Beware the Equinox
Riding in to work on South Street this morning, the sun was blazing in my helmet-mounted mirror. Ah yes; equinox on the way. If you remember your astronomy, the sun rises and sets close to due east and west around the time of the equinox. So if you’re traveling one of those straight east/west roads, beware. This is one of the few circumstances in which a competent cyclist has to be concerned about overtaking motorists. If you’re heading into the sun, chances are the motorist behind you can’t see you as well as usual.
There can be problems from the front as well. A left-turning motorist looking into the sun can miss you. Motorists pulling out of sidestreets (and driveways) can miss you.
If your shadow is long and straight in front of you, then the sun is right behind you!
- Find a different route that doesn’t head straight east or west.
- Leave 10-15 minutes later or earlier.
- Find a route with a good tree canopy.
- Slow down on intersection approaches and prepare for conflicts.
- Get and use a really bright tail-light. Put it on flash mode (not those pointless chaser sequences; all the LEDs should be on or off at the same time for maximum effect). A cheap little blinky won’t cut it.
- Get and use a really bright headlight for those on-coming conflicts and put it on flash mode. (Go with a steady beam more than 15 minutes before sunrise or after sunset.)
- Choose a street with bike lanes or paved shoulders. I know some readers disdain them, but in this situation, the sun is going to illuminate the lane stripe (assuming they are well maintained) and guide the motorist to keep to your left. Of course you still need to account for turning conflicts the bike lane might present.
- Take your bike on a bus.
Some things NOT to do:
- Ride on the sidewalk. Turning conflicts are still a greater risk. Being on the sidewalk only aggravates those.
- Reflective gear will do little or nothing to help.
- Bright neon clothes MAY work, but I wouldn’t count on it.