I often explain that I have a low-grade fear of cycling the same way that some people have a low-grade fear of flying. Now, if you have a fear of flying you can potentially pop a Xanax or just down a few glasses of Pinot before boarding and you’re good to go. With cycling, this is not typically advised.
Due to this low-grade fear of cycling and the fact that I can’t just cycle with a buzz on, I do a number of things to feel safer on my bike. My biggest chicken-out solution is to ride a lot indoors. My best if-I-really-should-ride-
outdoors solution is to pop a set of blinky bike lights on Sarah Connor (my newly re-named ride). My 14 year old son was appalled – I mean *appalled* – when he first saw them on Sarah, because he thinks my bike is super slick and that the lights are way, WAY uncool. But I love them. Maybe they don’t actually make me look cool, but they definitely make me feel safe.
WHAT ARE THEY?
Technically, they are called “daytime running lights” but I prefer my more descriptive terminology. Simply put, they are LED lights that you mount on your stem or handle bars in front and seat post in back, and are specifically designed for visibility in daylight conditions. Trek/Bontrager
and Specialized both make versions of the product.
WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
Daytime running lights have long been used for motor vehicles and motorcycles, resulting in proven decreased rates of collisions. In fact, daytime running lights are credited with reducing the rate of motorcycle-car collisions by over 25%.* The extension to bicycle use is obvious. Based on data from the U.K., approximately 80% of cycling accidents occur during daylight hours.* So: bicycle accidents happen during the day + daytime running lights reduce the rate of collision = you are safer riding with blinky bike lights.
I can tell you from personal experience that blinky bike lights … ahem, daytime running lights really do make a difference. Since popping those puppies on Sarah Conner, I have noticed a distinct change in behavior of the cars I encounter. (Granted, there could be some perception bias here, but I’m going with it.) Most cars, assuming there’s no oncoming traffic, will give me at least half a lane of space when passing. A good number of cars will totally cross over the double yellow line, giving me an entire lane of space. Even the pickup trucks. Additionally, I feel safer when approaching cars at intersections – I feel more visible, and therefore less likely to be totally ignored.
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Most daytime running lights have some common features:
(1) A range of LED modes, from steady to pulsing to blinking. I recommend pulsing or blinking as, per Trek, flashing lights are 1.4x more visible than steady lights. Do note that different modes tend to correspond to different battery lifespans, so pick one that will last for the duration of your ride.
(2) A provided mounting system to attach the light to your bike. Pay attention to this, as you may need specific sizes or adapters depending on your bike (my tri bike required a longer mounting strap given the profile of the base bars and seat post).
(3) Charging via USB or micro USB.
Also keep in mind that the white light for the front of your bike and the red light for the back of your bike are often sold separately. You’ll want them both.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
Your Local Bike Shop likely carries the daytime running lights manufactured by their preferred bike supplier. Given that different shops have different bike suppliers, It’s worth it to visit a few different ones and evaluate their options. In particular, I’d look specifically at the mounting options to see which is most easily compatible with your bike. Once you’ve figured that out, grab yourself a pair of blinky bike lights, strap ‘em on your bike, head out for a ride and enjoy the breathing room.
*Source: Outside Online, “You Have No Excuse Not to Bike with a Light, Day or Night”
March 24, 2016