> Guide To Bike Safety and Visibility | CITY GIRL RIDES

Guide To Bike Safety and Visibility

01 November, 2018

The end of Daylight Savings Time is here, and weather conditions are about to take a turn for the worse. This comes as bad news for those who train in the early mornings/evenings and those who commute by bike. Studies have shown when DST ends and dusk sets in even earlier, car collisions with cyclists increase.  While the benefits of bike commuting are well-documented, as we "Fall Back" into dark rides, it's important to keep visibility in mind in order to stay safe on the streets.

Luckily, there’s much we can do to increase safety and make ourselves more visible on the road. To get you confident to train or commute in the dark, we’ve listed some safety tips and late fall cycling essentials, which brings together the trinity of safe nighttime riding—illumination, reflectivity, and hi-vis coloring—without sacrificing comfort, waterproofing, and warmth.

Inspect Your Bike

Anyone who’s had to change their tire in poorly lit conditions knows it’s not fun. Not to mention dangerous, if you don’t have plenty of space away from the road, or if you get a flat in a rough area.

Minimize the chances of breaking down by taking extra care of your bike. Don’t forget to inspect your tires, chain, and brakes by doing a pre-ride inspection the night before. Also, make sure to always keep your cell phone on you when riding alone in the dark.

Know Your Route

Try to choose routes you’re very familiar with when biking at night. Roads with potholes and gravel become much more dangerous when traveling for the first time at night.

If you have to take a new route, do some research first. Is there a bike lane? Is it well lit? It’s helpful to hop on Google street view when planning your trip, so you can be away from tricky intersections, blind corners, and large potholes.

Lighten Up

Having lights on your bike is vitally important to night riding – to see where you’re going, of course, but more importantly, to be seen by others.

At a minimum, you should have flashing front and back lights on your bike – flashing lights are significantly more visible to drivers than static lights. But even better than that: ankle lights. Studies have found that lights that trace the movement of your feet as you peddle are the most eye-catching of all, may be great to add a high vis strap to your ankle or shoe covers with reflective details. 

 machines for freedom twilight jacket
Machines For Freedom: The Twilight jacket

Be Seen
According to the Denver Post, the number of cycling fatalities is increasing each year. The most dangerous mistake casual cyclists make is overestimating their visibility when riding. Fluorescent colors are great during the day but don’t cut it at night. Make sure that you have plenty of retroreflective surfaces on your bike and clothing when cycling at night. 

Most bikes will come with some reflective areas, but if you’re serious about staying safe at night, you’ll want to beef these up. Get some reflective tape, and use it liberally: helmet, clothing, bags, bike frame, rims, and pedals. Or you can kit up on reflective clothing and gear.

Obey Traffic Laws

It’s tempting to ignore the rules of the road, especially if there’s traffic and you’re in a hurry, but this is the cause of a large percentage of bike accidents. Weaving through traffic or around parked cars is especially dangerous at night. Ride like you’re invisible – because to inattentive drivers, you often are.

If there isn’t a comfortable bike lane, it’s safer to ride in the middle of the lane than squeezing along the side, where getting clipped by passing cars is a real possibility. The vast majority of drivers will understand, and even if they don’t, it’s much better to annoy a couple of cars stuck behind you than compromise your safety.

Bike Safety

The vast majority of bike thefts happen at night. Simply chaining your bike up isn’t enough – anything but the most heavy-duty chains can be cut through with bolt cutters relatively easily. The best possible place to store a bike, outside of your own home, would be a durable and secure bike locker. You’ll find these on many campuses, city squares, or subway/bus stations.

Luckily companies are coming out with better bike locks that are lighter and harder to break through like LiteLok's Silver. A light, flexible, secure, and easily packable bike lock; LiteLok is a great combo when used with a cable to secure tires and saddles. Good locks may cost more than $50, but it’s worth it! With a cable, it is best to wrap through the lock and around your front wheel, which can be removed in seconds if not protected.

Biking at night can be intimidating if you’re not used to it, but there’s something very special about a peaceful night-time bike ride that everyone should experience occasionally. If you stay alert and follow the safety tips above, you’ll be able to safely enjoy the beauty of night time riding.

Image Courtesy: Machines For Freedom

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