Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween/Bike Safety Awareness Week

I just need to begin this post with the following statement: 

Please be nice to the the selfless nurse who helped treat Ebola patients - Kari Hickox. Because she isn't a heavyset male racist in a cowboy hat, Ms. Hickox is not being hailed as a hero for not doing what the government tells her to do. Symptom free, she chose to go on a bike ride with her boyfriend. I have ridden in Maine and I can attest to the drawing power of biking in Vacationland, so whether you open doorknobs with Kleenex's or not, don't judge her harshly. 

And Ms. Hickox, if you're reading this, you're welcome to come bike down in The Nutmeg State with me anytime. And not to worry: if Governor LePage insists on following you here while wagging a finger, I have a bike here he can use, too: he did say he doesn't want you 'within three feet of anybody' so with that in mind I'd be happy with either of you doing a PSA for Connecticut to tell drivers they have to obey the 'three foot law' when passing a cyclist. Hey, you can even do a PSA together - whether he wants to wear a Walter White respirator is up to him. 

But I digress.

While Kari Hickox was taking what was probably the safest bike ride anyone could take this week (Police escort? Sweet!) I've been thinking about what to do to remind cyclists to double down on staying safe while riding at night. The rule of thumb is: when you're absolutely, 100% positive you and your bike are visible enough...add.

And there's a lot you can add:  You can add BikeGlow (spaghetti-like strands of lights that are shown in the last photo). You can buy reflective tape just about anywhere and affix it to your bike or your helmet and also get yourself to a bike shop and get some new equipment (if you're in Stamford: Danny's Cycles and Pacific Swim Bike Run are great places to go. Remember, Daylight Savings Time starts this weekend and that means most workers will be biking home in darkness at the end of the workday). 

Let's quickly run through a couple of options. When it comes to a great example of adding things to make biking safer, I haven't seen anything better than Blaze. They're a company in London I was lucky enough to visit a few months back to check out their product. 

To the everyday observer, an ordinary bike light. But they designed and added a tiny laser mounted next to the lens that projects an image of a bicycle several feet out in front. 

Truckers and drivers can see it on the ground and know there is a cyclist coming - and that's especially important if you want to avoid the 'right hook' which is a 'left hook' in Britain since they still insist on driving on the wrong side. You can see a demo video on the Blaze web site, but in an office in broad daylight it's equally cool.

I know it is sold in the U.S. but I haven't been able to find it in Stamford, but it will be going on my Christmas list this year, to be sure. 

While we're on the subject of lasers: I bought a laser guide for a circular saw at Harbor Freight Tools for $5. It's about twice as thick as a pen but half the length and when switched on points a red line along whatever piece of plywood you want to cut. 

I rarely cut plywood. But I do bike often, and I discovered that a slight modification on the base of the laser guide made it easy to mount on the seat stay of my city bike. Here's what it looks like.

Oops. I left the flash on (but related to the subject you can see the subtle reflective tape I've put in several placed around the bike isn't so subtle when the light is hitting it). 

Here's what it looks like in the dark:

Even though I need to change up the mount since my foot can hit it when getting off the bike, it works: I rode to the Stamford Government Center and back at night and was thankful for the visual reminder for motorists that they - by Connecticut state law - have to leave three feet of space between themselves and bicyclists when passing. 

If you don't have access to the Blaze or circular saw guides, visit your local bike shop, say you want to add things to your bike to ride safer, and they'll hook you up with what you need. Post your tricked-out, visible self and your bike on Twitter with the hashtag #diybikingatnight. And since I have to go pick up some candy before the Elsa, Anna and lil' snowman dude parade starts tonight, I'll close this post right now. Thanks for reading and thanks for riding. 


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