Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Safety first, unless it costs to much - Lights

Over the years as a cyclist I have seen a lot of change, one of the most visible changes has been in lights for riding at night. Gone are the days when you needed bulky battery packs or generators, thanks to LED technology lights can be run on watch batteries for months. You can even get solar powered lights. My personal favorites are Monkey Electric which can create effects as seen in the picture above

Back in the early 90's I was bike commuting in a city that was not used to cyclists on the roads, especially at night. Reflectors and a reflective vest were simply not enough, especially when it came to city buses that would practically blow me off the road. A local bicycle shop had a new product on the market a rear strobing taillight that had three LED lights, ran on two double AA batteries, could clip on to my back pack and could be seen from a half a mile. Immediately after I started using it cars and busses gave me plenty of clearance when they passed and I could ride safer than ever at night.

Today these lights, often referred to as “blinkies” come in a wide range of sizes and prices, you can pick up basic lights on the internet for as a little as $5.00 and for about $20 you can outfit yourself with front and rear lights. On a recent night ride through Philadelphia I found that having front strobe was a big benefit when dealing with cars that were turning into traffic head of me.

Yet when I drive through Philadelphia at night I have to exercise a lot more caution in the areas of the Temple University and Penn. State Campuses. The number of college students who don't use night lights combined with the propensity many of them have for running red lights without even slowing down is staggering. Worse yet is the “I can't afford one” mentality, one student that I spoke told me how they ride day and night but they couldn't afford to by a rear blinky. You can easily one if you’re willing to brown bag your lunch or get coffee instead of cappuccino for a few days.

The twenty dollars you may spend on lights is going to cost you far less money than a trip to an emergency room if a car hits you. Also it’s a lot harder for a driver to claim they couldn't see you with a couple few strobes on your bikes.

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