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Bike Safety at Night

by
author image Liza Blau
Liza Blau received a B.A. in English from Columbia University. Her writing has appeared in fiction anthologies from Penguin Press, W.W. Norton, NYU Press and others. After healing her own life-threatening asthma by switching to a whole, natural foods diet, she founded the NYC Asthma Wellness Center. Blau counsels individuals on healing their own asthma and allergies with dietary and lifestyle changes.
Bike Safety at Night
Reflectors allow motorists to see you while biking at night. Photo Credit Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Riding a bike at night is much more dangerous than during the day, according to the New Jersey Division of Highway Traffic Safety. At night, motorists can only see what's illuminated by their headlights, and their depth perception and peripheral vision are limited. The "Chicago Tribune" wrote that Bob Mionske, author of "Bicycling & The Law," claimed cycling at night is a factor in nearly 50 percent of all cycling fatalities. If you still plan to bike at night, proper preparation can help keep you safe.

Reflecting While Pedaling

Reflectors are designed to bounce back motorists' headlight beams, which illuminate bikers so they're easier to spot on the road. Reflectors typically go on the bicycle's wheels and pedals, which illuminate the back and sides of the bike. The National Safety Council recommends installing a white front reflector, a red rear reflector, a colorless or red spoke reflector on the rear wheel, a colorless or amber reflector on the front wheel and pedal reflectors. You can also wear reflective ankle and leg bands, and put reflective tape on your bike's fenders and frame.

Lighting the Bike

In many states, the law says bicycles driven at night must have a red light on the rear and a white headlight with a steady beam. These lights let motorists know which direction you're heading. The bike's headlight should be strong enough to illuminate the road for several feet. For example, when you're cycling at 15 mph, the headlight should allow you to see at least 35 to 50 feet in front of you, according to the BikeMadison website. Lights with flashing mechanisms will help make you more visible to drivers, while the solid headlight allows them to gauge your distance and speed.

Dressing to Be Seen

While lights and reflectors are an important first line of defense, night cyclists still need to dress in vibrant bright colors for maximum visibility. Cycling clothing with built-in reflective details can be found on gloves, shirts, shorts and leggings. Many vest and jacket designs have large areas of reflective material along the arms, chest, back and shoulders. As a bonus, they'll keep you warm too. If you're on a budget, you can buy reflective tape, cut it into strips and attach it to your clothes.

Staying Safe in the Dark

Remain on well-lit and familiar streets, if possible. If you'll be biking to a new destination, map out the route first to avoid becoming lost on unfamiliar streets. Wear a properly fitted bike helmet at all times that meets the standards of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The good ones have a sticker inside that says it's CPSC approved. Replace the bike helmet every three to five years.

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