Previously I had done a blog entry entitled “Let there be Light”.
In that entry I spoke about using lights when riding at anytime, day or night. I spoke about the fact that lighting IS A MUST when riding, and I also said that being seen when riding is imperative to safely finishing a ride or a commute.
I have just completed, very successfully I might add, the American League of American Cyclists Instructors course in Seattle Washington. On that course was a night portion. Initially, I couldn't figure out what the purpose was or why they would have a group of Instructor candidates go for a night ride. The night ride was a good idea as I quickly saw, let me explain.
Once darkness fell we got together outside the Cascade bike club office for the ride. We rode down into and through the former naval complex were there office is located and out to the back road and onto bike/foot path.
I should mention the weather was clear, the roads were dry, and the temp was about +2 degrees Centigrade, so blaming weather, roads or sight lines were not a factor.
It was dark as we rode away from the overhead lighting and at that point I could see the true value of lights and reflective clothing, and the reason for this portion of the Instruction.
I must admit that that 90 minutes changed my point of view, in a good way. It also showed me that lights at both helmet height, and handle bar height are a good idea.
We as Instructors need to know how and what we see and how others see us, as riders.
We as Instructors need to be able to explain this concept in a way understandable to our students/clients/candidates.
CAN-BIKE teaches the 4 Core Concepts as follows:
Manoeuvrability Visibility Predictability and Communication
I have paraphrased these as
See Be Seen Be Heard Be Predictable
Now here is where these two streams come together, because I am quite sure you were wondering where I was going.
If you can’t be seen when riding during the semi-darkness/darkness hours, then you are far more likely to be a statistic, and possibly a fatal statistic.
Studies have shown that most bike crashes/incidents happen between 4 PM and 7 PM, on suburban streets/roads, in other words - afternoon rush hour. In a number of those crashes the rider wasn’t using proper lighting or reflective clothes. The rider wasn’t seen until it was too late.
When we went out on that night ride, it became obvious who had lights and clothes for after hours and who didn’t. I guess I just thought that if you are going to ride after dark, and you are going to teach others and want them to take you seriously, then you need to be able to show what I would consider “best practices”.
We went down to the end of the road, along the path, into the growing darkness, stopping about 50 meters from the path end. We rode down the path, in two’s with our lights on, with the others in the group observing how our lights and clothes reflected back.
The rain pants that I have from Cascade Ware Ltd. in Vancouver BC were the most notable in the lights. The reflective stripes on the legs were what stood out the most, second was the stripping down each leg. As a matter of fact I was asked where these rain pants could be purchased.
There were others that didn’t have much reflecting material and their lights were what I would consider sub-par. I guess it comes down to perspective. Who believes in what level and at what level are people comfortable teaching and leading others.
I have always joked that on a clear bright day I should be able to be tracked from the space shuttle by my lighting and clothing. Safety first, safety last, safety always.
The Master League Certified Instructor and associate League Certified Instructors (LCI) made their point about lights and reflective materials in a way that explanation in a classroom could never have achieved. I was impressed and will seriously consider adding the night ride, showcasing lights and reflective clothing/materials in classes where it can be best understood. I’m thinking this would be a good addition to Police training classes, showing perspective.
The bottom line is that lights and reflective clothing/materials are essential to riding at anytime and absolutely critical after the sun goes down. It is great to be able to see, but the question quickly becomes: Who can see you? If the driver didn’t know you were there until he heard and felt the thump, then it is way way too late, and you, my riding friend, have become a crash stat, or worse. Somewhat melodramatic, yes, but ….
What I am trying to say in this entry is that proper lighting that can be seen from a reasonable distance, along with effective reflective clothing, are a key to safe defensive riding after dark and in most types of weather. The worse the weather to ride in goes hand in hand for the lack of ability of drivers to see the riders. As riders we know that when the weather is lousy and it is hard for us to see what is happening around us, then it is hard for the drivers around us to see us. In other words it is just as hard for them to see us as us to see them. I would suggest that in some cases it is harder for drivers to see us, due to the fact that cyclist’s not properly lit/reflective blend into the back round.
Riding in the proper places for cyclists is a safety factor that can’t be ignored.
Remember above it says Seen, Be Seen, Be Heard, Be Predictable.
Money spent on better than average lights and reflective clothes is money well spent, very well spent. You do not have to break the bank for good bike lights, and reflective clothing. Mountain Equipment Coop (MEC) in CANADA, has both front and rear lights, both battery and rechargeable from computer, at a very reasonable cost. They also have reflective clothing in bright colours. I am not a fan of the red cycling jackets, since what I have seen is that the red just seems to blend into its surroundings I don’t feel red is bright enough after dark. That is my opinion and observation. Good enough, just isn’t.
If you take the time to make sure you are seen by those around you in time to deal with you as a rider and make the proper safe adjustments, then you have fulfilled three of the four above – See, Be Seen, and Be Predictable. Then the Core concepts have been understood and achieved.
I'm not here to support any particular company or product, but when I find products that I believe are worth noting, then I will mention them. I wear them and if I am prepared to use them why not tell others about them.
Thanks for stopping by,
Safe Ride Home