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The Night Rider

Last week’s clock rewind is yet another dead giveaway that winter approaches. And it’s turned many bike commuters into night riders

The basic trick to night riding is to see and be seen. Even on well-lit streets, darkness not only makes it more difficult to see, but also judge distances and direction, which means slower reaction times – for both drivers and riders.

Reflective helmet & clothing, rear light under seat, reflector and reflective tape on fender, reflective strips on pannier

Got Your Back?

In addition to the lights needed by law, a few simple additions to your bike will help drivers travelling in your direction spot and react to you a mile away:

Standard reflector – Many fenderless bikes don’t have rear reflectors, but try attaching one to your seat or bike frame.
Reflective Tape – Good old Canadian Tire or your local bike shop will have reflective tape for your bike and helmet
Reflective Strips – On clothing, panniers, helmets – anything. When buying any bike accessory that might be seen on the road, try to find one with reflective strips.
Armband – Armbands, visible from the back and front, help make your hand signals more visible
Safety Vest – Too cumbersome for many, the ultimate in nighttime visibility for others

Be Seen All around

Try to improve your visibility from all angles to help motorists approaching from the opposite direction or from other streets. Bright clothing is a good start.

Headlight, reflective tape on forks, reflector on rearview mirror

From the Front

Sometimes your headlight is all an oncoming drivers can see of you – and you’re competing with the headlights on the cars travelling in your direction.   Be seen and let ‘em know you’re coming down the road:

White front reflector – If you don’t have one, they’re usually reasonably priced packed together with a rear reflector.

Reflective tape – A couple bits, placed in the right spots, make a big difference.

Gloves – Day-glo or reflective gloves help you be seen and help drivers see your hand signals – read more on gloves for visibility at Duncan’s City Ride

From the Side

At night, especially during rush hour, many drivers approach intersections and simply scan each direction for headlights – not expecting to see a bicycle. Improving your visibility from the side will help you be seen by all cars in an intersection.

Wheel reflector, reflective tape on forks, headlight, reflective strips on panniers

Wheel reflectors – Made to be seen from the side, the motion of your wheels also helps wheel reflectors get noticed
Reflective tape – Yes, I know this is the third time I mentioned it – but it works really well all around your bike
Lights – You must have front and back lights anyway, choose ones that are visible from the side too

Remember, the darkness reduces your reaction times too. You’ll need to keep a closer watch for bumps and debris in the road. Quick glances over your shoulder are not as quick, the images in your rearview mirror not as easily identified.

Night riding takes a bit of adjustment, but it’s as much fun as riding at any other time of day.

Does anyone else have any tips on being seen at night?

(via fwd, photo via securiteroutiere)

Posted: November 17th, 2010
Filed under: Commuting
Tags: , , | 4 Comments »

4 Comments on “The Night Rider”

  1. 1 Greg B. said at 8:32 pm on November 21st, 2010:

    Great advice! I like to remind people (cyclists and drivers) that lights aren’t so that you can see, they’re so that others can see you. Although proper front lighting should do both.

  2. 2 Stephen Da Cambra said at 9:19 pm on November 21st, 2010:

    Greg – I remember when daytime running lights were first introduced for cars, it seemed weird to have headlights on during the day – but they reduce daytime accidents, including fatalities, because they make cars easier to see. Thanks for the comment.

  3. 3 Cam said at 11:22 am on January 6th, 2011:

    My bike came with tires that have reflective rims. These are amazing and should be on all bikes. They are also inexpensive.

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