With shortening days and the end of Daylight Savings Time, your chances of being seen on your bicycle are diminished.
What can you do?
For starters, you need lighting – both in the early morning and at night. You can pick up a usable light for anywhere from $15-30 at the Downtube (Downtube Cycle Shop, (518) 434-1711, 466 Madison Ave.) or at any other local cycle shop. It’s a good idea to select lights that take AA or AAA batteries rather than wafer style batteries. (You can pick up replacement AA or AAAs at drug, convenience, or grocery stores while wafer style batteries might take a bit of searching and some more cash.) Preferably, get both front and read lights that use the same battery so that you will automatically have a spare battery for the critical rear light). By the way, New York State Law requires a front light for night riding.
Is one light enough? Many riders sport two or three rear “blinky” lights as well as a front light – ranging from a white blinker to a high-powered spotlight with a battery pack. One way to test for yourself is to observe other cyclists’ lighting choices under similar conditions of darkness to your own riding.
Next comes clothing – remember the adage “wear white at night”? Well, it’s still good advice. An alternative is a garish green or yellow “day-glo” vest or jacket ($60-70) – but shop around. Most “official” cycling clothes (including helmets) have embedded reflective material. According to a recent Bicycling article (pg. 34, 12/10 issue), a driver’s nighttime recognition distance is 75 feet for a cyclist in dark clothes versus up to 560 feet for one wearing “florescent” clothes.
What else can you do? Obeying traffic laws (traffic control devices, one-way streets, signaling) will give drives a better chance to see you. You want to be extra cautious when weather conditions (rain, wind, snow) compound the adverse affects of darkness.
One more thing – don’t be caught out with your lighting back home. Try to carry at least a rear “blinky” whenever there’s a chance you’ll be returning late!
Edit (by Ken): For anyone looking for some quality winter lights, Amazon has the amazing Planet Bike Superflash tail light on sale for $18.