Thursday, 6 December 2007

I need a flasher -'sorry' is not enough

I take my visibility seriously, since in the dark it can make the difference between a safe journey home and one with an unthinkable outcome. However, you never really know how visible you are to others. The only clues are the way traffic and pedestrians react. Sometimes I get the feeling that my visibility is not sufficient when, for example, someone reacts late to my presence. Yesterday I got a stark reminder as a driver I suspected might not see me easily, clearly had not. A car was waiting to pull away from the kerb. He waited as the car in front of me passed and I approached. Luckily there was no car alongside, so I took a deliberately wide line just in case he didn't see me. He didn't, and set off into my path. I narrowly missed his driver's door as I swerved to avoid him and ended up in the path of the oncoming traffic, which luckily was approaching cautiously and slowed to a halt. As I looked down into the driver's window, the driver looked up at my stricken face - I think the scream of expletives might have alerted him to a cyclist alongside. He apologised and waved his hand, but still set off to make his getaway since I hadn't actually collided with him. I regained my composure and returned to the correct side of the road.

In a moment's anger I almost wished I'd thumped into the side of his car because, at the time, I felt it was little more than he deserved. Sorry just isn't enough in that situation and driving off only compounded the problem. I thought through the experience on the remainder of my journey. Whacking into the side of his car would have only put me in more danger as I would probably have ended up on the ground in the middle of a busy wet road at night. I concluded that I'd probably taken the correct course of action, but what happened still nagged away at me.

I was thinking if there was more that I could have done to avoid it. Highly reflective clothing really doesn't provide any advantage in this situation. The driver is looking either over his shoulder or through his door mirror and there is little light to reflect from that angle. I tried to think what he might have seen. There would have been multiple light sources with car headlights and streetlights and my front light in there too. My light must not have been obvious enough or he would have seen it. I have a high wattage halogen on the front and have always considered it to be well visible. It is much brighter than most bike lights I see, but it is static and I can guess how it might have got lost in all the other lights, which to be honest, are always going to be much brighter than mine. On the back I have another static light but I have added a high brightness LED light, which I always use in flashing mode. It didn't cost much, but I'm convinced using it alerts drivers quicker to the presence of a cyclist. I concluded what I need to prevent this event happening again is to add a high brightness white LED flasher at the front.

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