Anna Hughes

Tips for safe cycling #5: See and Be Seen

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Tips for safe cycling #5: See and Be Seen

On December 27, 2017, Posted by , In Cycling,Road Safety,safety tips, With 2 Comments

If you are still cycling in the depth of winter, good for you. Not only is it cold and wet, but your journey to and from work will probably be made in the dark. Lights are a legal requirement (red for rear and white for front*). Always carry spare batteries, or better still, use lights that don’t require batteries, such as Reelight, dynamo, or USB rechargeable (just remember to plug it in at home). And be a blinker**, not a blinder. ***

Hi-visibility jackets can help you be seen, especially in low light or at dusk. Reflectives are best for the dark.

But lights and hi viz are no good unless you ride in a visible position. Be bold and assertive. Ride wide of the door zone. Take the lane at junctions and at pinch points. Don’t hug the kerb. Make eye contact with drivers. Be aware of your surroundings.

There is no such thing as bad weather, just bad preparation. Invest in a good waterproof jacket, waterproof gloves (I find mittens work for keeping fingers warm), waterproof over-trousers (works wonders over a mini-skirt…), and a buff or two for the ears/nose. Other than that, wear whatever you like. Cycling doesn’t have to mean Lycra (though that’s OK too).

* I know this sounds obvious, but if you don’t have a red light, don’t use a white to replace it. White lights are dazzling in a way red lights are not (not very pleasant if you end up following one down the towpath, as I once did); the red and white also works as an indication of direction, as it’s almost impossible to tell if a vehicle is approaching or receding when it is at a distance.

** Flashing lights could attract attention more effectively than a solid light. The law no longer requires cyclists to have a steady light on their vehicle, though it is recommended where there are no street lamps.

*** Most lights on the market are bright – almost too bright. When riding in towns and cities, your light does not need to be on full power: blinding other road users probably won’t aid the cyclists’ cause. On country roads or towpaths, you will need a brighter light in order to illuminate the way – just remember to dip or cover when approaching another road/path user.

The full series of tips for safe cycling can be found here.

2 Comments so far:

  1. Another great set of tips Anna!

    If I may add regarding lights. I’d recommend to ride with front lights set to blinking during the day to attract attention. It can help in avoiding being doored or when riding around urban areas with lots of intersections. Brands like Exposure Lights and Bontrager have a ‘day light’ blinking patters designed to cut through the visual noise during the day.

    Another alternative are the Light and Motion lights which have side lighting. They certainly help if you’re riding pass an intersection.

    And lastly, I totally agree with you that the lights shouldn’t be too bright when riding around urban areas.

  2. John says:

    Thanks for your thoughtful sensible safety suggestions Anna. On bright lights I would add that they can be bright but should be dipped. Traditionally front lights would be aimed at the ground a moderate distance ahead of the bike. Having the light fork-mounted also helped to avoid dazzle while lighting the road ahead. Today most front lights are mounted on handlebars and it seems that almost everyone has their light aimed horizontally or even upwards. Guaranteed to cause distraction and a feeling of anger. I find myself thinking that the cyclists of yesteryear often had more common sense than those of today. And really, safety is just a matter of common sense, isn’t it?

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