Tuesday, November 9

Let There Be Light

The positive response to my initial post should be a solution(s) to the problem.

Honestly, if Erzinger has/had sleep apnea without knowing it there is little that could be done for the initial offense. The hit-and-run aspect is a different story. He knew he hit something. He didn't stop right away and check to make sure it wasn't a kid or a deer or even a lowly cyclist. He knew enough to pull into Pizza Hut and call roadside assistance and put the broken parts of his luxury car in the trunk.

But the best defense in this case IS a good offense. Let's assume for a moment that Erzinger was just distracted, and the story that followed was a fairy tale designed to preserve his dignity and pocket book and that in fact he had been Brett Farve-ing it while doing 70 in a 55 zone when he hit Milo. What could Milo have done to keep from getting hit in an apnea-free world?

Lights. Bright. Flashing. Obnoxious. LED. Lights. With good, fresh batteries.

Even in bright daylight a good LED light can be seen a long way off. Yesterday I rode to the rec center to meet my wife to pick up my son so she could work out. I entered the park from the south and the bike path and she entered from the north on the street. From over 1,000 feet away she could see my blinking LED strobe. Granted, there was only about an hour of daylight left, so it was not full daylight, but regardless, she saw me from a great distance away through trees and chainlink fences.

She wasn't looking for me. She didn’t know I would be coming through the park at that time. I had left work a half hour earlier and she had also been in transit to get to the park for a little while. Our meeting from opposite ends of the park was pure coincidence. But it made us both feel better that I am visible from a great distance away.

I also use a three-mode blinking rear light and am considering upgrading to something even more obnoxious and offensive to better grab the attention of drivers.

A blinking or oscillating front and rear light combination goes a long way to make a cyclist or pedestrian unavoidably visible to fast moving motorists (and other cyclist and pedestrians for that matter).

Reflective clothing and gear further increases your visibility in both full sun and during low light times. I recently bought some commuter tires (Continental Touring Plus Reflex) that have a reflective whitewall. I didn't realize it when I ordered them, and I don't really like the way they look, but I'm thankful that I have them.

A lot of cycling and running jackets and pants have reflective piping or strips. You can also buy rolls of reflective tape to add to bikes, clothing, backpacks and other gear. Multiple lights increase visibility and you can often find cheap or free throw away blinkers at cycling events and shops that can enhance your visibility.

I recently acquired a new front LED light, the one my wife saw across the park last evening. It is a NiteRider MiNewt 250. It’s a bit pricey (caught it on sale for just under $100) but it is well worth its weight in gold. First off, don't point it anywhere near your face when you check to see how bright it is. You may lose some of your permanent vision. The thing is far brighter than any bike light I've owned. 250 is for 250 lumens.

I was prompted to research bike lights on a recent morning commute. I've been commuting in the Denver Metro area for almost three years now and up until recently the majority of my commutes have been along streets and paths that were well lit by streetlights and the like. This past summer we moved to a new part of town and my commute is along a stretch of wooded bike path with no lighting and with the LED light I had previously it was dangerous. The light (A Blackburn Quadrant that came in a pack with the rear Mars which is the rear LED I use now) was woefully dim and did not illuminate the path in front of me adequately. I felt that it wouldn't be safe to rely on that light for seeing, even though I felt like in flash mode it was perfectly adequate for safety.

I'm not so sure now. I'm really digging my NiteRider. In strobe mode it casts a flicker on road signs far down the road in front of me. It reflects off signs, metal cars, windows, trees and basically anything remotely reflective. Even if a motorist doesn't look to the left before pulling out they are likely to see the flickering reflection of my light as they look right. The Blackburn light just doesn't have that sort of power.

My cycling mantra is this: Be visible, be vigilant and be consistent. Being visible is the most important thing you can do. Being vigilant, always assuming that the car is not going to stop or not going to see you and reacting appropriately is equally important. I never assume a driver sees me and is going to let me go first when I have the right-of-way.Too many times I've seen them blow on through a stop sign when I did. And thirdly, you need to hold the line, not swerve into traffic even if it means hitting a car or pedestrian. Swerving into the path of the RTD bus you don't see coming up behind you is not a way to end your day. Stay the course so other travelers can predict what you are going to do.

In recent months I have grown more and more convinced that maximizing your visibility is the key to being safe on the bike. It's not the only thing you can do, but it is paramount when riding on the road.

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