It’s that time of year, increasingly. Dusk is coming sooner and dawn later. For bicyclists, it’s time to start carrying lights again. As one of the instructors of a class I took in traffic safety once said, it’s best if bicyclists assume that motorists can’t see them. Meaning, take extra steps to be visible and predictable. The rule goes double after dark.
Savor the longish days remaining. And check the batteries in your headlamps. And start carrying backup lights for those days when you get caught after dark. With the increases in bicycling here and nationwide, it’s no surprise that there are some innovative new ways to be conspicuous. Here are a few for consideration. Full disclosure: I have not personally tried these, so can’t speak for wear and tear or other issues.
Local bicycle shops carry an ever wider array of lights, some with incredible brightness. Some mount on handlebars, some on seat posts, some on helmets. A company called 4ID has a new kind of light, useful for bicycling, walking or running. The PowerSpurz (a literal, if goofy name) clamp onto the heel of your shoe and (they say) stay put no matter the weather. Note: they come one per package.
Wearing lighter-colored clothing is one good way to be more visible after dark. Most bicycle shops also carry reflective vests and jackets in eye-popping green or yellow, colors that make you stand out even in the daylight. For those eager for a little more variation, there are new companies offering clothing with patterns that don’t shout during the day but reflect light at night. As such, they are good for bicycling or walking. We Flashy, a Brooklyn company, has a line retroreflective clothing. When the headlights of a car shine on the retroreflective designs, the “reflected light is directed in the exact direction of a car and its driver, not in all directions.” Fiks: Reflective also offers reflective clothing with interesting designs, as well as other reflective accessories (see wheels below.)
San Francisco’s Mission Bicycle Company now makes Lumen bicycle frames coated in reflective material. Working with a coatings manufacturer, the company found a way to take the flat reflective material used for street signs and make it adhere to a bike frame. By day, the frame is inconspicuous. And even at night, it doesn’t stand out until light hits it. Covered with “hundreds of thousands of microscopic spheres,” the frame “boomerangs” light right back to its source.
Wheel Stripes and Stickers
For a touch of reflection on your wheels, at a much lower price than a full frame, Pittsburgh’s Fiks:Reflective (see clothing above) also offers rim stripes in several different colors. Like the reflective frames, they increase visibility from the side. One catch is that the stripes can’t be on the part of the wheel where the brake needs to grab. They are designed for double-walled rims. There are six pre-cut sections per wheel, making it possible to either create a full circle or leave gaps to better capture movement. If the stripes won’t fit your wheels, Fiks also has reflective stickers that work on the bike frame or helmets, racks, trailers, or strollers. Fiks says “they remove easily within 18 months without heat or accessories and have been test for up to seven years of outdoor durability in sun, rain, salt, and snow.”
Check with your local bike shop about these products and to see if they have other ideas. Here are the web sites for the companies described in this article.
— 4ID: www.4id.com
— We Flashy: www.we-flashy.com
— Fiks:Reflective: www.ridewithfiks.com
— Mission Bicycle Company: www.missionbicycle.com
Hilary Reeves is communications director for Transit for Livable Communities.