And after all these posts about light, it’s time to reflect…
Apart from having felt weird and unwell in the last week, I like to think I have been provoked to think about, and indeed learn about, the subject of night-time visibility whilst on a bike. It is, after all, a very important subject, but one surrounded by a lot of misunderstandings and a degree of ignorance by both cyclists and drivers alike.
We’ve considered lights, front and rear. Their dual purpose is to see and be seen. But the message, which comes through loud and clear from all the definitive cycling writers such as Sheldon Brown, John S Allen et al, is that lights alone are not enough to make you safe. They help you to make your way on a road, and they hopefully make other road users aware that you are there. And, by the same token, reflective items may help, but this is not a given.
So, to kick off with, a few lessons:
1. Electric Lights:
- An absolute must if you ride in darkness.
- Consider car drivers when setting your lights up – remember how mad you get when a driver won’t dip their headlights while approaching you!
- Ride within the capability of your lights – they will be able to illuminate a certain lateral distance of road ahead of you, ride at a speed that requires vision beyond this and you risk disaster!
- Consider your power source. If battery, do you carry spares? If dynamo, have you a battery set as a back up?
- Bright or dark clothing is less of an issue at night – Hi Viz will not save your bacon when it’s dark!
- BUT….reflective patches are extremely important!
- Reflective arm and ankle bands are a really cheap but powerful investment, because your arms and legs move a lot when you’re cycling! Simple, but car drivers will notice them!
- Every bike, by law in the UK, should have a front and rear reflector, plus pedal reflectors and often also spoke reflectors.
- Reflectors are not lights! Don’t rely on them!
- Read Sheldon’s piece about reflectors and what they DO and DO NOT do!
- If really keen, also read John S Allen’s piece about reflectors!
- Consider marine reflective tape, which is sealed under a clear layer that is waterproof – and apply it to your bike liberally.
Taking that last point – look at the pictures below of my bike in the dark. This is with £6 worth of marine grade retro-reflective tape applied to various bits – in the dark, taken with a flash at about the height of a car headlight. The ‘from the rear’ view shows the B&M rear light, which is not on in the photo – what you are seeing is the twin rear reflector.