Have you noticed? The days are getting shorter. And with the change in Daylight Savings, we’re all in for a dark commute.
If you get to work on your bike – or want to – don’t let the darkness get in the way. Statistics show that cyclists who ride in dark or inclement conditions have the best safety records.
Here are some tips to make sure you can see and be seen on your bike:
We tend to focus on being seen in the dark, which is important. But did you know that the riskiest times of day are dawn and dusk? Here’s why:
The sun is low on the horizon, making it hard for motorists and cyclists to see. Lights and reflectors are good at this cusp-y time of day, but you can’t rely on them to make you visible. And, dusk turns to darkness faster than you expect.
Your solution: ride predictably and cautiously. Give other drivers every chance to see you, and when the sun’s low in the sky, be especially careful.
Have you ever been caught without lights? It’s happened to me too many times. Now I don’t leave home without my light kit. What’s a light kit? It’s a small bag with my favorite lights in it. It’s easy to grab and go whenever I think I might need it.
Every commuter needs to find his/her own best lighting set-up – a combination of lights that works for you, your bike and your riding. Your local bike shop is a great place to start. I like having four lights on me: one strong front white light to see where I’m going; one small blinking front light that signals that a bike is coming; one large red blinking light for the back of my bike and one small blinking red light for the back of my helmet.
Here’s another fun and effective way to light up your bike: BikeGlow. Imagine a lighted cord that wraps around your bike frame so you’re seen from every angle. Now stop imaging and click here to see for yourself. The kit is totally waterproof and runs on AA batteries. If you’ve ever seen images of bikes at night at Burning Man, you know just how effective these lights can be.
Use reflective materials – on your clothing, bags, and bike.
I love to wear a lightweight nylon jacket or vest with reflective panels and piping. I throw one in my bag and can put it on over whatever I’m wearing. New reflective fabrics make you look like you’re lit from within when headlights pass by. They’re also a great choice for wind and water resistance. You’ll be happy to have one handy when the fog rolls in.
There are a ton of great bags on the market, and the most recent offerings all include strongly reflective panels and markings. Same with pant straps and gloves. When shopping for these items, just keep reflectivity in mind. The best designs look normal during the day, and really stand out at night. Check out this one from Timbuk2.
As for your bike, use reflectors on the spokes, pedals and rear rack. You can also add reflective tape to any part of the bike. I’ve applied inexpensive strips to the inside of my rims. They are subtle during the day, but clearly show a rolling bike at night.
I use another great tool: Bike Wrappers. Bike Wrappers are fabric panels that Velcro around your top and down tube. They’re strikingly reflective at night, so you’re seen from all sides. And the panels reverse to a variety of fun patterns so your bike has some added style by day. I keep mine on the reflective side all the time because the silver is pretty cool looking, day or night.
I’m all about supporting our local bike shops. I’ve gotten most of my favorite gear there. But I found a great site for night gear that’s worth checking out. You’ll find everything you need here. And in many cases, you can make your final choice and purchase at your favorite local shop!
Commuting dollars for bike commuters were saved in a last-minute deal in Washington at the end of 2010.
Signed by President Obama, the 2010 Tax Relief Act extends the current $230 monthly limit for pretax transit benefits through 2011. Without it, commuters would have seen their limit for transit expenses cut to $120.
Most importantly for cyclists, the plan includes the Qualified Transportation Fringe (QTF) benefit, which gives you up to $20 a month reimbursement for commuter bicycle expenses (to buy, rent, repair or store a bicycle used for commuting). Sweet.
But how’s it work? A company’s qualified transportation benefit plan (QTB – oh the acronyms!) allows its employees to use pretax funds to pay work-related transportation expenses.
There are two types of accounts: A transit account reimburses expenses for mass transit like Muni, BART and Caltrain, and cycling. The other type is just for parking, such as at the workplace. Employees may participate in one or both accounts, but not in the same month. Benefits are excluded from federal income and payroll taxes, and most state taxes, up to the monthly limits.
How do you get started? Check with your employer to see if they have a QTB. San Francisco’s Commuter Benefits Ordinance requires companies with 20 or more employees to offer commuter tax benefits (for employees who work an average of 10 or more hours per week). A QTB is one way they can do so. (If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty of the tax rules, most of them can be found here.)
For bike commuters, this works out to about a dollar a day, which isn’t much, but it’s a nice bonus to the already good deal of riding a bike to work!
Have you been thinking about riding your bike to work but not sure where to begin? Do you have colleagues at work who’d also like to bike commute?
Bike to Work Day is coming up on May 12th. It’s the perfect day to try riding your bike to work.
To get ready, we’re offering Ready to Roll workshops for San Francisco employers. Get together a group of bike commuters and wannabe bike commuters at your company and we’ll teach you in one hour all you need to know to give this a try.
You’ll get the answers to questions like:
If you’re interested in Ready to Roll, call or email us right away!
I’m sitting in my office at Bikes Make Life Better World Headquarters, at my Ikea desk, looking at my Ikea bookcase, rifling through papers in my Ikea file cabinet when the following message pops up on my computer:
“Ikea Gives 12,400 US Workers a New Bike”
As my Dutch friends like to say, mimicking our English superlatives “OMG Awesome!” The Swedes might be saying the same thing as Ikea posts a very good year.
“With a strong commitment to good health and being environmentally conscious, IKEA selected an all terrain bike as the holiday co-worker gift for 2010…Why a bike? Because when it comes to sustainable transport, a bicycle is a great option. And when it comes to healthy living, riding a bike is one of the best cardio forms of exercise.”