Saturday, September 12, 2009

The Art of Being Seen

Motorists often don't see bikes at night, so we have to go out of our way to be seen when riding the streets of our cities. My morning commutes are often in the dark, and the occasional Taco Ride has me biking home 30 miles in the dark.

Being Seen

I could add lots of reflectors, like this guy. (Photo courtesy of AJ Jones IV)

I could also add a dozen blinkies, like these guys:

Nah. (Is that even legal?)

The Art

My Schwinn project is just as much about art as it is a functioning bicycle. Even if I've made it up myself, I've got this standard in my head for what this old bike should look like. I'm trying to preserve its 30 year old style while making it fun and safe to ride using modern components.

So mounting dozens of reflectors and LED blinkies, while it would help me be seen, there's no art in it.

The Art of Being Seen

I ruled out a seat post light when I came across bar end blinkies. These tiny lights slip into the rear facing ends of road handlebars. While they aren't as bright as a good seat post flasher, they are passive to install. When they are off, you can't even tell they are there. One con is that I can't direct their beams. They point down toward my legs and the street below the bike.

Bar end light on

Bar end light off

Today I added a new rear facing light. This one is a nifty looking bullet light made from polished aluminum with a bar end light inserted. The Soma Fabrications Silver Bullet can be mounted in many places, but I choose to mount it on the dropout eyelet so that I could avoid using the ugly plastic seat stay mount.

Finally, here's a video of a 360 degree walkaround showing the lights in use. They aren't as eye catching as a Planet Bike superflash, but in the interest of preserving a little artistic style, the bar end lights and the Silver Bullet will do.

The Law

Nebraska law demands that bicycles operating at night have tire reflectors, either in the form of a reflective sidewall, or spoke mounted reflectors. See the side reflector code here.

I don't meet the requirements of this law, yet.

Also, bikes must have a forward facing light, and a rear red reflector. A rear light is permitted, but does not take the place of a reflector. See the rear reflector code here. I think in the city of Lincoln a rear light is required.

I still haven't found a suitable retro looking forward light for permanent installation, so I've been using a Planet Bike Blaze light.

I put a rear reflector on this afternoon. Some, like Sheldon Brown, argue that reflectors don't work, and that lights should be required, but I figure that a rear reflector and a light can't hurt, and helps satisfy legal requirements.


Chris G. said...

There are taillights that also double as CPSC certified reflectors.

See also:

Chris G. said...

Here's another one which takes AAA batteries instead of N.

Scott Redd said...

Thanks for the comments, Chris. Combining reflector and light in one unit is pretty cool. Though it's twice the price, I'd probably choose the one that runs on AAA batteries.

For the record, the bullet light and the Trek bar end lights take a single AAA battery. I bought high-powered camera batteries for these, since I didn't want to have to change them much.

Don't forget Bacon Ride next week! Details to follow.

Biker Bob said...

My rack mounted tail light has a reflector built in. But it only mounts on racks with the standard Euro 2 bolt machanism.

Reflective sidewalls seem to be very effective and pretty much scream "hey, I'm a bike" when seen from the side at night.

Hey, if you stop by an automotive store or walmart, you can get some ding repair paint to match your bike. It's an easy way to cover up a lot of the scratches that older bikes tend to have.