Lighting Up the Early Night in Reno
As bikers become becoming more invisible to drivers, we look at the affordable new technology available to help you stay safe.
The shorter days and early sunset make this a nervous time for Reno’s growing bike community. It seems everyone enjoyed turning their clocks back an hour Sunday, but not bike commuter Joanna Trieger. The road now turns against her on the dark ride home at 5. Starting every November, she told us, "Unfortunately there's probably at least one close call every week or so."
Nearby at the Reno Bike Project, bike commuter Liz Hummelt agreed: "It's definitely scary, especially if you know someone who's been hit, or you've been hit in the past."
Liz and Joanna are two of the hundreds in town who bike to work and back. These days, the coming back home's a lot more treacherous. Liz told me, "I'll try to get out by 4, before 4...I'll bike home at 4."
In Washoe County, the average seems to be a few bicycle fatalities each year. Statewide, the number is 8 by this date this year and last. In Washoe County, we had 2 bike fatalities this time last year. This year, one. But now Reno Bike Project manager Kurstin Graham fears that number will grow: "During our commutes, it's either getting dark or the sun is very low in the sky."
Here are the basics you should have on your bike: the white light in front, blinking red light in the back. Thankfully, technology has made protection better than ever. It's ingenious what they've come up with in lights. Graham told us, "We have lights that show just as much to the side as they do to the rear."
The old battery lights of the past were less than 100 lumens. How bright are they now? "Multiple thousand lumens. I mean things that are just so bright that I would say are overkill." They are so bright, many use them in daylight. "You will see that around town now. More cyclists have a flashing red light in the daytime to make them more visible."
Many of the new lights don't even use batteries. They're USB rechargeable. Graham says, "You get to work or you get home, you plug it in just like any of your electronic devices."
The Reno Bike Project’s top seller is the “Nightrider 100”: front light and a 5-LED rear with side illumination, $22.
Joanna showed me the lights she got her lights at REI: "It comes in a set of front and back light. It’s easy to turn on, and has various settings which is great." And if you happen to follow her bike, you can't miss it: “I like to have it on this blinky thing so it’s not static. Just lighting up. That’s all that I need to do."