Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Let There Be Light

One of the basic corner stones of bicycle safety is the ability to be seen.
  So naturally it should be part of the 4 core CAN-BIKE concepts, that being VISIBILITY.
At this point let me remind you of the other three
     Manoeuvrability, Predictability, and Communication.
OR   See, Be Seen, Be Heard, Be Predictable
  One of the first things most people do when they enter their residence is turn on a light - so we can see. We get into our vehicles and the day time running lights automatically come on, so others can see us while the vehicle is moving.
Cycling should be no different. Lighting, proper lighting, effective lighting, should be one of your first considerations when going for a ride.
In British Columbia lights are required for cyclists operating 1/2 hour before sunset and 1/2 hour after sunrise.
About 2% of traffic fatalities are bicyclists. Some of the characteristics of these fatalities are as follows:
                94% of bicyclists killed in traffic crashes were 16 years of age or older; 
                34% of fatally injured bicyclists were struck by a vehicle in darkness; 
                19% of bicyclists killed in traffic crashes were struck by a heavy truck.

Given that a third of fatalities occur at night, enforcement campaigns should also detect bicyclists riding at night without a light on.

 Information tid bit One - if you check the BC Motor Vehicle Act it actually reads - 1/2 hour after sunset and 1/2 hour before sunrise.
 I suspect this is a typo that no one has caught previously.

I am a firm believer that if a cyclist is out and moving, then they should be lit up as much as possible.
Last week I was in downtown Vancouver after dark and the majority of the cyclist moving in the separated bike lanes had lights, and had them on.
Contrast that with today just after sunset along the Haney bypass a lone female cyclist is riding along the side of the road, with traffic, but with no lights at all.  She had stopped at an intersection, and was waiting to cross.  You couldn’t see her in the semi dark, until the last second.  I noticed in my mirror that she found a hole in traffic and rode across, and continued riding.
When you consider most cycling incidents occur at intersections, in the later afternoon, and when the cyclist has no lights…..  She is a recipe for disaster, or much worse.

Bike lights used to be a generator based unit that attached to the front fork and the generator unit sat against the front wheel and gave some light as long as the bike was moving.  When you stopped moving then the light went out. We then went to a battery type system.  That battery was the size of the water bottle and heavy. The battery’s weight was almost the weight of today’s bikes, and took hours to recharge for a short duration of light. Better, but not great, at least you had lights when you stopped moving. The light seemed to last for the first half of the trip then ran out of charge for the ride home, and took all the next day to recharge.
Technology has brought smaller, brighter, lighter, and more powerful lights and lighting systems.

Information Tidbit Two:
                  Lumen's is the term used to measure the candle power of some lights.
                  The higher the lumen's number the more powerful the light and the more light is                                                               generated.

 Bike lights come in all varieties of size, lumen's and attachment points. So a light that has a rating at 200 lumen's is a bright light.  The light I have mounted on my helmet is 250 lumen's. It lights my way allowing me to see what is ahead, illuminates the road in front of me, and allows others around me to see me and react accordingly.  Moreover other road users can see it from a distance.
I have the white light on the front of my helmet, along with a white light attached to the front handle bars on my bike, and a red light to the rear of my bike and on my helmet.
BC requires cyclists to have a red light to the rear that can be seen at a distance of 150 meters.  

Lumen's is one measurement, know lets add another – wattage.  A number of the current rear lights are measured in wattage.  I have a one watt rear light, AAA battery powered. The red rear light on my helmet is the rechargeable type.
The newest light I just purchased has two .5 watt lights to it, still one watt, just distributed a little differently.  My current one watt cherry bomb rear light shows up in downtown Vancouver, through the light pollution that comes with a busy downtown core. That is quite something when you consider the lights along Dunsmuir Street.  I have been able to follow the same light as mine on a bike up to three blocks away.  That same light was see able at a kilometre on the highway out here in Maple Ridge at night.
When you combine good, visible lights, affixed properly to your bike, you or both, then you are being a much safer and polite rider. When you add a high visibility safety vest, you are see-able from a longer distance and in more than one direction. 360 degree visibility is an achievable goal !!
Day time and especially at night, using your lights when you ride should be a natural part of your safety preparation.
In comparison to the possible consequences lights don't cost much, and have a safety return of many fold.
Lights for your bike, front and rear don’t cost much.  Triple A batteries can be a recurring cost if that type of light is used, but I have only had to change the batteries in my rear light once in two years, so the return in investment is pretty good. Even once a year, the cost per mile ridden, is  very very low. 
Most of the newer lights have a USB slot and come with the cord, so plugging in your light(s) into your lap top or any device with a USB port will keep your lights charged. This brings the cost down to a very reasonable level.
I feel affordability is a given, trying to say you can’t afford the light… you simply can’t afford not to. About $ 10.00 each, one front and one back.
You’ll likely spend more than that in 24 hours for coffee from your favourite coffee barista.
Please use your lights any time you ride.
                          Riders that ride using the motto:
                                   SEE, BE SEEN, BE HEARD, and BE PREDICTABLE
have a much higher likelihood to survive to ride another day. 
Safety is also about letting others know you are there so both sides can make the proper decisions with the correct information.
Using lights is a cornerstone to safe riding.

Thanks for Stopping By,
       Safe Ride Home


**1 – Information obtained from the BCAA website in an article on traffic safety, 2013.

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