Cycling Lights

As we all know, it’s the time of the year where it gets darker sooner, and this weekend the clocks change and it will be darker even sooner than it is now.

This change in light levels means that now most commuting cycle journeys will be taking place in darkness. From my experience, most cyclists light set ups are not what I would call up to scratch. In the following paragraphs I will talk about what I think make good and bad set ups, why you should have a set up similar and what my set up is.

A good light set up should consist of at least 4 lights, 2 front and 2 rear. One of each should be on constant mode and the other two should be on flashing. The steady mode helps road users gauge your speed as the light is constant and easy to follow. The flashing light helps grab the attention of road users and they should see that you are there.
The added bonus of having two lights of each, is if one does, then you have a back up ready. Cycling without lights is very dangerous so having a back up light is essential!
I suggest that placing your second light in a different plane to your first one, what I mean by this is not attaching your second light to your seat post or above your handle bars.  This is because in a different position it makes you look wider and possibly two cyclists from a long distance. Instead the rear light can be placed on your helmet, seat stays, rear rack of backpack depending on which you use. The front lights are best used if one is above and the other below the handle bars on either side of the stem, this puts a good distance between the two and makes the flasher stand out more.
Another reason for having good lights is the amount of light that is often in and around London, with plenty of other vehicles and cyclists with lights on it can often become confusing as to who is who and where they are. With descent lights you should stand out straigth away.

Why are most set ups bad? Most cyclists I see on my commute through London can be categorised in four different groups by their lights. 1. no lights 2. the wrong lights 3. not enough lights 4. perfect lights
No Lights – these cyclists are often on cheap mountain bikes and ridden by people who couldn’t give a toss about their safety and often flout the laws of the road.
The Wrong Lights – Cyclists with either white/red lights facing in the wrong direction or non standard colors i.e. yellow/green/blue those colors don’t stand out anywhere near as well as a descent white light and a blue light is illegal to use on the roads unless you are an emergency vehicle.
Not Enough Lights – Most users will fall into this category. They have 1 of each kind of light on either steady or constant. The lights can’t do both jobs of grabbing attention and easy speed reading abilities for other road users. They also don’t have back up lights. So the lights can often appear dim because the batteries are near dead.
Perfect Lights – Maybe 3% of the cyclists I see have a good set up of lights, with the minimum being the 2 front and 2 rear, some have gone even further and having added lights on the bike.

It is worth noting that Hi-Viz is not a substitute for some good lights. Whilst I see the great application of hi-viz, it doesn’t perform the job of the lights as I have previously discussed but does make you stand out a little bit more but with a good light set up, you should be perfectly visible without hi-viz.

Depending on where you cycle, you may need more powerful lights than the ones that are readily available in bicycle shops. For example I have to cycle down a few roads with limited to no street lamps, this means that I need lights to see with. So I have lights with varying power levels so that when I need to I can turn the power up and light up the way ahead of me. Lights that can output that kind of power at much more expensive that what most people are willing to spend on lights. But are worth it if you need to see where you are going.

My light setup. At present I’m running two front lights, a Hope Vision 1 and a Magicshine MJ-808. The hope alone is a very bright light, but for me the flood from the light was not good enough to light up the dark roads I use and this is why i have a Magicshine which is rated at 900lumens but outputs more like 700lumens. That perfectly lights up the road in front of me when required. Each of these lights has several modes ranging from flashing to different power settings.
My rear lights are a Blackburn Mars 4.0 and 2x Fibre Flares. The fibre flares are mounted on my seat stays and due to their long nature and near 360degree shine is perfect for standing out, these are both set to flashing. The Mars 4.0 is on constant and located on the back of my saddle bag. This is a bright rear light and grabs attention from drivers easily.
I shall be doing a video review of my lights shortly with more information about prices and stats in another post.

Note this post is intended for people cycling in a busy metropolitan area.

The Success of the Barclays Cycle Hire

Barclays Cycle Hire bikes

Image by duncan via Flickr

Anyone that has been into central London after the 30th of July will have seen the Barclays liveried cycle hire bikes that are scattered across 7 boroughs of central London. Thousands of people use them each day, with peak days reaching over 20,000 journeys being made.

Who would have thought that this scheme would work, adding such a scheme into a busy metropolitan city such as London could easily lead to a disaster. A similar scheme in Melbourne, Australia failed dramatically. That was mainly down to the mandatory cycle helmet laws they have over there.

Why is the success of such a scheme important for cycling in London and potentially England?
The added cycles to the road and image value that they have will make people aware that cycling is the cheap and easy transportation. The easy access to the bikes also gives people the freedom to cycle around the City and in many cases people start using other bikes for other duties, such as commuting.
The sheer volume of cyclists on the road during non commuting times has increased dramatically and the bicycles i see the most are the cycle hire ones. Could the success of this scheme be the next big thing for the Cycling Revolution in the 21st century?
In the first 2 and a half months 1,000,000 cycle journeys were made using the Barclays cycle hire and with only 90,000 people registered that means each user has used a hire bike on average 11 times.
This makes the Barclays cycle hire scheme more succesful than any other cycle hire scheme of its kind in the world for its uptake by the public that uses them.

For the lucky person that took the 1,000,000th bike for a spin, Barclays have awarded them and 3 of their friends a 5 year membership to the scheme for free. This lucky person is Rupert Parson from Balham, South London, he also wins a cycling makeover at Bobbins Bicycles in Islington.
Rupert is not just a user of the cycle hire scheme, he also uses the Cycle Superhighway 7 to commute to work. Clearly the two major cycling schemes in London are working well for Rupert.

Clearly from the quick uptake, even with technical issues and access limited to people in the UK with credit or debit cards, the scheme has been a massive success and lets hope that it continues to grow.