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Be seen at night

I was recently in downtown Charleston for a Saturday evening event, and walking back to the car park at around 10:00 pm. I was pleased to see a great many people riding bikes; at the same time I was dismayed that most of them were riding without lights.

Apart from being against the law, a person has to be crazy to ride in the dark without lights. There is a big enough danger of being hit by a car in the daylight, but in the dark? At least give a driver a fighting chance to see you before you become a hood ornament.

Lights are available at any bike store, and even stores like Target and Wal-Mart have them for as low as twenty bucks for a front and rear light.

I often ride early morning soon after 6:00 am. when it is still dark. I use front and rear lights, with a solid red light on my bike, and an extra flashing red light clipped to the rear pocket of my jersey.

One little tip I would like to pass on; I found the batteries in my front light vibrate loose and the light would go out as a result.

A piece of masking tape around the batteries takes care of the problem. (Left.)

Also I recently found some reflective ankle bands at a local Dick's Sporting Goods Store. (Pictured top.) They were in the shoe department, and were actually made for runners.

When I started wearing these I noticed immediately, car drivers gave me a lot more room when passing. Moving reflectors on pedals or ankles are very effective.

Velcro fastening, they would double nicely to hold pant legs in place for anyone commuting to work in regular clothes. The cost was around eight dollars.

Speaking of pant legs and commuting; here is a handy device called “Leg Shield.” Made to go around your right lower leg, (Picture above.) it prevents chain grease from getting all over your Khakis and you arrive at your work place looking clean and sharp.

Remember, be safe out there and be seen, especially at night.



Reader Comments (9)


I live in NH, and spend a lot of the year riding in the dark. I firmly believe in making myself visible to car drivers......most of my ride is in the pitch darkness these days.

Rear lights are easy - most LED-based lights will do. The cheap ones at Target and WalMart are fine, but I use the Planet Bike SuperFlash, which has an especially bright 'strobing' light. I also use a steady red light on the back (in addition). Through the winter I;ll have at least two tail lights - sometimes three.

Headlamps come in two classes - 'lights to be seen in' and 'lights to see with'. Most cheap headlamps belong to the 'to be seen in' category. They're there to make sure that the cars ahead of you to notice you. Again, having a blinking one and a steady one is a good idea.

Since I ride for miles in the pitch blackness, I also have two headlamps that are 'to see with'. One is a B&M Ixon IQ (40 Lux, battery powered), and the other is my Schmidt Edelux (80 lux). With these two, I can cut through an oncoming car's headlights.

Along with this I use reflective strips on my ankles, and hands (so that my signals can be seen by cars) and also a reflective vest. All these have ANSI-approved reflective bands - clear in headlights at over 200 yards.

These seem to work for my sort of riding. Not everyone needs to be as crazy about this as I am, but it's a small price to pay for the increased safety.

October 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYohann

I live in Mountain View, California, and the number of unlit bikers is preposterous. Walking around at night is taking your life in your hands - you're more likely to be whacked by a stealth biker than anything else.

The worst place, believe it or not, is Stanford University where the number of students who use bicycle lights can be counted on one hand. To make things worse they ride around campus wearing dark clothing at speeds frequently exceeding 25 mph. I wonder how they live long enough to graduate.

October 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber

James -

When I was at Ohio State, it was the same: crazy fast riding, no lights, and and dark clothing. I think it must be the feeling that youth have, of being indestructible. :) Those days are long gone, in my case.

I like reading about 'Bike Ninjas' on the Yehuda Moon strips. Reminds me of my daily commute.

The sad things is that the bike ninjas here in NH are also the most likely people to be weaving in and out of parked cars - it's a wonder that more people don't get hit out here. I think it's the lack of traffic that keeps them safe.

Dave - thanks for posting these safety-related posts. The more people who try to spread the word, the better.

October 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterYohann

Good post Dave. I just finished the Deloitte Ride Across Britain (Lands End to John o"Groats in 9 days) and it was mandatory to have lights. There are some great lightweight unobtrusive ones available these days too.

PS i bet you didn't fit the rear brake cable in that last pic!

October 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJW

Speaking of well lit rides - I just finished crewing for the Furnace Creek 508. From 6:00 pm until 7:00 am (what the race directors deem "darkness") every single bicycle has to be trailed (followed) by a vehicle with flashing yellow lights, a huge red triangle AND reflective letters that report they are following a bicycle.

This year, for the first time, the bicycles were allowed to ascend Towne Pass solo (after dark) due to the very slow ascent times (it's 9 miles at 9 + percent grade) - otherwise, we trailed our rider constantly.

When you factor in texting / drinking drivers and the incredible distractions that exist (Have you seen some of the information / GPS screens in the new cars? They're huge!) I'm surprised anyone survives bicycling / walking / anything outside of a 4,500 pound steel protective cage.

October 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber

First, thank you Yohann for sending me over to that time suck called Yehuda Moon. I have to stay away from those and XKCD.....

I work at Stanford and rode home through campus last night and only saw a handful of students with out lights. Early in the quarter so the batteries still worked:-) I use my bike to get around campus and rarely see 25 mph riders. Oblivious to their surroundings riders, most certainly....

For my commute a run a blinking light on my handle bars to be seen and emergency back up for the 1400 lumen lamp on my helmet. I run a 100 lumen solid red rear and a planet bike blinker also. I have an planet bike armband that is reflective and blinks. I still get drivers who look right at me and then turn in front of me. Mass matters.....

I get annoyed at riders who don't use lights at night. $20 will get you a decent set to be seen. You'll spend that much getting your car washed and it won't help your safety....


October 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

Hi Dave,
Just wanted to tell you and others about the Serfas "Thunderbolt" lights. They are a little pricey ($40-45) each but are USB rechargeable, have different modes (still, flashing, high and low beam etc...), will mount to most bikes h-bars, seat posts, stays etc... with molded rubberized cord type mounts and best of all are VERY BRIGHT !!!!! On the high beam mode a single charge lasts 1 1/2 to 2 hrs.They are also very compact and light weight. I have just updated my bike and lost three pounds of light gear. They are well worth a look. Ride safe everyone.

October 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

I don't go out regularly at night but always have a tail light (bike planet super flash) and a Costco light that is available in a 3 pack for $20. It is a Cree 3 with 150 lum. which is more than enough to see. It has the typical three mode lighting. Very cost effective with batteries that last several hours. If I know I will be riding in the dark I will add a "to be seen" light in flash mode. It is hard not to see many of these lights. I often wonder if there is a point where it doesn't matter, others will not see you regardless of how much visibility you provide short of being a light house.

October 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSJX426

Jog-a-light also sells reflective bands (about $4 each) that might be better than the Nathan (I believe) ones you got at Dick's. They also got favorable comments at a rando check-in.

October 22, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterdavep
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