As the equinox comes and goes, the sun will continue to be at a dangerous angle during rush hour. Bike Portland (and Seattle Bike Blog!) would like to remind you to be extra careful and aware.
Last year about this time I shared a friendly warning about the perils of sun glare. It just so happens that the sun rises and sets about the same time as the peak AM and PM commutes when lots of people are on the roads. When the sun is at just the right angle, it’s very difficult to see and glare causes many collisions each year — like the one that seriously injured 76-year-old Clark Henry a few weeks ago.
As for advice, assume cars cannot see you (which is actually good advice in general, but especially during sun glare times). Remember Jeff Word’s averted tragedy in South Lake Union during the spring? Sun glare was likely a factor in the driver not seeing the red light (you can see the sun in her eyes in the video, shot by David Behroozi):
More advice from Bike Portland:
As far as advice goes, if you’re riding in the opposite direction of the sun, assume that cars turning left cannot see you at all. Stop and wait until they’ve passed before moving through the intersection. If you’re riding into the sun, there’s not as much you can do. Craig H. recommends rolling onto the sidewalk if possible or perhaps even choosing a lower-traffic, tree-shaded route.
I would also recommend using your lights whenever the sun is at a shallow angle, as should people driving cars.
Do you have any advice for biking when the sun is in people’s eyes?
If someone is really blinded by the sun, there’s not much to do but stay alert or get off the road. On my route, glare isn’t a huge problem. As a general matter, though, I run my blinky lights every single time I’m riding, regardless of where the sun is. They are my vehicle’s daytime running lights. And because I run them in the day, wimpy little blinkies don’t cut it. I can’t tell you how many little red flashers I see on my daylight commutes that are so dim that they are invisible to anyone but the spider riding on your fender. They don’t even work that well in the evening — they’re pointless.
You need the retina-searing strobes — I run a SuperFlash in the rear and a Planet Bike Half-Watt (set to flash mode) up front. Others might want more lumens up front, but I have street lights all the way home and only need a strobe to alert others to my presence. The Half-Watt seems to strike the right balance between alerting others and blinding them. The latter isn’t good for my safety or karma.
I run Dinotte 400R in flashing mode day/night. It far out shines every other light I’ve seen on the road including those Planet Bike lights. I’ve got a super flash as well and I put both on you can’t even see it unless you are next to my bike.
I strongly advise putting your flash on, and leaning your bike up against say your parked car at home and walk a 1/4 to a 1/2 mile back. Still see your lights? A light which is visible 50 ft back is worthless. You are visible at 50ft. What you want is to alert drivers before they can otherwise see you.
With retna burning lights aim them so that if the driver is right on your tail, they are in pain. That will keep them either way back, or move them over to the passing lane.
Yes Dinotte is expensive but try a trip to the emergency room.. You’d pay anything not to be there.
Great lighting advice, espeically the added benefit of running lights 24/7. There is reason motorcycles do the same! I also repeat your tagline Gary to anyone that marvels at the expense of my lighting system–“check out the copay on just an ambulance ride –it’s less than the cost of these lights.”
I need to check out that Dinotte line of lights–LEDs sure have come a long way. One added note is that helmet lighting is an often overlooked addition to a cyclist’s lighting scheme In addition to lights mounted on the handlebar/under the saddle for basic front/back visibility, helmet lighting (zip tying planet bike lights in the case of most of my family members) allows for lights to be directed at drivers attempting to pull in front of you left or right, that cannot see handlebar mounted lights due to parked cars, abrupt angles, etc. My helmet lights often are all cars see that are about to pull in front of me, just due to the added height helmet lighting allows over obstructions. Having in effect two front lights of some type, and two rear allows for the fact that batteries in one light can always die on a commute (2=1, 1=none, to quote that GI Jane movie).
p.s. My preferred front lighting is a 13W “spot” niterider HID bulb–on day or night. I’ve been able to light the entire cabin of a car with this light to stop cars from rolling past stop signs into my path of travel –with the driver looking down at a phone, or in the opposite direction simply because they notice their entire car/truck is lit and are wondering where the light is coming from.
A quick reminder: if you are stuck behind an automobile windshield make sure it’s clean, not forgetting the inside. Yummy plasticizers (aka “that new car smell”) evaporating from upholstery and other interior fittings tends to condense on the interior of windows, forming an remarkably obscuring film when backlit by the sun. Same visual effect as what results from smoking cigs with the windows rolled up, except instead of tar and nicotine nonsmokers get to breath bisphenol A, bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate, tributyl phosphate, polycaprolactone, acetamide and more!