Ok, I'll admit it. I'm *that bicyclist. This month I bought a neon yellow helmet (like the kind given to tourists), and my confession is that I love it.
I distinctly remember telling my mother two years ago that I would not wear a neon helmet--similar to a conversation we had when I was in the fifth grade about jeans (yuck) vs. sweatpants (yes!). I eventually saw the light. Last spring, I got a neon yellow windbreaker that changed everything.
As I rode, I could see my glowing arms and never felt so visible! I felt more confident that other people could see me better in the morning dusk. A neon helmet is a natural progression, and just in time for winter darkness to sneak up on my morning commute.
In Alaska, being a highly visible bicyclist is a necessity. Here are a few tips to be seen around town:
Clothes: bright and reflective
- Bright, reflective outer layers are key to being seen. Here's me in my neon helmet and jacket stippled in reflective dots.
- You don’t have to buy bike specific winter clothing if you don’t want to. Ski, running, or other active clothing can work great too.
- Reflective vests are a great alternative too. You can find construction vests at hardware shops or outfitters for a low cost. And the best part is they fit over anything.
Lights: front white, and rear red
- Lights are a must. They serve two purposes: to help you see the path, and to help others see you. You'll need a white light in the front and a red light in the rear.
- In Anchorage, it's required to have a bright front white light and a red taillight that can be seen for 500 feet (or a rear red reflector--but I recommend a light!).
- Blinking lights help catch people's eye. You'll also want a steady white light in the front to light your way.
- A light mounted to your helmet lights up whatever you look at, and it easily catches the attention of drivers. These lights are becoming more and more bright, so be sure to use it to see and be seen. Be careful to avoid shining it directly in people's eyes.
- As someone who put reflective tape on their clothes and helmet for years, I highly recommend it. Reflective tape adds high visibility, can be cut to shape, and adheres well to different surfaces. It's an affordable way to make the gear your have work better.
- Bike Anchorage and other agencies in town often give reflective tape away. Keep your eyes open for those at our fall/winter events.
Your actions matter
- Be predictable. Not only is it important to a bicyclists’ safety to follow predictable behavior (which means following the rules of the road), but it is also the law. Many collisions between bicyclists and other road or path users occurs when someone acts unpredictably, turning themselves into a hazard for another person.
- Bicyclists should try to make eye contact with motorists and other bicyclists. Remember, just because you can see a driver doesn’t mean they can see you!
- And of course, be visible!
As our days get shorter and our nights longer, I hope these tips keep you on your bike throughout the year!
Lindsey is a year-round bicycle commuter, volunteer board member for Bike Anchorage, and a lover of neon.
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