By Matt Gissibl
It’s that time of year again, when the short days force most of us to ride to and from work in the dark. Wisconsin state law requires bicycles to have a white light on the front and a red light or red reflector on the back. There is a blinding array of lighting systems out there. How do you choose between systems with different kinds of batteries, varying lumens vs. watts, helmet mount vs. handlebar mount vs. seat post mount?… well you get the picture.
Over the years, I have tried many different systems, but my current favorite set-up for commuting comes from LIGHT & MOTION. I use both their Vis 180 and Vis 360. The VIS 180 is a seatpost mounting taillight that gets its name because it can be seen from 180 degrees, not just from the rear like most rear blinkie lights. The light comes with mounting hardware so you can put it on your seat post, frame or a seat bag. This light has two special features that I really like. First, it has a tool-free mount, locking mount clip for your frame or bag so it is really easy to get on and off. Secondly, it has a convenient cell phone micro USB charging system. No more running out to the drug store to get batteries on the way home because your light was going dead on your morning commute, just plug it into your lap top and it charges while you are at work. .
My “head” light is the VIS 360, perhaps the ultimate commuter light. No prizes if you guess where it got its name. Joking aside, I don’t know of any other light that is visible from 360 degrees, so you are seen by all, in all directions. This light mounts on top of your helmet, and works as both a front and a rear tail light. This light has the same two key features of its smaller VIS 180, the tool-less mount and the a convenient cell phone micro USB charging system. Light & Motion’s suggested retail for the systems are $99 for the VIS 180 and $169 for the VIS 360.
I cannot begin to tell you how much I appreciate the safety and good lighting I get from the Light & Motion 180/360 combo. I call these two lights the “defusers” because when I use my VIS 180 or VIS 360 on my day commutes, as well as night commutes, they really seem to defuse road rage. I just don’t seem to have motorists yelling at me when I use these lights. I don’t miss hearing those familiar calls to “get on the side walk” or “get off the road.”
Perhaps it is because I have the 360 on my helmet, so it shines at motorists when I look toward them. Maybe it is just because motorists are hypnotized by all my blinking lights. I don’t know the reason, but I’m curious; do you find that you seem to get more respect from people driving motor vehicles when you are all lit up?
Matt Gissible is the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin Development Coordinator www.bfw.org
Tail Lights Add All-around Visibility
With the uptic in this season’s night-time commuting, it is important to have lights that provide you with all-around visibility. Many cyclists have some kind of light of the “be seen” variety of “blinkies” but these lights don’t help you see and are easily overwhelmed by urban lighting and hardly stand out in rush-hour traffic, or at dawn and dusk.
Cyclists’ greatest fear is getting hit from behind, yet bike/motor vehicle collision statistics indicate that it’s actually not very common. However, it’s one of the hardest collisions to avoid, since you’re not usually looking behind for traffic and these accidents are often the most serious.
The riskiest place to be on a bike is at intersections where 72% of accidents occur. Cars don’t see you at a time when they are most likely to turn across your path. Investing in a really bright tail light will give you visibility from behind and at the side showing cars you are up ahead, along side, and in the intersection. This all-around visibility is good safety insurance and will give you more confidence to ride at night.
Hey, there – nice scarf!!
The test videos offer a better demonstration than the ultra-chic model photos.
But, really. Are helmets that bad??
It’s important to be well lit for your evening commute home. In fact, 62% of bike accidents occur after 4 p.m. So make sure you stay safe with one of our commuter lights, just like these riders in Portland.
Your weekly dose of our favorite links:
- The latest in bike safety design? A laser that projects a bike symbol in front of you to make you more visible.
- We’ll take a bike trip here, please. Or even a longterm stay.
- Don’t have weekend plans? If you’re in the Oregon neighborhood check out Cirque du Cycling, a local favorite, this year complete with a cargo bike race.
- Vancouver is talking about the numbers game: more cyclists equals safer streets.
- You might be a cyclist if…
- Bike shares are the new black.
And here’s this weeks video pick:
Image: Adventure Journal
We’ve mentioned this statistic before, but it’s worth highlighting again:
A survey of bike light use in Portland, Oregon found that nine in 10 bicyclists had front lights, but one in nine of those were inadequate.
How safe do you ride?