Saturday, April 14, 2012

To Be Seen and Not Seen

I like riding after sunset, when it gets late at night.  I move around in the dark and leave before it gets light.  Often I leave before sunrise and arrive at work as the sky begins to turn turn blue.  I possess excellent night vision.  But I do not trust those around me especially when my hemisphere is turned away from its star.

If I had my way I would not use lights on my way to work.  But deer, pedestrians, other bikes and automobiles convince me otherwise.    There are days when I shut them all off except for the rear flasher.  Use the ambient light of street lights and the sun's reflection from the moon.

Sometimes I need more illumination.  There are areas of my commute that are infested with deer.  I like to turn on maximum wattage to scan a few hundred meters in front of me.  Maybe Joe Ayers can attest to my zig zagging in Water Works as I enter the curve just west of the Raccoon River bridge.  Deer are often spotted here between the treeline and the river.  I also use the bright lights when I get on Park Ave for my 1/2+ mile run on this busy dark road.  No excuses for being unseen here.

I could go on about all the stealthy joggers and walkers I see almost daily especially now that winter has ended.  Why run in the darkness without lights, reflective gear and dressed in black?  Do they want to die?  My favorite place is the Gray's Lake Bypass.  Silhouettes  show up against the lighted back ground of the Fleur Viaduct.  I close within 2 or 3 meters and turn the night into day.  One morning I got very close to a large group of stealthy joggers and before lighting them up I said in a loud deep voice, "NINJAS" which caused several to jump off the trail and scream.  Jeff Logan suggested that I use the word "zombie" next time.

Some bicycles get the max wattage treatment because they fail to dim their lights.  Could be an inconvenience.  Could be generator lights that cannot be shut off.  Could be rudeness.  But I dim my lights when I encounter other bikes.  After all, night vision is ruined by bright lights.  But if they fail to do this I light em up.

So the other day I was dumbfounded by what I saw or failed to see.  I was preparing to cross the intersection of Jackson and SE1st.  After turning off Granger I immediately look at the convenience store at that intersection to see if it is open.  If it is open I am behind schedule.  Then I look at the intersection itself searching for cross traffic that may impede my travel.  This morning there was a southbound car which is ok with me, no concern since we are not in each others way.

But as I was crossing, looking at this car and the convenience store I saw a bike making a left turn as after me while I crossed.  I did not see the bike at all until it was on me.  It was in the turn lane thus I had the right of way and obviously I was in his way.  But next to the car he was invisible.  I noticed he had a cheap light on steady and it was dim.  My cheap light is always on flash.  A flashing light attracts attention.  His did not.

Note to self and others: when riding at light on a well lit street and in traffic you may not be seen.  Be properly lit.

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