Be safe and smart on a bike

-A A +A
By Khalil J. Spencer

Dear Editor,

Returning from a road trip on Monday evening, I was waiting cued up behind another car about to make a right on red from Central onto Diamond. At the last minute, the lead driver stopped short, and I saw two dark shadows zip past on Diamond heading north – bicyclists riding in the dark. The lead cyclist had no lights at all, and the second one had a tiny, nearly worthless and dim light.

Frankly, I’ve been keeping a mental tally lately of nighttime cyclists and have seen about ten lightless cyclists for every one I’ve seen lit up.

Those two riders are probably lucky the driver saw them, as they were wearing dark clothing as well as riding fast. Nearly lost in the backdrop of other vehicle headlights and visual clutter, they could easily have ended up T-boning the car had it not stopped. As far as I am concerned, they would have been significantly at fault through their lack of proper equipment and compliance with the headlight law.

Critical safety items like helmets and headlights can be purchased for what is a reasonable outlay; a decent but not spectacular headlight throwing a 100 or more lumens can be had for a price in the range of $100-$200, esp. if you are willing to surf the web for sales or use your imagination.

I picked up an excellent, 3W LED head lamp at a nearby camping/recreational outlet for 85 bucks and zip tied it to my helmet. Such an outlay is not as painful as a trip to the ER and the extended time spent recovering from a serious injury. And, a light with rechargable batteries is a safety investment which lasts for years.

Reflectors are of limited value as they only reflect light shined directly at them; they are thus worthless for oncoming and crossing traffic.

Therefore, cyclists without lights are nearly invisible in many nighttime riding situations. You are therefore at risk of being hit, and in addition, of hitting something you cannot see such as a pothole, ice patch, or roadway obstruction. So as I like to ask students of cycling safety, how much is your health worth? Check your pay stub or your loved one’s expression when you get home if you can’t figure it out any other way.