Light Up The Night!

With Daylight Savings Time behind us, it getting dark a lot earlier. This means it’s that time again – our annual “Light up the Night” blog post! Even though we put out a riding at night post every year, I don’t want you to think that this post is pro-forma.  We write this annual post because being visible matters. A lot.

At the very least, use a front and rear light. Massachusetts law requires that you have a front light and rear reflector, but a rear light is even better. Usually lights come in pairs anyway. When picking out lights for your bike, it is 25% about seeing where you’re going and 75% about being seen by others on the road.

After dark, it’s important to make sure motorists can see you way before they get near you. I usually know to turn my lights on by the street lights coming on. As law states you must light up your bike no later than 30 minutes after sundown.

Lights are too expensive, you say? Well, if you are a MassBike Member, be sure to check out our bike shop partners who will give you a discount on bike gear.

Installing both a front and rear light is a great first step, but why stop there? When you go through an intersection, it’s equally important to be visible from the sides. Here are our suggestions for what else you need to light up the night:

  1. Reflective or lighted ankle straps, or pedal reflectors: Some pedals come with reflectors. While both types of ankle straps do double duty by keeping your pants away from your dirty chain, lighted ones provide more visibility.
  2. Reflective Clothing: Examples include bicycling-specific jackets with day-glo accents and or a construction worker-style vest. Both will provide the necessary sideways visibility with their neon colors and/or reflective striping.
  3. Other Reflective Accessories: Wheel reflectors, reflective tires, and reflective tape and stickers that can go on almost any part of your bicycle are other options, especially if you might forget a vest or jacket at home. There are also great lights that can be added to your spokes or bike frame that are both a bit more fun and eye catching then traditional wheel reflectors.
  4. Reflective, But Fashionable If you’re afraid of not being quite chic enough, then not to worry! There is a clear reflective spray paint that they produce that can make anything light up. Also check out some of these more “Cycle Chic” reflective options.

You wouldn’t drive a car after dark without lights, so why would you ride a bike that way? Remember, you don’t get extra points for being a bike ninja. Be seen and stay safe!

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3 Responses to Light Up The Night!

  1. Alan Wright November 8, 2012 at 5:30 pm #

    Thanks for the post. I would like to ask that you add in future posts on visibility, that it is illegal in Massachusetts to have a red light on the front of the bike, and for good reason, as it confuses everyone approaching what direction their are going in. I regularly see bikers with red lights on their handlebars.

    • Austin November 9, 2012 at 9:46 am #

      Alan, Thank you for the comment, you bring up a very good point. Just like any other vehicle on the road the color of your lights informs those around you which direction you are going. So when installing your lights use a red light in the rear and white light in front.

  2. Steve November 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm #

    While being visible to traffic is very important I’d like to see you write about the dangers of riding with extreme lights on you bike while on bike paths like the Minuteman at night. I actually love riding the path in the dark it’s very surreal at night. However over the course of the last few years more and more people are using supper bright lights at night.

    The light actually blinds the rider or pedestrian traveling in the other direction, making it impossible for them to see in front of themselves. I will normally try to put my hands over my light a bit when passing people in the opposite direction, but if you don’t want to take a hand off the handle bar to do that then you could always use a dimmer light on the path or angle it down to the ground on the path and tip it back up for street riding.

    A light in the face at night on a dark path is scarier to me then a pitch black path.

    Thanks

    Steve