Wednesday, November 3, 2010

It's Time: Lighten Up Your Bicycle!

1930's Colba light bicycle ad
Not that kind of lighten up your bicycle... I'm talking about lighten up, as in adding lights to your bike to be seen and stay safe now that the time's about to change and it's going to be dark earlier for a lot of us.

It's important because, unless you ride only on brightly lit city streets, you can be just about invisible to drivers if you're bicycling at night without lights. We're so narrow and small that they have a difficult time seeing us even when it's light out.

At night, if they're passing us from behind and we aren't using lights, they won't see us until the very last second - if we're lucky. And, they'll also pull out in front of us or turn across our path for the same reason. Both highly dangerous.

 If you ever get stuck biking home in the dark without lights remember that you can't be seen and do whatever you have to to stay safe. For example, riding on the sidewalk, if that's your only option and no one's using it. Cheap flashlights purchased at a convenience store and duct taped to your handlebars and seatpost will work in a pinch and be handy at home too.

Fortunately, with advances in bulb and battery technology, bike lights have improved in leaps and bounds since the cool Colba light in the ad here was state of the art. So there's no good reason not to equip your two-wheeler with lights. Any bicycle shop will have bright, easy-to-install headlight and taillight setups to keep you safe. In fact, most department stores carry them, too, though you won't get the guarantees, spare parts availability and installation help if you need it.

Planet Bike's Superflash taillight and Blaze headlight is a nice example I have on one of my bikes. Using bright and super long-lasting LEDs (light emitting diodes), standard batteries and easy mounting clips, these lights go on and off in a blink (so they won't get stolen if you lock your bike downtown) and are bright enough to be seen and see. (I especially like that the taillight comes with mounting clips for the seatpost and seatstay so you can always find a spot to install it.)

But there are loads of light makers and an endless variety of bicycle lighting systems at all price points, so shop around, ask friends you ride with what they use, but light your bike up soon so you can safely ride right through the season.

See you on the road,


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