“The only way to not blind the oncoming biker is to put my hand over the light when we are close,” one cyclist said. Traffic Lab spotlighted the equipment required by law for night riding earlier this week.
Earlier this week, Traffic Lab spotlighted the state law that outlines the safety equipment bicyclists must use when riding after dark.
Numerous readers responded to the story via email and online with their own experiences of using bicycle lights and reflectors. Some offered tips for other cyclists.
Here are few of the responses. Some have been edited for length and clarity.
A cycling instructor weighs in
As a year-round bike commuter for nine years and a certified cycling instructor, here is one piece of advice that I think any cyclist riding after dark could find useful: Have another rider wear your gear and ride your bike while you also ride from all points to see just how visible — or not — your setup appears to other road users.
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I often see cyclists with what they think is a good setup but their lights are hidden behind bags or misaimed and not very effective. Also, a bit more emphasis on wearing reflective clothes and accessories would be good. The goal, in a word, is conspicuity — making yourself and your bike highly visible to other road users.
— Bill Moritz, Bothell
‘My winter mode’
I am a bike commuter and spend a lot of time between North Seattle and Bothell on trails and streets in the dark part of the year. A couple of notes on bright bike lights: I found the only way to not blind the oncoming biker is to put my hand over the light when we are close. That raises hazards, but it is the better alternative than blinding the oncoming biker.
On a completely dark trail, putting bright lights at low levels and angling them down is not enough to avoid temporarily blinding oncoming bikers — most experienced bikers know this.
Concerning flashing white lights, I do not agree that they should be illegal. While they may be distracting and make bikers’ distance harder to tell, I believe they really get car drivers’ attention before they turn or open their doors, especially when they are parked or entering from a side street and only looking for car headlights.
Those flashing lights are my best defense against getting hit. I have had enough close calls that were not my fault to want all the protection I can get — a helmet and multiple lights in the front and back, as well as reflectors, are my winter mode.
— John Knutzen, Lake City
A daytime strobe user
We bike ride a lot in the City, but not at night. We are a group of three retired folks in our late 60s, who used to commute downtown on bikes but never during the dark times of the year. Now, we bike a lot during the week — not during commute times — for exercise and to enjoy the beauty of our city.
Once, while wearing my very visible yellow jacket going north on Dexter, I was almost hit by a car coming right at me. It was full daylight, and there were no other traffic or parked cars obstructing their vision! After that, I got the brightest strobe light for my bike front, and only use it during full daylight. I know they are annoying, but after my very close call, I am definitely aiming for getting car drivers’ attention.
— Sharon Davidoff, Seattle
The law on bicycle lighting and reflectors
State law requires that cyclists riding at night have front lamps that emit white light visible at least 500 feet away — including those that pulse without going all the way off — and red reflectors in back. Red taillights are optional. Those can blink, pulse or be constant.
Check out more tips for safe bike riding on seattletimes.com.