Be Safe, Be Seen

Most bicycling injuries occur when people are riding alone, frequently during daylight hours. Solo cyclists are often not very noticeable to motorists, especially if the cyclists wear drab or dark colors. Make sure drivers see you, even during the day, by doing the following:

Use bright “blinkie” lights, front and back, even during the day. Using lights during the day makes you much more visible to motorists. Most of us realize the benefit of a taillight but may forget the headlight. The front light helps motorists see you coming and reduces the chance they will turn to cross your path. To be seen, use a taillight with at least 50 lumens and a headlight with at least 100 lumens. When it’s dark, even low-powered lights are very visible, but during daylight hours you need bright lights to be noticed. And for seeing the road ahead after dark, you need a stronger headlight.

Lights can fail, so be visible in other ways. Wear bright or contrasting clothing. Neon colors of yellow, green, or orange stand out much better than dark colors. Jerseys with a good mix of contrasting light and dark colors show up well. When you purchase new items, think about your visibility. If you are not sure if your bike clothing makes you visible, ask someone to look at you from both the back and the front on a group ride. Fall back fifty yards and ask them to check. Go fifty yards ahead of them and get another check.

Ride with a buddy whenever possible. Vehicles notice two or more cyclists much more than a solo cyclist.

Consider adding some reflective tape in discreet places on your bike, helmet, pedals, or wheels. The tape shows up better on moving parts such as crankarms or wheels. Even a few short strips will help vehicles see you once it starts to get dark outside. And I was told it does not require recharging or batteries! Even if you run lights, consider the tape as backup in case your lights fail. Reflective tape can be found in several colors, including silver, red, green, blue, and yellow.

Use hand signals to indicate all turns or lane changes, well before you turn. As a wise man said,

You don’t signal for the cars you see, you signal for the cars you don’t see.

Even if you don’t think there are any vehicles about, they come up quickly, so it’s best to get in the habit of signaling at all times. If a road splits or has some feature where motorists might be unsure of where you’re headed, point in that direction. Besides, by law, all vehicles including bikes are supposed to signal.

Obey traffic laws. For everyone’s safety, and to encourage vehicles to respect bicyclists, obey all traffic laws. Respecting motorists helps us stay safe, but it also helps elicit respect from most motorists. And a twenty-pound bike, without airbags, will lose any confrontation with a vehicle. Not sure what the New York State bicycle laws are? Read about them at the NYS Department of Transportation.