WHICH LIGHT TO PREVENT NIGHTTIME CUT-OFFS?
January 1, 2005
Back to questions
Hey there, Mr. Bike. I'm a long-time
fan, first-time caller.
After perusing your site, I realized
I might be able to get the answer to this question from
your book, but since it's New Year's Day and I don't believe
in supporting businesses that make people work on holidays,
I figured I'd e-mail you today and look for the book tomorrow.
(Not working today applies to you, too, so I don't expect
a reply for a few days.)
Anyway, here's the question: For
commuting in Chicago at night (I use my bike as a primary
means of getting around), I have lots of reflective material
on both me and the bike, along with blinking LEDs in back
and in front ($30 CatEye with 3 white focused LEDs). However,
as visible as that makes me from most angles, I'm still
concerned about cars that suddenly swerve into the bike
lane, whether trying to get around left-turning vehicles
or just to use it as another lane. I've had a couple of
near misses biking to and from the Loop on Halsted, especially
at rush hour where cars are lined up for blocks due to congestion.
So what I'd like to do is mount
some sort of headlight that will really get a driver's attention
in the right hand mirror. Is there a particular model that
you might recommend? Are halogen lights (like those 5-10
watt rechargable "water bottle size battery" dealies)
better for this purpose than LEDs?
Although LEDs are bright if focused
dead on, I'm thinking they don't have as much spread. Money
isn't as important as my safety, so I'm willing to invest
in something more expensive if necessary.
And thanks for helping to make Chicago
such a great place to commute by bike.
Working on New Year’s Day
doesn’t seem so bad when you consider that Mr Bike’s
union pays triple-time for holidays.
Holidays notwithstanding, it sounds
to me like you’ve gotten pretty well lit. I think
your main challenge lies with getting your light in a motorist’s
eyes from behind. This involves not just brightness, but,
as you sagely surmise, direction.
Yes, one of those $300 set-ups
will give you the equivalent of a car headlight, which should
get most motorists’ attention. (See my
book, presuming you’ve got it by now, for a DIY
recipe). But Mr Bike likes cheap and easy solutions, and
I’ve got two.
First, mount a light on your helmet
so you can aim it at motorists’ rearview and sideview
mirrors. My friend and advisor Bike
Freeek just got himself one of those headband camping
lights like the one shown at right, and it really does the
trick for brightness and direction.
Alternatively, if you don’t
want the bother of figuring out where to point your light,
try a bright, omnidirectional strobe (like the ones shown
at right). The marine industry has had these longer than
they’ve had sonar, meaning you can get ‘em cheap
and waterproof. Strap one these babies on your helmet or
upper arm, and that driver will think twice before cutting
off what looks like a yacht.