Live in the Bike Lane
There are many weather-related challenges when bike riding. Rain. Extreme heat. Extreme cold. Wind. The donut shop is closed due to a flood.
One we don’t always think about is fog. Fog is a visible aerosol consisting of tiny water droplets suspended in the air at or near the Earth's surface and is heavily influenced by nearby bodies of water, topography, and wind conditions. (I may have looked up “fog” in Wikipedia.)
When one of the above conditions is present, we often cancel or modify our ride in the name of safety. This is exactly what happened on a recent Sunday when I was ride leader for our usual easy, casual, social ride. My rule of thumb is, if I can’t see the house across the street we’re not going. I canceled.
However, as you five loyal readers might know, I like to take pictures and, thinking there might be some nice fog-softened shots, I grabbed a couple of cameras, jumped in my car and headed for Virginiatown Road.
It being the weekend, I started seeing many bike riders, most in large groups, which means they were from outside Lincoln. As is typical and the object of (one of) my pet peeves, most riders were dressed in colors ranging from dark grey to black, few had tail lights and I may have seen two blinking head lights. The fog was so thick, riders were stopping beside the road to wipe water from their glasses.
The accompanying picture shows the scene at the intersection of Virginiatown and Fowler where sight lines are limited and drivers typically travel at 50 mph.
Here are some suggestions to help you be seen on a foggy day. It’s funny, though. These are the same suggestion to help you be seen on a sunny day.
Start with bright clothing. Hi-vis (neon) really works and comes in yellow, orange and pink. Red (not deep maroon), bright blue (not Navy) even white all work, pretty well, too. Hi-vis is different from “reflective”. Most cycling clothes now come with reflective logos, piping, dots or stripes. It is amazing how it lights up when hit by car head lights. Hi-vis does little good in the dark. Reflective does little good in the light.
Just the other day, part of my group was waiting beside the road for everyone to catch up. A woman stopped her car, rolled down her passenger window and complimented the riders for having lights. She went on to say it made it so much easier to see them and to be safe.
A blinking bicycle tail light of at least 50 lumens (I like 80 or even 150) and a blinking headlight of at least 450 lumens (I like 800 or more) makes you much more visible day or night and reduces the chances you will be hit by a car by as much as 33%. Spend a little money and get good, USB rechargeable ones.
Finally, there is the concept of “biomotion”, putting the bright colors on parts of your body that move while riding – feet, legs, elbows and head. Even white socks moving up and down will catch the eye of drivers from some distance away.
If you read this column or ride your bike within a couple of miles of me, you have heard all this before. BE CONSPICUOUS! BE VISIBLE! In all situations.