“See” or “Be Seen” Lights
I never heard that expression until I bought a light from a real bicycle store.
It mystifies me when I see folks riding around with a single blinking white LED on the front. I just about jumped out of my skin when I was driving out east SR-50 and, well within “striking range” saw a guy riding on the shoulder with a dimly lit one red led blinker in the pre-dawn dark with light fog. If he had been taking the lane, I would have hit him for sure.
I guess I just don’t understand . . .
I went many years riding bicycles without ever being in a real bicycle store . . . fact was, I didn’t trust them. My father told me that they were rip-off joints like auto dealers. I might (and did) poke around there looking for a bargain, but I never saw bargains there. The classified ads (which was the predecessor to Craig’s List) was where I got bikes.
My experience with buying a real bicycle light in a real bicycle store did not improve my opinion.
So one day when I was flush I spent $35 on a real light combo. It was from the now defunct Vistalite which was considered to be a good name at the time. I was buying it from a well-known bicycle store. I was paying higher than what I thought I should . . . so how could I go wrong?
Based upon the recommendations of the store, I bought this one. And as the reviews say, the tailight was wonderful, but the headlight sucked.
I went back to the store to complain about it. I told the guy how I ended up where there was no overhead street light and how I got scared because I couldn’t see anything, much less the uneven street. I really was afraid I was going to crash.
He explained to me that the light was not to “see” by, but to “be seen” by motorists and he was, in fact correct.
Here is what drives me crazy. I worked for a number of years in notoriously dangerous jobs. We mostly had each other, but we also had some safety devices of all types to help us from getting, in the best case scenario killed and in the worst case, maimed for life. After you have seen enough, you realize that there are worse things than death.
These safety devices had been tested extensively by numerous companies, regulatory agencies and in also the field by us. We were taught that if we saw anything wrong with these devices, that we should complain longly and loudly and that we would be protected from retribution for doing so.
We worked with a lot of devices, but “safety devices” were the best and we put our trust — nay, we trusted our very lives – with them.
So that was my beef with this light and what I told the salesman, who grew a little red when I said it. “When someone buys a bicycle headlight, it’s not like buying a shoe, or a pedal or a fender. This is, by it’s very function, a safety device and it ought to be fit for it’s purpose.”
Yet, my dumb flashlight wrapped by a bungee cord performed better than this light and at a fourth of the cost.
One might think, what with the required reflectors and what-not, that headlights, required by every state law in the land would be tested and certified just as they are for cars and trucks, but one would think wrongly.
Even though every state in the country declares a bicycle to be a vehicle, the CPSC still calls it a toy. And if they think toys shouldn’t be ridden at night, why require any reflectors at all, much less a white one on the front (which is violation of all the state laws)?
If one can purchase a light that one can see by, it will be seen.