• Susan Seligson

    Susan Seligson has written for many publications and websites, including the New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic, the Boston Globe, Yankee, Outside, Redbook, the Times of London, Salon.com, Radar.com, and Nerve.com. Profile

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There are 19 comments on Bike-Safety Gear: See, Be Seen, and Heard

  1. I used to think there was a difference between “seeing and being seen” on a bike when it came to lights, but after several years of urban night riding it’s clear that using an inexpensive light to “be seen” is wishful thinking and a waste of money. When competing with so many other light sources, a little ‘warning’ light of 100 lumens or less is useless. If you’re going to ride at night, don’t even consider anything less than 300 lumens, and that’s just a minimum (recommended would be 400-600 lumens). To put things in perspective, my light is 1800 lumens, which makes it almost as bright as a car light. They’re expensive, but well worth the investment.

  2. There are some pretty cool glow-in-the-dark wheelsets out there. Pure Fix Cycles in San Fran has them if you’re looking to modify your bike, http://www.pfcycles.com.

    Non-verbal communication and the use of proper signalization is key. Acknowledgement of all who use the roadways is free.

  3. Most Important Safety Point: Know and follow the rules of the road.

    I know it sound trite, but . . . . . following the rules of the road is the most effective way of staying alive irrespective of all the cool equipment.

    See MassBike @ ‘http://massbike.org/’ – An organization devoted to safe biking in Massachusetts, and is devoted to knowing, broadcasting, and following the rules of the road.

    And courtesy is contagious.

    1. Agree – to a point. There seems to be no evidence that the cyclist killed last week on Comm Ave wasn’t following the “rules of the road” – he was in a bike lane, and apparently with a green light ahead of him. Just for some reason didn’t see the semi about to turn in front of him. So rules of the road, yes, but constant vigilance and high visibility even better. And no distractions- no earbuds, etc.

      1. Susan, I am not casting aspersions on anyone, and there is no golden answer; just some thoughts. I suppose I could add ‘and watch where you are going’; that sounds even worse. File that under constant vigilance and high visibility? Generally we agree. Thanks.

  4. All these ideas are so awesome: the horm and the bike light that cast an image in front. Hopefully, his funding goal would be reach. Wishing you the best of luck! Happy biking everyone :)

  5. Boston Bikes has partnered with different bike shops in the area to provide riders with 15% off any bicycle light or combination front/rear set until December 31st, to help with the visibility of cyclists.

    Cyclist can print “Be Bright” coupon card at:

    “Be Bright” info coupon: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151306796778245&set=pb.66605578244.-2207520000.1355332487&type=3&theater

    “Be Bright” List of bike shops participating: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151306796813245&set=pb.66605578244.-2207520000.1355332487&type=3&theater

    For more info visit, http://www.bostonbikes.org/2012/11/boston-bikes-wants-you-to-be-bright/

  6. Aggressive honking is the solution? Really!!

    If Mr. Lansey needs to use his horn once per commute, he is either:
    A) Bicycling in unsafe conditions, or
    B) using his horn inappropriatly.

    If I were an insurance company, I would not insure his life and health – Jonathan Lanssy is living on borrowed time.

    1. The above comment is absolutely absurd. Loudbicycle.com clearly spells out all of the details for why these particular horns are needed — and this is not because Lansey is a reckless cyclist or “using his horn inappropriately” as indicated by point (B) of your post. Even if we assert your point (A), this does not solve any problems. Biking in Boston is extremely dangerous even in “safe” conditions. Now, drivers are not always–and often not exclusively–at fault, but let’s be a little more reasonable here. As it stands, your comment is extremely unhelpful. If you have sound criticism to offer, why don’t you do so on the Loud Bikes webpage? I am sure Lansey would appreciate helpful feedback, positive or negative.

      At any rate, Lansey is not advocating “aggressive honking” but defensive honking. Surely, you can discern the difference between these two. For every cyclist who uses the horn inappropriately, there will be many more who will use it with discretion (i.e., when necessary — even if that IS once every commute), and it will certainly help prevent serious and possibly fatal accidents.

      Having an effective safety device for alerting drivers is very much needed in this over-crowded, poorly planned city. Bravo to Lansey and his team.

      1. So we agree…
        Bicycling in Boston is dangerous.

        Based on my walking and driving in dozens of cities in America, bicycling in Biostin is, in my opinion EXCESSIVELY dangerous.

        Using his horn will help. Given his observation that drivers react without thinking, it may at some point, save a bicyclists life AND cause a motor vehivle to motor vehicle accident or motor vehicle to pedestrian accident.

        A horn, no matter how effective, is a band-aid solution.

        I believe a horn gives Mr. Lanskey MORE safety, but not enough for Boston. He obviously believes differently. I hope he and others don’t die because of the risks they take – but I am sure would you agree he would be safer in a car, a bus, a train, or telecommuting.

        I AM NOT advocating giving up on bicycling, but the failure to assess risks correctly leads to needless death – which is why I wouldn’t insure his life.

        Feel free to hate the messanger (me,) but ignore the message at your peril.

        1. I’m not “hat[ing] the messenger.” I was commenting on the lack of substance in your original post.

          Your most recent post is a little more informative and, consequently, more helpful.

          But I do think you are over-stating things, nevertheless:

          (1) “Given [Lansey’s] observation that drivers react without thinking, it may at some point, save a bicyclists life AND cause a motor vehivle to motor vehicle accident or motor vehicle to pedestrian accident.”

          This is an unsupported claim. Lansey’s test runs, while an insufficient sample size, do not report any dangerous confusion, and this is a better indicator than your baseless concern. What you are suggesting is a grossly exaggerated possibility, and points more to a criticism of automobile drivers’ abilities to drive defensively.

          (2a) “A horn, no matter how effective, is a band-aid solution.”


          (2b) “I believe a horn gives Mr. Lanskey MORE safety, but not enough for Boston. He obviously believes differently.”

          Lansey’s horn is not a solution and I am sure he knows that. It certainly is _not_ “obvious” that he believes otherwise; your suggestion is uncharitable.

          There can be no panacea when it comes to biking in Boston; the only measure that could even approach this lofty and unrealistic standard would be to install protected bike lanes — but we’ll see if that ever happens. But all of the methods described in the article above go a long way toward helping improve the safety of biking, more so if used in combination.


          (3) “[T]he failure to assess risks correctly leads to needless death – which is why I wouldn’t insure his life.”

          This contention is needless and damages some of the more constructive feedback you have given. Risk assessment requires prudence, and the cyclists in Boston who are making use of safety devices and following the rules of the road are cycling prudently.

          If you are not advocating “giving up on bicycling,” I am not sure what your intention is with your comments. Giving up cycling in Boston, specifically? You will have to provide better argumentation if this is the case.

        2. I strongly second Nathan’s risk assessment statement.

          It’s dangerous enough with a current (5y) model urban-oriented bike. A fixie or 80s Panasonic with original brake pads? Even worse.

          Here’s my gear list:
          2 × high power LED rear flashers, one on the back of the helmet, one on the bike frame (backpack mounts are worthless because of the angle).
          1 × Helmet mounted light, with at least a 1W LED, so drivers can know your vision vector. Cheap tip: skip the bike shop, go to the hardware store and get a miner type headlight, they can run as low as $10; just adjust the straps to fit over your helmet.
          2 × Ankle reflector strips, put the reflective spots at extremities with maximum visual movement that also help define the boundaries of your space.
          2 × Wrist reflector strips or gloves with reflector.
          1 × helmet-mounted mirror: http://www.3rd-eye.com/
          1 × As much reflective material as possible: http://www.bikeradar.com/gear/category/clothing/jackets/product/review-altura-night-vision-evo-jacket-10-37845

          1 × Brakes with great emergency control, as in mountain bike-style long cable pull handles, disc rotors. Ride with left hand (front) off the handle, right brake (rear) on the handle, practice mountain-bike-style emergency stops: 1) Squeeze rear brake, 2) shift weight behind seat, 3) squeeze front brake. 4) avoid locking up wheels (fixies & coaster brakes); it is very much possible to stop a bike from 20MPH in 20 feet (a regular cab Ford F-150 is about 18 ft long)

          Most critical: a Laser-sharp sense of situational awareness
          – Watch parallel parked cars for brake lights, startup lights, lateral moving (weight of someone getting in or out
          – Use that helmet mounted mirror to scan what’s behind you, at least the angle from directly behind to say, 45° left of rear.
          – A bell is a courtesy to pedestrians. Cars deserve yelling, and sometimes punching/slapping.
          – Be aware of the visibility zones of drivers; pedestrians do this stupid thing to drivers where they assume that you can see them because they’re looking at your car. If you’re looking at the A-pillar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pillar_%28automobile%29) and can’t see the driver’s eyes, the driver can’t see you; air drag, rolling friction, torque, reverse thrust, and physics will decelerate the car; your dirty glance will not.

      2. Thanks for the good discussion,

        The 8.5 miles each way of my commute heads way out to Woburn and I rarely see another bicycle. I signal and follow all traffic laws. The vast majority of drivers are very alert and considerate but I do use the horn on average about once to prevent an emergency.

  7. As someone who bikes to and from work from my home in StuVi2, I have to say that there are idiot bikers and idiot drivers out there every single day. No means of protection is foolproof (even in a passenger vehicle), but having a horn, helmet, etc. can only help. My favorite sentence though is “As he navigates through more populated areas, Lansey also never underestimates the power of yelling”. Yelling at cars cutting across lanes of traffic has saved me from being hit on multiple occasions. I think a horn only makes sense and hurts nobody.

  8. I cycle for utility rather than commuting or sport. When I cycle in Cambridge and Boston especially, it makes me crazy to see other cyclists (usually uni students by their looks) with no safety equipment blitzing through red lights, cursing cagers, and generally acting as though they own the roads and have a paper in their pocket guaranteeing that they’ll live forever. They get where they’re going far faster than I do, I’m sure, but they harm other cyclists by their immature behavior. One of these days I expect to roll up to find one of them the center of attention under somebody’s wheels.

    My kit: a 29yo road/25yo offroad bike for summer and winter respectively, an ANSI II reflective vest (mesh fabric for summer ventilation), a 29yo Bell helmet (the first to be ANSI cert’d) with a Taka-a-Look mirror and, velcro’d to the back of the shell, a Cygolite set on rapid flash. A Philips SafeRide headlight that doesn’t shine into oncomer’s eyes (~300 lumens, but as effective as 1000), and 2 Serfas taillights set on flash on the rear rack.

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