Worth repeating – be seen, be safe

Bicyle with reflective tape on the back of the pedal crank

Shine your light on me: reflective tape can be incorporated discretely onto a bike frame for added safety in the dark. Photo: Eddie Barkla

It is that time of year when daylight savings has ended, autumn is here and winter soon to follow. The daylight hours are closing in at both ends of the day. It is a theme that has been re-occurring and is worth reflecting on again and again: being seen on the road in fading light, darkness as well as changing sun light on the lower horizon. It’s actually a message that is appropriate in developing predictable shared road behaviours and sense for all year round and making sure we follow these when the need is crucial such as the months ahead were there are many other variables that can make being seen that much harder.

Increasing the chance of being seen increases the safety margin. The use of lights front and rear are required by law and must be visible in a line of sight of no less than 200 metres.  Static light fittings are essential for a number of reasons and again predictability of the light being effective is more assured when fixed and adjusted properly. Hooking a light on the rear pocket of the riding top can be far less effective as the line of sight is not assured. Helmet lights front and rear can add to the safety factor for the rider seeing where they are going and what is coming into their path to make their presence known. Like most lights that are fixed once the line of sight angle is changed the lights can be less effective and this is where helmet fixed lights can be of value.

Batteries and globes are something to be considered. The aeronautical process of handling such electrical components is called “reliability centred maintenance” and is employed to ascertain the failure mode of all their components that keep the aeroplanes in the air.  Electrical components such as globes and batteries to a lesser extent and switches can have a failure mode of failing anytime from manufacture till their life’s end and are doubled up in case they do fail.  There is no predetermined or predictable time of failure but to know that it can and will at any given time.  Hence the back up of helmet fixed and static fixtures on the frame can be of double value.

Being seen side on is always an issue and it would be fair to say that more cyclists tangle with cars that come from the side that most other interactions that cause grief.  The wearing of reflective apparel can assist where the reflective light of the shared road user can be caught and reflected back for hundreds of metres.  Reflective tape can also be incorporated on the bike frame and moving components such as cranks and wheels and around the ankles of the rider.  A small piece of reflective tape can be place at the bottom of the cranks and just around the side parallel with the frame and pedals and if on both cranks will give a 360 degree coverage of being seeing from behind and in front.

We all know how cyclists have a low tolerance for being seen as a dork on wheels but there are many ways that such reflective material can be tastefully incorporated into the frame and moving parts and be highly affective.  For the commuter there are tyres available that have a reflective line full way around the tyre wall (bit like a small white wall tyre of the 50’s with cars and were seen as trendy).

Choosing a route can also be highly effective.  The east and west routes need to be chosen with caution when the sun is rising and setting. Riding in an easterly direction in the early morning rising sun and into the west for the setting sun can place yourself at undue risk even if you are being predictable on the road.  Sunlight on windows can be disastrous in that split second when the drive can be blinded.

Wet roads, foggy windows all add a higher degree of risk of cyclists being seen and the wearing of clothing that is of high visibility in colour, brightness and reflective material must be considered in making every chance of being seen.  It’s rare for me to be off the bike but when I am, as a driver I can appreciate those cyclists that follow some of this advice if not all of it. Strangely enough we are not indestructible and we do have an obligation to share the road safely.

See you on the road soon God willing


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