Tips for safe cycling #5: See and Be Seen
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.