing is less beneficial than in the past. I agree, whatever light you have, stay within its limits. I also agree, that finding reasons not to ride is very easy. FInd a reason to ride and have fun.
I actually think it's somewhat safer when I ride in the dark. As mentioned above, if you have a good lighting setup, cars will notice you much more than during the day, when the drivers are only looking in the traffic lanes for cars.
I agree with avoiding the minimum. If you don't have $400+ to spend on fancy lighting systems, you can do what I did and make your own. Admittedly, I'm a nerd and a cyclist, so it wasn't too hard. I made my setup years ago. I bought a replacement headlight (back when there were standard sizes), the headlight connector, a trailer/motorhome style tail light and some wire from Pep Boys (total cost was less than $25). An admittedly heavy 12V sealed lead acid battery and charger (http://www.batterymart.com/) for $40 (now more like $50). I stole a bracket from a cheap headlight and made a bottle cage battery holder (the hardest part by far), so the whole thing cost me about $75 for a light that is as bright as a car headlight and runs for about 3 hours. I also have an LED blinky light for a few bucks and that's my lighting setup.
I've since put reflective tape on the rims and cranks, and have reflective piping on my jacket.
I'm surprised by the claim that 70% of bike-car accidents are side impacts! Are they the result of cyclists running red lights? Or do they count cars turning right and cutting off a bike as a side impact (happened to me twice).
I'd love to see your set up. I love the real deal as you've created it. You know, even the reflectors that come with the bikes and ride in the spokes work very well for car headlights to illuminate. I agree about the safety. So long as you are on a mtn bike where you aren't as prone if you hit a crack, and may I guess you are in San Diego? where the roads have to be better than here in SE Michigan near Detroit, a rider is vulnerable to invisible hits even in the daylight hours. When I'm night riding, particularly when with cohorts, and we do a neat Tuesday night ride from Birmingham, Michigan which is a nice upscale town and get upwards of 40 riders as many train for the ICEMAN COMETH Race in early November each year, the cars all seem to slow down or even stop when they see us. Either because we are novelty or they think we are aliens that landed!
As far as the side impact stat I'm sorry I don't have the reference but my guess is that your personal experience is a good indication of what goes on. How many times have you been riding along and been passed and the car that passes then turns in front of you? Gad. Of course, when we take drivers ed, how much discussion pertains to driving in the vicinity of cyclists. How many questions on your license exam? A comparison between state on this subject would be interesting.
Sorry, haven't checked back - yes, I am in San Diego, and yes, the roads here are pretty good for the most part. My commute is 45 miles round trip (3x a week) so I ride a road bike with wider tires. I've memorized the location of all the potholes and bumps and cracks on my route, so it's not bad at all to be on a road bike.
I'm glad that cyclists here in SD aren't considered aliens, it's not too surprising to see other cyclists out here. Still second class road users though.
I can't count the number of times I've been passed by a car and then have it turn right in front of me. I've learned to anticipate that now, and I just assume that most car drivers aren't aware that a bike can go 20+mph (normally these people haven't been on a bike since 4th grade).
Regarding driver's ed, I remember once (many years ago now, when I was younger and foolish), I was in the left turn only lane on my bike and the car behind me honked and said "You have no right to be out here". I looked around, startled, and said "Who, me?" and when the driver yelled back, we had a brief "Yes I do" "No you don't" discussion that ended when I said "Know the law before you open your mouth". When the light turned green, I made sure that I gave him plenty of room and was glad there was a lot of other traffic around. But your basic driver has no idea of bicycling rules (unfortunately, a significant number of bike riders don't either).
It is almost amazing that the problems cyclists experience are generally universal. It doesn't seem to matter if one is in Southern California or the rust belt. Another problem is that oftentimes the police don't know the law as well. Here in Michigan the League of Michigan Bicyclists is working on a program that will educate the police as to laws and the basic needs of cyclists.
I suppose many of us have been in that argument with know it all drivers. Last summer I was riding with Tom O'Rourke, age 73. We were buzzed pretty close by a car that stopped at the red light ahead of us. There were no oncoming cars at the time so he certainly could have given us more room. The passenger side window was open and I rolled up next to him and said in a soft voice, "Excuse me sir but do you realize how close you came to killing us back there?" Of course instead of an apology he responded with some inane retort about how we shouldn't ride on the road and that we didn't belong there. Of course I reminded him that we were legally entitled to ride, that if he was concerned about our safety he could have given us room when he went by and then verbally expressed his concern about our welfare instead of physically trying to "teach us a lesson" by coming close to us and I reminded him that assaulting us might actually land him in jail and how the judge in a case such as that wouldn't think so kindly of his actions if he had killed a former cycling Olympian. Tom was 17 years old in 1952 when he represented the US in Helsinki.
My tolerance is tested frequently on the road. What I call the "LANCE EFFECT" wore off this last summer and drivers were not as respectful to riders as they had been the two or three previous seasons. In addition, during the Stanley Cup playoffs, I am always weary of riding if the Red Wings lost the game the night before. In fact I send emails out warning my cohort club members to ride more cautiously when the Wings lose. I'm not sure why but it doesn't seem to be so bad after a Pistons loss....
I've been slacking off the bike this past week because of work issues and familial events but even though it is cold here we still ride when we can.
OK, enough about front and tail lights....the more the merrier on that subject. Here's a few things you should also have along:
Knowledge about how to fix a flat tire (in the dark)
A spare tube(s) and a pump.
a tool kit (bike shops have good ones)
A LED headlamp. Don't buy a overpriced one at a sporting goods store. Go to Home Depot or a discount store.....good ones cost 10-15 bucks. If you have trouble, you'll be able to see what you're trying to fix.
.....and of course a cell phone.
I ride at night in Minneapolis where it is cold, windy, snowing, and dark at 4:30PM.....ahhhh San Diego......
The best to you all.
Good morning BORIS,
Home Depot brand? They have an LED headlight for under $20 that compares to a Minewt 2 from Niterider which is about $185? Hard to believe but when I'm at HD I'll check it out.
Tire levers in that pack too. As I mentioned in my letter I use a small light as a back up and that comes off the bar should I need a mini flashlight for repairs. Knocking on wood but I've not yet had a flat in the dark.
Here in Michigan our weather is almost as bad. Stay warm.
If you go to Google and search for "LED headlamps", you'll find a bunch. Walgreens has one for $5.99. I paid less than $10 for mine....forget where. I have a couple. They are great for when you go to a motel and try to read with their 40 watt bulbs in the lamps. LED hardware has come down in price. Of course, if you want to go to REI and spend $75 or more........ Check this out:
My first rule for riding in the dark is to never forget that I am the most important piece of safety equipment -- I follow the rule of riding as if I'm invisible and I don't take any risks.
I use lots of lights on my bike -- some to see the road and some to be seen. I also believe that car drivers will take me more seriously if I'm covered in lights, even if they're overkill for safety purposes. I use a steady light on my helmet to illuminate the road in front of me, to be able to signal drivers, and to comply with the legal requirement for a steady front light. On my handlebars, I use a flashing light to attract attention. On the rear, I have a two light rear red light, one flashing and one steady. I have a flashing red light on the back of my helmet. I also use a flashing red light on each arm near my wrist; I use these for signalling turns. Then for fun, and to attract attention from the side, I have tire flys on each wheel. I also sewed two strip type lights to the back of my neoprene shoe covers. And I've put a variety of reflective stickers on my bike frame and pedals.