See! Be Seen, Be Safe!
by Pierre Avignon
During evening rides, lights and reflectors will be legally required from around 7pm on by the end of September (* see additional resources below) however clouds and shade from trees can obscure the roadway much earlier. Use good judgement. If you cannot distinctly see a cyclist, a pedestrian or an object of a comparable size—like a road sign for example—from a distance of five to six hundred feet, then other road users may not see you either. Reflectors work well most of the time for drivers of vehicles behind you, but shine back only in the direction light comes from. They don’t work for pedestrians, or for vehicles pulling out of side streets or driveways ahead of you.
Well-designed lights equipped with LED (light-emitting diode) type bulbs allow you to see and be seen from a safe distance, with a battery life of several hours. For more power, look for HID (High-Intensity Discharge) type bulbs, more suitable for off-road riding and riding on roads without streetlights. A backup LED light is always recommended, as HID lights have a much shorter battery life.
LED, HID, rechargeable, disposable battery or even self-powered—handlebar, frame or helmet mounted—the choices have never been better and more affordable.
Still, the majority of cyclists on the road do not use lights at dawn or dusk or even at night. Many riders forget or simply neglect to equip their bikes with appropriate lighting. Plan ahead with two simple questions: will it be bright enough to ride safely on my way home? Will I be delayed by a flat, a mechanical failure or any other unexpected event?
Safety is about choices—what choices will you make?
(*) Additional resources:
Bicycling Street Smarts: Night Riding: http://www.bikexprt.com/streetsmarts/usa/chapter8a.htm
About bicycle reflectors: http://bikexprt.com/bicycle/reflectors/index.htm
Sunrise and Sunset calculator: http://www.timeanddate.com/worldclock/sunrise.html
Lights and Reflectors - What does the law say?
Chapter 85: Section 11B. Bicycles; operation and equipment:
(8) During the period from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise, the operator shall display to the front of his bicycle a lamp emitting a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet, and to the rear of said bicycle either a lamp emitting a red light, or a red reflector visible for not less than six hundred feet when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle. A generator powered lamp which emits light only when the bicycle is moving shall meet the requirements of this clause.
(9) During the period from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise, the operator shall display on each pedal of his bicycle a reflector, or around each of his ankles reflective material visible from the front and rear for a distance of six hundred feet, and reflectors or reflective material, either on said bicycle or on the person of the operator, visible on each side for a distance of six hundred feet, when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps of a motor vehicle. This clause shall not prohibit a bicycle or its operator to be equipped with lights or reflectors in addition to those required by clauses (8) and (9).
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