As I sat on a friend’s porch overlooking the Ontario Bikeway I saw three cyclists go by. All of them were wearing lights. My favourite was the one with lights on her helmet that looked like a spaceship. I was a little surprised. Often when I pass riders in the evening they have no lights on. I can relate. In the past I was less careful and rode without adequate lighting – but after talking to a lot of people including cyclists, pedestrians and drivers, I don’t like to ride like a ninja. On Bicycles includes a great chapter by the always entertaining Lars Goeller about ways to get lit for your ride….
I know for sure that drivers get upset by cyclists riding at light with no lights. We are fast and hard to see. We scare drivers by inadvertently sneaking up on them from behind or appearing suddenly in front of them out of the darkness. I can relate. I’ve been a car driver at night, and in the rain and it can be scary to almost cream a cyclist that you didn’t see until the last second. So every time I see a ninja cyclist I start thinking about ways to let bikers know to wear lights. How can we get bikers to light up? What do we need so we’ll take responsibility about communicating our presence in luminous splendour to the world?
Once I thought if we just gathered some funding from the local insurance agency to pay for a couple hundred turtle lights we could stand on the street and hand them out, offering the means and some education about being seen. A colleague and I met with ICBC the local insurance agency but they weren’t interested in the idea. In November 2008 for the Bike to Work Week my Momentum partners and I produced a video with Vancouver bicycle dance troupe the B.C.Clettes and the Vancouver Area Cycling Coalition.
We got a few thousand views and even got scoffed at by the Bike Snob…. no such thing as bad publicity, right? I’ve commissioned articles about the need for North American bike manufacturers to offer complete city bikes with built in dynamo lighting systems (and racks, fenders, chain guards etc) as are available on bikes like the Breezer Uptown and Raleigh Detour. Not entirely bike related, but cut from materials left over from the Visible video, in 2010 I made a reflective dress for Burning Man and wore it to a to several parties and a bike rave this August with enthusiastic response…. Tonight I’m watching riders go by and thinking about bike lighting again so I’ll put the question to you: What can we do to make sure cyclists will be seen at night?
Please comment with your ideas and links to bright lighting ideas for cyclists! I want us to get fired and inspired….
One of my favourite ways to light my bike up comes from Dan Goldwater and the team at Monkeylectric. The Monkey Light is small series of LEDs which attaches to the spokes of your wheel. Using the wheel’s rotation it creates a Persistence Of Vision (POV) effect – treating viewers to an array of colourful circular patterns and graphics. These are not only fun and cool-looking, but they add an extra dimension for safety-hounds as they offer side-lighting which is really handy when crossing intersections. Monkeylectric is currently funding a new round of Monkey Lights which are completely waterproof (at the time of writing there are 48 hours left in their Kickstarter campaign). Dan Goldwater also wrote the Bike Party chapter in On Bicycles.