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Safety Tips for Cycling at Night

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Bike Head Lamp

Bike Head Light - All states require a head-lamp producing a white light on bicycles in use after dark. Forty-two require that the light be visible from a distance of 500 feet to the front. Six states require visibility from 300 feet (California, Georgia, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, and South Dakota). Maine requires visibility from only 200 feet. Kentucky requires that the light “reveal objects 50 feet ahead.” California specifies that the light must be visible from both the front and sides of the cyclist. Massachusetts and California explicitly permit lamps that produce light only while the bicycle is in motion (that is, generator lamps). Hawaii specifies that the lamp may be on the leg or arm of the cyclist.

Riding at night is fun and enjoyable but you need to recognize that good judgment required. Always be aware of what is happening around you. Cycling during the early morning hours and at dusk demand cyclists stay alert, be properly equipped and dress accordingly in hi visibility or daybrite colors. Remember to be safe you need to be seen. The most common comment made by drivers after a vehicle collision with a cyclist is "I didn't see them" the next most common comment is "I could not see them". The nighttime car bike collision rate is many times higher than during daylight and most of the time these accidents involve cyclists that are not equipped with proper nighttime equipment and can easily be prevented.

When cycling at night as well as during the day you need to position yourself where motorists are looking and it is essential to be visible and predictable. Cyclists should keep to the right and you should try to keep at least 1 meter from the curb. This helps reduce the risk of hitting the curb and gives you room to move to avoid an obstacle or crowding while placing you better into the motorists field of vision. You should avoid riding in the motorists blind spot.

The number one rule of thumb for a cyclist, day or night, is to cycle defensively. In today's world there are many more distractions for drivers; cyclists have to anticipate the hazard before it happens; bear in mind that motor vehicle traffic isn't the only hazard at night. Watch out for joggers, walkers dressed in black, unlit wrong-way cyclists and even animals. It's also harder to see potholes, loose gravel and even trash that might be in your path. Be alert at all times. Many riders in urban areas believe that with all the ambient light from street lights and buildings that they can see well enough so they don't bother with a headlamp. This thinking can have disastrous effect because without proper lighting motor vehicle operators and even other cyclists might not see you even under street lights. You need proper lighting to be seen.

Reflectors are good but being reto-reflective works best when the intersecting path is in line with the reflector. In most cases the intersecting path is at an angle to the retro-reflective surface which reduces the effectiveness of the reflector until it is too late for the motorist to yield and avoid collision with the cyclist. In other words, get lights and reflective apparel to be sure you are seen at every angle. Solution number 1 is to 'light-up' with the use of headlamps, headlights and taillights and liberal use of retro-reflective accessories. Of course you can always improve visibility with hi-vis apparel or reflective safety vests. Remember you need to be seen to be safe. Be conspicuous. Turn on you lights whenever visibility is reduced. Consider multiple lights, the liberal use of reflective tapes and hot dots and even the new spokelites to enhance your visibility at intersections.



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