On a fine summer evening, I was riding behind my lovely girlfriend. No complaints about the view…
But what I also noticed was how little I could actually see. She had a taillight, but it was a small one. With just a single point of light blinking, it was hard to see much of her even from a few feet away.
Light your bike!
—by Dan Schmidt
Drivers are not looking for bikes. It’s normal human thinking to expect others to do the same things we do. So if I am driving a car, I expect you to drive a car. I may well see you, but it might not register, because I am looking for cars. I expect them, I fear them, so I perceive them. Bikes are not the focus—until it’s too late.
Bike lights are a tool to overcome the perceptual bias of drivers. You don’t use them because you ride poorly, or because you owe anything to the automobiles or their drivers, you use them because getting hit really hurts.
I went to the shop, and I bought a Planet Bike taillight for my girlfriend. It has settings for continuous red light, and blinking red, with a white strobe flash. Flashing lights are more noticeable, and the batteries last longer.
As to my own bike, on the front, I have a Cateye headlamp with 5 LEDs. A small strobe will work as well for safety from cars, but this one gives me a better view of the road. In my spokes I have a red and a blue blinking light. A headlamp (such as for hiking) can be worn front or back. Most have blinky settings.
Make time to have someone ride behind you at night. Find out how visible you really are. You could guess, but you can’t really afford to be wrong.
Dan Schmidt is a bodyworker and dancer who lives and works in downtown Salt Lake City. He sold his car earlier this year, making the bicycle his main mode of transportation. www.somadan.com