One rainy night last winter a friend of mine nearly ran over a man riding his bike. He was dressed in black and had no lights. In the dark and the rain she just couldn’t see him and he nearly came to grief.
The point about my friend is that she’s also a cyclist and always on the look out for riders for that reason. The man she nearly ran over was very angry and she was very upset too. But if cyclists don’t make an effort to be seen it’s very hard for motorists to do the right thing by them.
According to Vic Roads, visibility – or lack of it – is a significant factor in crashes between cyclists and cars. That’s why there are basic legal requirements for lighting. A bike ridden in the dark or even low light, must have a red light on the rear and a white light on the front. They can be flashing or steady, but they must be visible for at least 200m.
That’s the minimum and it might get you noticed by a car in the dark. You can do a lot more to make sure you are seen, though.
Wear bright clothing. Make sure some of it is reflective. Ankle bands attract attention because they’re moving. The advantage of reflective material is that it works when light comes in contact with it – no batteries required. It also can be seen from all angles unlike lights which need to be in line of sight to be visible.
Yes, you can spend a good deal of money on lights and gear, but there are lots of relatively cheap, very suitable lights and safety devices available. How much is your life worth? Or your kids’ lives?
Over and over again, cycling groups emphasise that sharing the road is a dual responsibility. You may be able to see your way around at night without lights, but you can’t **be** seen. So a motorist is unable to give way where you have right of way, or pass you at a safe distance.
As well as dressing to be seen, riding in a prominent position and a straight line will also help motorists to see you. Vic Roads recommends you ride about one metre out from a kerb or line of parked cars.
Next time you ride in the dark, honestly put yourself in a driver’s seat and consider whether you’re able to be seen.
See you on the road soon, God willing.