Most of us love to be seen, acknowledged and stay safe during our travels on this road we call life. But there are exceptions. You may want to be invisible like when they are asking for a volunteer in a crowd that you are standing in, you having a bad: hair; clothes; or both day, running into work late, or when you are driving and you see a police car pull right behind you.
I have gone to great lengths to be seen especially when riding my bike. This is because of three things. One, I have been hit by a car three times. Yes, 3 times!!! Luckily I was only hospitalized for a few hours to be medically cleared. My bike didn’t fair so well. And that happened 1.5 months before my cross country bike trip. Two, during my cross country trip, I had 4 friends hit by a tractor trailer resulting in 2 of my friends being killed. Ps, we rode into our final destination of Washington D.C. the next day! Finally, a local cyclist was recently (Spring 2019) killed during a hit & run.
Because I spend so much time riding, I have a lot of time to think. So, how do you stand out and be seen while riding a bike with so many cars and distracted drivers on the road these days? As I ride and stare at the back end of cars as they speed on by, I’ve noticed something. All the lights staring back at me are red! If I have a red light on my bike, whether it is solid or flashing, it’s not really anything different than drivers normally see. They make green bike lights but they see quite common due to the over-abundance of traffic lights in our area.
About 3 years ago I went out to Oklahoma to attempt the Hotter’n Hell 100 with my two brothers, Aden & Nick. Wanna guess where the name came from? It’s a century bicycle ride in Texas in the middle of August. After doing a look over my brother’s, Nick, new bike, a gorgeous Bianchi – the first bike manufacturer, I noticed that he had a blue light on his bike. He said that there are too many crazy drivers out in Oklahoma and he felt safe using this blue safety light. A very cool light, something that I had never seen before.
Upon returning back to Virginia, I kept cycling. I really enjoy riding in the über early mornings for many reasons. One, I love the quiet of the mornings. No real noises as people are asleep except the early risers who are heading to work in some far off land or the delivery trucks delivering the goods for that day. Two, I get to see the sunrise. I love sunsets but there is something about witnessing the dawning of a new day, especially on a bike! Three, there is way less traffic. Less cars means it is safer for me to be on the roads. Four, my bike lights really light up in the dark and motorist can see me: be seen…be safe! Finally, it is much cooler in the summer months in the early morning hours without the sun beating down on me.
One early morning, I am usually up and out riding by 4:45 am, as I was out on a ride, I saw the flashing light of a police car piercing through the dark morning. It was flashing both red & blue. The red almost disappeared in the dark night but the blue lit up everything up. That’s it…my red flashing bike light needed help from a friend – a blue light. I called Nick and asked him about the blue bike light. He told me about the light and also to check the state regulations about having a blue flashing light on one’s bike. Really??? I looked and I could have a blue light…sweet! I ordered it, mounted it, and off and riding safely ever since.
Another reason I ride with a blue light is during my CFiTT attempt in 2018 we had to take some busy & well traveled roads between trail sections. I was a bit concerned because we would be traveling in the dark and the road may be filled with vehicles not familiar with having bikes on them, especially in the dark. At one of my convenience store stops, a middle-aged man asked me if I had a blue light on my bike. I responded cheerfully (I was eating ice cream at the time) with a yes. He said that he had seen cyclists with flashing red lights & no big deal – proceed as usual. But when he saw my blue light off in the distance, he took notice, slowed down, and proceeded slower than usual until he could figure out what was up ahead. In a real world situation, my blue light helps me be seen, be safe, and stay alive
Let me tell you what happened today because today was a bit different. Actually very very different. So as I was less than five miles from home, riding in the dark early morning, going less than 18 mph (okay, maybe it was 15-16 mph…I can’t really recall) in a 25 mph zone, I noticed the blue and red flashing lights of a police car. Wow…who would be speeding this time of the morning? Definitely wasn’t me. I looked around and saw no-one. Hmmmmm…it couldn’t be me, could it???
Well, I pulled over into an empty parking lot to let the police car pass me but they followed me. Uh oh! The police person got out of the car and said, “It is a Class 1 Felony to have a blue light on your bike!” As they walked up to me, I informed them that is true for a motorized vehicle but since a bicycle is not a motorized vehicle, that statue does not pertain to us. And after informing them that I have been hit 3 times by a motorized vehicles and have had 2 friends killed while riding bikes, they eased off me very nicely. Since they didn’t know the statute, they let me go. Whew! I informed them that could see me regularly a couple times per week in the wee hours of the morning if the weather was cooperating and to look out for me and help me stay safe. Thankfully I rode the rest of my 25 miles without an incident. Being pulled over while on a bike going below the speed limit was definitely new for me.
Needless to say, I was seen! Not my intention to be pulled over and interrogated but at least I wasn’t ignored and stayed alive & safe. Please take away a couple things from my experience. One, be different. Standing out may just save your life. Two, be kind to cyclists & share the road. We are just trying to get from Point A to Point B safely and as quickly as we can. If someone is riding “stupid,” report them to the police. They are giving good cyclists a bad name, endangering themselves & you, and need not be on the road. Finally, be proactive. Know your laws & rights and use them to your benefit. During your travels, I wish well, always being seen, and arrive safely.
And, as always…
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