04 November 2010

Reflections: Preparing for Darkness

Here is a test photo of my nighttime reflectiveness, as imperfectly demonstrated by a camera flash (rather than a car's headlights). It's easy to see that the wide strips of 3M Scotchlite on my Carradice bag and coat are much more effective than the smaller reflections created by my gloves and the sidewalls of my tires (though those certainly help in correctly identifying my bicycle as such). When riding long distance I add reflective ankle bands, but I usually forget when riding a couple of blocks in town.

Far more effective than reflectiveness is my own light source and you can clearly see that with my unbelievably bright Planet Bike Superflash. They say it can light up a small town. Seriously, this tail light is so bright my husband doesn't like to ride directly behind me. There are two other tail lights in this photo but you're unlikely to notice them. I have the main light and the helmet light blinking (when I'm riding in town) and leave the light on my fender on steadily, just for a change (and because it uses batteries less quickly than the brighter lights).

The clocks fall back this weekend, let's all be ready for the darkness!


Anonymous said...

I find when riding behind someone with a tail light that bright, it actually ruins my night vision, and is physically a bit painful to look at. That means I also can't look straight ahead, so I can't watch the road as well.

It's good to be visible, bad to ruin the vision of other people or cause them extra distraction.

I feel similarly about really bright LED headlights mounted to helmets (read, at eye level), which seem to come out in abundance here about this time of year :)

Charlotte said...

Well, if you say something to me (ideally "on your left"), I'd be happy to move over and let you pass.

If you're riding that close immediately behind me and you're NOT my husband, I'd prefer you didn't, so I guess this light serves two purposes. :)

Anonymous said...

Charlotte - I think you may have seen Pamela's screed against flashing rear lights in pacelines? I used to think that was being overly particular but changed my tune on it after having to ride behind a fellow with a Superflash ... wow, talk about eye strain.

Do you have a recommended source for the 3M tape? I was thinking of adding it to the back of a pair of tights as an alternative to reflective ankle bands (which I tend to misplace or forget)

Charlotte said...

Cris, no I didn't but the fact that they're prohibited on PBP, and the fact that I hate being behind them too, keeps me from flashing in any kind of organized ride. I think we'll all agree that downtown Boston riding alone is something else anyway...

As for 3M tape, there are a number of retail outlets, Seattle Fabrics is probably best, but with shipping I haven't found a better price than just going on eBay.

I've also been known to scavenge the end of my too-big Sam Browne belt.

somervillain said...

i've never seen a bicycle taillight that's brighter than most car taillights (more newer cars are coming with LED taillights which are BRIGHT), so speaking for myself, i can't see how your taillight would bother me if i was cycling behind you, at least for a short while.

charlotte, i share your approach to lighting: i always make sure i have at least two taillights: one bike-mounted, and one on my helmet. i also am a firm believer in helmet headlights, but i can understand portlandize's dislike of them if they are too bright (not that it's ever bothered me: portlandize, maybe you are extra photophobic?). i keep my bright headlight bike-mounted and aimed at the road, and my weaker headlight on my helmet to maximize my visibility to others (it was designed as a helmet headlight, and i've never received a negative comment about it-- only positive ones :-).

somervillain said...

cris: i buy rolls of 3M reflective tape (DOT grade!) off of ebay cheap.

back to lighting, i keep my lights on steady, not blinking. it's just my personal preference; i tend to see people equally well whether their lights are solid or blinking.

Anonymous said...

I was just mentioning the paceline thing in response to the point about how some folks don't like riding behind Superflashes. I agree that it's a different thing entirely when commuting, and more lights are better.

the other night I saw a fellow riding with an Xtracycle that had a reflective strip on the fender, wide LED light on the rack, and then narrower bands of reflective tape on their jacket, and a light on the helmet. Someone taking the christmas tree analogy seriously.

thanks for the pointers, C and somervillain!

Velouria said...

That tail light does look super bright, sounds like a great choice.

I cannot look at flashing lights and find it distressing to ride anywhere near a cyclist who has them. It is worth noting that flashing lights can induce seizures in those prone to them. In many EU countries, it is illegal to use blinkies as bicycle lights, possibly for that reason.

Charlotte said...

In Europe, where there is bike infrastructure, there is less need to distinguish oneself from a distant stop light. In America the blinkies do indicate that the dark object attached to them is human, and that does help in staying safe. Most auto drivers do not actually want to hurt a cyclist.

When the balance changes to more cyclists being irritated than automobiles being deterred, well, I already change to a steady light, and I will pledge to do that even on my Boston commute, if our infrastructure ever gets there! We can hope.

In the meantime, be seen and stay safe out there.

Carlos said...

I think the reflectiveness of your gloves give you a bonus when you signal for lane changes, turns, etc.

antbikemike said...

I love the Super Flash :) I just wish it were pretty like my Spanniga fender light.

I as well like to use two tailights or more and reflective tape. Some steady, some flash. If I am riding in a group I set them steady.

I am still absolutely amazed that I still see [or not see] people riding without lights!

I like the Super Flash, because it is bright. When I am driving my van at night, I have a very hard time seeing riders with standrad blinkys. So just think what it is like for a non-cyclist car driver.

siennaM E U G H said...

I love this post! I've been avoiding riding in the night until I found some proper lights and reflective clothing
Check out my blog too on http://siennameugh.blogspot.com
:) x

hector said...

Nice post! These are great ideas for riding at night. These reflector stickers are great!