Feb 082012

Out on the streets, that’s where we’ll meet

By Captain Comannokers
NoC Transportation Czar

A television commercial that recently caught some attention featured a wave of night cyclists cruising the streets in a futuristic, neon dream. The commercial had more people talking about the super-cool, glowing rides than the actual product it was trying to promote (cell phones), but that’s the way the marketing world works sometimes—as long as you’ve got ‘em talking, you are still in the game. You’ll actually have to check with college marketing classes or Mad Men to confirm that last statement, but it seems like something they’d teach you, or a line those witty writers would use.

The conversations revolved around how cool the bikes looked and where you could get one. There was also debate as to whether or not you actually could get one, or if the commercial was more CGI trickery than bike realism. A simple search of glow-in-the-dark bikes reveals a catalog of manufacturers promising to ship you the glowiest thing on two wheels!

Sorry to deflate your tires, but the rest of the article is neither about celebrating the bikes in the commercial, nor about debunking the websites that claim their glow bike can be seen through pea soup-like fog. Rather, it will concentrate on the less cool issue that the commercial brings to light: making yourself visible on your bike at night.

The positive first: the number of cyclists in this town who make some appropriate effort to either light their bike or themselves has increased in the last five years. That’s just a simple observation from my riding at night, of which I do a considerable amount. If I were to wildly throw around numbers, I would say it used to be less than 20 percent and now it is closer to 35-40 percent.

The negative, then, is that a majority of bikes still don’t have lights on them. And to me that just doesn’t make any damn sense.

Many times this column may seem to favor cycling over other modes of transportation—but not on this issue. Reflectors aside, cyclists who don’t have some sort of lighting (ideally, we are talking both a front headlight and some red lights affixed to the back of the bike, or yourself, or your bag) are putting themselves and others in danger. And, well, that kind of sucks. Which means I am stating that a majority of cyclists in this town kind of suck! You wouldn’t drive your car at night without lights, so why would you ride your bike on that same road without lights? There is no justification.

Is it out of laziness that folks do not purchase some lights? Surely, it can’t be because they feel their bike is just too damn sweet to be altered for greater visibility. I’ve seen your bikes—they ain’t that sweet. Granted, I think it would be nice to see more bikes sold with lights standard, leaving companies to force the issue more. Commuting numbers continue to rise, so start equipping bikes that represent that shift.

I’ve been in a car a couple times over the last few months when I felt incredibly lucky that I didn’t hit an unlit cyclist. Usually it has been a medium-trafficked road that has minimal street lighting. Driving along at a normal rate of speed and paying full attention, I still didn’t see the cyclist a few feet from the curb until that last second. And why would I? They didn’t have lights on. When I finally spotted the cyclist, my startled heart skipped a beat. I don’t like that feeling and no other motorist does either.

I’m not sure how close we are to having bad ass Tron-looking vehicles streaking through the dark, but in the meantime, please, make a concerted effort to have sufficient lighting on you and your bike. In doing so, you really will light up my life! This is your captain, over and out.

Cyclists and drivers alike can continue the conversation at noclexington.com.

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