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Why We Glow? You Should Too on Your Bike

HINT: Staying Safe!

During my first semester as an exchange student, I remember sitting in a coffee shop downtown studying late one evening. Little did I know I was about to witness a collection of cyclists rush by with enough lights to illuminate a small town strung around the frames and lining the spokes of their bikes. Not only were the bikes easily visible, they were commanding of attention. The asphalt glistened as LED lights of all colors beamed in many directions. Reflectors highlighted each riders’ movement and created an almost mesmerizing trail. Joy radiated off of the riders, energy was high, and excitement was loudly expressed as cheering and hollering which could be heard down the entire street.

This was when I was formally introduced to “Bike Night” as my roommate explained that they close the downtown roads on a Thursday each month for the event. Anyone with a bicycle is able to join and is encouraged to decorate their own bike with lights. Glowing frames highlighted some more unusual sets of wheels (wheel?) such as the giraffe unicyclists, who were smoothly weaving in and out of the jumbled light show.

Light Up the Night Around the World

Although that was the first one I’d seen, glow rides have been taking place all across the world.

Considered to be the original, the Venice Light Parade is a long-standing tradition in LA, California. The founders, Marcus and Sebastian were frequently found along Venice Beach to the Santa Monica Pier. In 2017, they gave avid cyclist, Susan Gautsch, who was living in California at the time, lights for her e-bicycle. The concept stuck with her and she founded Free-To-Roam eBiking here in New Mexico who host their very own glow rides! Marcus and Sebastian encouraged not only Susan, but provided inspiration for countless other rides.

In Hermosa, California, they are in their eighth year of hosting a fundraising glow ride. They emphasize the importance of bringing the community together.

In Lexington, Kentucky, they have initiated a glow ride as a part of their “Safe Streets Lexington” program.

Pedal to the Moon” is the creative name of the ride that takes place in Castle Rock, Colorado and in Clearwater Beach, the group event has been coined as “Let’s Glow Riding”.

Most Amazing Glow Ride with the World’s Biggest Balloon Fiesta

Here in Albuquerque, the Free-to-Roam eBiking crew hosts glow rides during the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta and there isn’t a more magical way to experience the largest balloon event in the world. Not only are all of the Free-to-Roam e-bikes eye-catchingly luminous, but they are also in prime condition thanks to the incredible service crew. As they are beautifully maintained and ready to go, these pedal-assist bikes will provide an easy and worry-free experience. This allows for individuals of all ages and physical abilities to safely join in. Groups can avoid the traffic and leave parking struggles behind so that the balloons can be the main event. Not to mention, riding anywhere along the bike trails in Albuquerque and surrounding areas is guaranteed to include beautiful scenery. The unique landscape and crisp air of the desert provide the ultimate setting for a peaceful ride.

For riders who are asking “How can I light up my bike?” so they have their very own glowing set of wheels, Free-to-Roam has light kits which can be picked up or installed by us for you!

Bike Lighting and Safety

Visibility Concerns

Some may be wondering whether the glowing lights serve more than just a decorative purpose. In fact, it is likely that most individuals understand the value of lights in road safety. But there are further measures to take beyond the basic set-up of headlights and taillights. These additional precautions increase the visibility of a cyclist, thus increasing their safety. A recent study showed that many individuals tend to overestimate how close a driver needs to be to see them. In fact, many of us are less visible than we thought. Consider the scenario of passing a semi truck in the dark. It can be disconcerting when a large trailer or semi truck only has lights on the bottom. From a distance, it is more difficult to make out the size of the vehicle ahead of them. This is why the law requires a certain number of amber lights to outline the full shape of the vehicle.

Importance of Vehicle Lighting Locations

Research has been conducted on the location of automobile lighting and the way different mounting styles can impact levels of safety. When it comes to unusual vehicles on the road, it is important for them to not only be seen, but to be recognized. Knowing whether you are passing a cyclist, pedestrian, or oversized vehicle— to name a few of the possibilities— increases your ability to predict the actions of the others sharing the road. This is in part due to the fact that we have expectations for the speed of all classes of vehicle and modes of travel. Those preconceptions influence a driver’s behavior. A semi truck is assumed to move more slowly, and change lanes sluggishly. They require having extra space and time for lane changes. It is also in the best interest of all drivers to assume that a semi truck has an increased number of blind spots, and many will typically avoid traveling directly alongside it.

How to Be Visible on an eBike

Daytime Riding

The driver of a semi has less to be concerned about than a cyclist does, however. Thus, instead of only a few additional lights, why not equip the bike with a fully lit outline of the entire frame? This allows for complete visibility from 360 degrees. While this may be overkill on a straightway, it is hugely beneficial when a cyclist is making a turn or entering an intersection. When driving, we all make decisions based on the environmental data we subconsciously collect. During the daytime, a driver might pass a cyclist and then have a right turn to make in two hundred feet. Depending on the speed limit and the speed of the cyclist, they must determine whether they need to wait to allow the biker to pass first or whether it is best for them to make the turn and remove themselves from the whole equation. One less question to wonder about on the road is safer for everyone.

Nighttime Riding

At night, it is far more difficult to gauge speed and it is easy to lose track of their location when the road curves or other visual obstructions come up. Depth perception, peripheral vision, and color recognition can become compromised. This limited visibility in the dark means the motorist has less time to react to something unexpected in the road. A fully lit bike draws the eye from further away and makes speed easy for others to gauge. This added visibility can make up for some of the unpredictability that nighttime riding comes with. For those who are using their bike to make their daily commute, rush hour traffic is especially dangerous in fall and winter months when a normally visible route becomes indistinct in the dark.

Are e-bikes safe on the road?

The position at which lights are mounted on the bike and the location of the reflective material worn by the rider plays a significant role in the level of safety. Flashing lights were shown to be better for grabbing attention and are more visible from long distances. Solid lights allow the movement of the cyclist to be tracked easily with the eye as there is no interruption in the signal.

No matter who we are or where we are going, we all benefit from safe roadways. Throughout the years, researchers have used mathematical models and conducted studies in order to increase our understanding of the different protocols that help mitigate the risk of an accident.

One general conclusion drawn is that focusing on visibility and predictability will aid in increasing the safety of those traveling on the roads. The electric bicycles glow not only because it supports a relaxed, safe ride for a specific event, but because it is also an effective safety measure to take.

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