“Safe” Bicycling Is Less Egalitarian Than We Think

Background Reading


If you read as many reviews of cycling as I do you begin to realize that in order to make bicycling seem more attractive lots of “fluffy” stuff appears in various articles.

A view of the riders as they cycle down The Mall in the Brompton World Championship Final as part of Prudential RideLondon 29/07/2017
Photo: Jon Buckle/Silverhub for Prudential RideLondon
Prudential RideLondon is the world’s greatest festival of cycling, involving 100,000+ cyclists – from Olympic champions to a free family fun ride – riding in events over closed roads in London and Surrey over the weekend of 28th to 30th July 2017.
See www.PrudentialRideLondon.co.uk for more.
For further information: media@londonmarathonevents.co.uk

It has finally become possible to admit to the general public that bicycling is “dangerous“. Bicycle lanes are not the sole answer to introducing safety to cycling any more than super highways bring total safety to motoring. There is always the “human factor” that rears its ugly head.

For instance no matter how many times the “drama queens” of StreetsBlog say it if you ride inside the Door Zone you have a greater chance of getting injured than if you ride outside the Door Zone. And despite your most strident “Little Johnnie One Note” you simply want to avoid getting hit by an opening door, than standing around afterwards trying to find out where you put that lawyers business card so that he can secure you an $800K settlement.

Common sense tells you that big settlements usually mean severe injuries. The best thing to do is take your safety into your own hands and learn what you need to do to be safe. Bicyclists would (to my mind) show greater safety outcomes if they simply attended classes where knowing everything you can learn about how trucks and automobiles navigate the roadways you use was the aim.

Frankly, I am tired (actually more than tired) of listening to the knuckleheads who demand that the responsibility for my safety reside in the hands of the motorists. I will never allow myself to forget that being safe is as much my responsibility as yours.

Generator Lights

The first lie that gets told to new and would-be cyclists is that cycling is the most egalitarian form of transportation. I would say this is obviously not true. If you want to get around town you can use either your feet or if you have “the coin” then the bus or elevated train makes more sense.

Trying to play down the fact that a two-wheel vehicle (like a bicycle) is highly unstable on icy roads is frankly a bad idea. You should be shouting it from the hilltops that bikes are dangerous with the roads turn nasty.

But what really gets me angry is knowing that in Europe everyone (in places like Germany) has a requirement to be visible. That means that you must have a light that meets certain requirements for brilliance and beam pattern. And to be quite honest if you commute daily on a bicycle you really ought to consider looking at a SON Hub Dynamo and light.

You can get cheaper equipment but for my money this setup has been worry free for more than a decade. Trying to get your local cycling advocacy group to find the funding for some cheap lights like those being passed out a few years ago is worrisome. Anybody who gets ahold of such a light is probably going to be going through batteries twice a month or more. And having to recharge your lights using you USB port on your laptop may or may not be reliable 100% of the time.

The SON Hub Generator can not only drive an eDeluxe II light but it can be used to recharge your iPhone on touring expeditions. My light is capable of running “off” until I pass under an overpass where the ambient light is dim or it measures the daylight available and makes the decision to turn the light on. Either way I get plenty of good strong light and service.

Now this setup is not cheap. But it is what you really need when you consider what it does.

See.Sense Lights

Recently I came across a light set that is manufactured in Northern Ireland and really is something to behold. These lights are recharged via a USB Port. But that is only the beginning of their usefulness.

See Sense Features Video from See.Sense on Vimeo.

You will note that it uses an internal design that is quite like a smartPhone. It can sense that you are speeding up or slowing down or turning left or right. And when you attempt these things you change the brightness and blink rate of the lights (both front and or rear).

Just think if you do group riding you can suddenly visually detect that the guy or gal ahead of you is doing something that you should pay attention to. But even more that car behind you is also alerted to your erratic behavior.

Think about it. When a motor vehicle slows or stops rear lights come on automatically. Bicycles really do need to exhibit this behavior as well. If you are weaving like a banshee in and around pedestrians on the Chicago LFT this is something that lets everyone now what you are doing.

And what is more these are not “sissy lights“. They are bright enough to be annoying when you stare directly into them. You can in fact adjust the brightness using an App on your iPhone. It allows you to not only choose the lumens at which you plan to operate but also choose the pattern of visible activity (blink, stutter, etc.) that you wish to exhibit.

And all of these things are visible in even “noon day sunlight“. These things need to be part of the arsenal of every cyclist (serious or not). Think of it this way, when you rent a Divvy bike they do not ask if you are a serious rider or someone just sightseeing. You get Divvy bike lighting either way.

Lights like these make it difficult for the average doofus on a bike who rides no-handed while texting and mindlessly ducks into the parking lane along Jackson Blvd. not thinking about the fact that doing so makes him invisible to drivers about to exit their vehicle. These bright lights give both you and the poor driver a fighting chance at keeping you safe.


Cycling is expensive. Not as expensive as driving but there are maintenance and repair costs that should be factored in. And frankly a decent bicycle is a bit more expensive than something you plan to take on occasional trips to the local brew pub where you can get drunk enough to injure yourself on the way home.

Brompton 2014

A “good bike” should come (according to my thinking) with a hub dynamo and intelligent blinking lights, fenders, a kickstand and if possible should fold (think Brompton). This is pretty expensive but having the ability to shove it under your desk at work, into your apartment closet or under the table at your favorite coffee shop is invaluable. And if you are lucky you will not need a shopping cart to do groceries or a huge “U” Lock to keep your bike safe when you are away from it.

And while I cannot admit this to most of the knuckleheads who ride Critical Mass Rides where they are free to spit on motorists, pedestrians and other cyclists who are “getting in their way” being able to shove this bike into the boot of your car or into the overhead bin of an airplane or even under the seat of your mass transportation vehicle is liberating.