It’s Time To Light Up!


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!

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7 Responses to It’s Time To Light Up!

  1. Eli Damon November 2, 2009 at 2:22 pm #

    I am skeptical of how useful or important some of these accessories are but I would say that a headlight and taillight are absolutely necessary. Use them not only in darkness but also in other low-visibility conditions such as rain, snow, and fog. I also highly recommend a florescent, reflective vest. It provides a large, omnidirectional surface and is easy to put on, take off, and store with your bike. Also, it makes you more conspicuous even in daylight, when lights and reflectors are invisible. I wear one, along with my helmet, as part of my everyday gear. I prefer the ones they make for cops and construction workers over those sold as bicycle accessories.

  2. SJ-Globe-Lady November 3, 2009 at 3:35 pm #

    Ditto on the florescent gear – I recently got a windproof jacket that’s florescent yellow, and honestly, I don’t know why I waited so long. I’m also a fan of having TWO red lights in back: one on my helmet and one on my frame. Since I also drive I see this all from both sides, and riders have NO IDEA how invisible they are, starting at dusk. Don’t wait till the sun has just about set to turn your lights on or use any gear that increases your visibility. Drivers seem to pay less and less attention to what’s beyond where they are at the moment, so anything you can do to increase that is key.

  3. ODB November 5, 2009 at 9:22 am #

    I found a couple great deals on lights.

    These are appear to be”frogs” knock-offs, and you get two for $4.73 shipped. Shipping is slow, but they work great.

    This is an extremely bright headlight for the money:—p-30929.aspx
    Been working great for several months now. (Caveats: you have to do a quick superglue job to the mounting bracket to stop it from swiveling left to right. Won’t fit my bike with OS bars)

  4. Larry Meiselman January 14, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

    In response to this need, we developed a Bike Helmet Safety Kits for kids that has also gained some attention from adult riders. Our kits consist of decals made from patented photoluminescent technology (Glow in the Dark) and 3M reflective material. The kits are simple to apply and contain 4 high intensity glowing decals and 4 reflective decals. Apply one to each side of the bike helmet to increase your night time visibility (with and without headlights illuminating you). We have had success in marketing to schools, hospitals, and service organizations who run child bike safety programs. We are developing adult versions to cover helmets and bike frames. Our website should be live by 1/23/10 in case you want additional information.

  5. steve October 20, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

    there are no better lights out there for road riding and commuting than those made by in NH. pricey, but worth every penny. the brightest thing out there; cars routinely wait to pass until the oncoming lane is clear, then pass by changing lanes. oncoming traffic pulls over to the right and slows down. i’ve had motorcycle drivers slow down next to me and say, “awesome lights!”. at intersections, drivers roll down their windows to compliment the brightness of these lights. when traffic is slow and i’m passing on the right, cars move over to the left to allow me by.

    these lights tell drivers that you are serious about using the public roads, that you take safety seriously and demand consideration and respect.

    sorry if this is too much of an advertisement, but if you value your safety out there, there is no better investment to make, IMHO.


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