According to a semi recent AP story 1a near record number of bicycles were sold last year (2005). According to the US Chamber of Commerce, MORE BICYCLES THAN CARS WERE SOLD IN THE UNITED STATES IN 2005.
An estimated 87 million commuters opted for two wheels instead of four, in the past year, according to Bikes Belong. “19 million bicycles were sold last year -- close to the 20 million sold during the oil embargo in the early 1970s"
Bikes may be back due the sharp increase in gas prices, but cycling industry leaders believe this is a major paradigm shift thats here to stay, in part because comuters are discovering that going by bike is faster in traffic, less expensive, and more pleasent.
And with that bright idea comes Cycle Commuting Tip #2: Get Lit.
Having passed the solstice, we find the days turning to night earlier. When I began utility cycling I had no idea just how invisible I was when cycling at twilight or later. I imagined that my reflectors, along with the ubiquitous street lights, kept me clearly visible. HA! What an idiot is was. In honor of the BTA's Bike Commuter Challenges (which encourages novice cyclists to make the shift to commuting to work by bike) I am posting info on cycling basics (frankly, from what I have seen while riding out there, new bike commuters are not the only ones who need a refresher course) Today's tip: get lit!
Reflectors are essential, but not sufficient in-and-of themselves. Reflectors work best when a light source is aimed directly at you (e.g. a car coming right at you) On the other hand, in the more comon (and dangerous) scenario of a car about to pull out of a side street right in front of you, after dark, the headlights aren't aiming in your direction at all, so there's no light for your reflectors to reflect back. Cars with damaged headlights aiming at the ground or the sky. Car with one burned-out headlight bulb, particularly the drivers-side bulb. There are a hundrad different situations in which reflectors will fail.
Here is a photo of a cyclist, with reflectors but no headlightlight, passing under a street light(dont try yhis at home). See the cyclist??
Here is the same cyclist with a head light on the bike as well as a light on their helmet
Although one cant protect ones self from every possible threat, it makes sense to do what we can, and there is a great deal that can be done to increase visability and reduce the chance of an accident or death
Even with head and tail lights (a legal requirement for riding after dark in most municipalities) Cyclist remain nearly invisible from the side (e.g. while passing in through an intersection) We have all seen cars sail past stop signs or blow through red lights, the vast majority of cyclist/auto accidents happen between 6pm and 6 am, when drivers are in a hurry to get where they are going, not paying as much attention as they should, and not thinking in terms of watching out for anything smaller than another car. You want them to notice you before they connect with you. Adding refective tape, additional reflectors and lights can make a huge difference. You can even get tires that have a built-in refective strip, I have these and they seem to make a difference
For those who want to make an even bigger splash in the darkness, there are Hoky Spokes, these electrical, computorized wheel lights will set you back anywhere from $60 to $180, depending on how meny of the "blades" one opts for.
But they are SO freakin cool! Talk about bells-and-whistles, these things pulse and falsh in any number and variety of colors, you can even program them to flash messages. "Share the Road" perhaps?
So, as you head out to join the other 87 million people making the shift to bikes, make sure you can see and been seen. And in the inimitable words of the Captin from Hill Street Blues "Be careful out there!"