With the days being shorter in the winter season, bicycle riding at night, dawn, or dusk greatly increases your risk of an accident as compared to riding during daylight hours. This is in part due to bicyclists being difficult for motorists to see. Consequently, bicyclists should take extra precautions to make themselves more visible and, specifically, more identifiable as a person/bicyclist.
By law, a bicycle operating at night is required to have a white front light and a red rear flashing light or a red reflector. Bicyclists can use two front lights, one operating in a steady mode and the other in a flashing mode to increase their visibility. The steady mode is best for illuminating the bicyclist’s path, while the flashing mode increases a bicyclist’s visibility. It is for this latter reason that a bicyclist riding at night should always use a red blinking rear light, even though the law may only require a red rear reflector.
Beyond the legal requirements for bicycle lights, bicyclists can use retro-reflective markers/vests to make them more identifiable as a bicyclist. During nighttime conditions, a motorist may detect a bicycle’s light but not fully comprehend what the light is coming from and that it is in fact a person riding a bicycle. Consequently, any evasive action on the part of the motorist can be delayed. Retro-reflective clothing and/or vests outline and highlight the bicyclist’s upper body, providing an image of a human figure and thereby increasing the chances of being recognized as a bicyclist. Bio-motion, or motion that reflects human movement, is even more effective in this regard. To this end, retro-reflective ankle bands provide the vertical up and down bio-motion through the pedaling action and are an inexpensive, but effective option.
If you plan to ride in darkened conditions this season, be sure to protect yourself by using the proper lighting on your bicycle and other reflective equipment to ensure your safety.
TIMOTHY JOGANICH, MSES , C.H.F.P. is an ARCCA expert with more than 20 years’ experience in the sciences of human movement, biomechanics and human factors. He specializes in the analysis of bicycle accidents, based on his educational background and his own personal and extensive cycling experience, including competitive racing, touring, fitness/recreational riding, commuting and coaching.