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Monkey lights are great for ego and for side visibility
Monkey lights are great for ego and for side visibility
By Rachel Ruhlen
Jan. 11, 2013 8:45 p.m.

In light (ha ha) of my recent post about my former naiveté when I didn’t know enough to use lights, this is a good time to re-post one of my lost blog posts from before the website transition. My bike, Crush, has multitudes of lights now.
The main function of lights on a bicycle is not so that I can see the street in front of me, but so that all the rest of the traffic out there can see me. More than one driver has commented on how well lit I am.
My headlamp is powered by a generator hub built into my front wheel (ordered from Peter White Cycles). No batteries to remember! I keep a spare bulb with me. The headlamp is the one light that does light up the street in front of me, as well as makes me visible to other traffic.
Front white and rear red Reelights run off of magnets attached to the spokes (purchased from Walt’s Bike Shop in Columbia, MO). Again, I never have to worry about batteries. They run all the time, so I don’t even need to remember to turn a switch on or off. Without ever remembering to change a battery or turn a switch, my reelights keep me in compliance with the bare minimum required by law—a front white light and a red rear light.
The monkey light on my front wheel is a thing of beauty (ordered from monkeylectric). It makes patterns as the wheel turns, a flower, a star, an amoeba crawling around. It does require batteries. I use rechargeable batteries because I worry about all the poison we throw away with batteries. It’s cheaper that way too. But rechargeables don’t last as long. These are great for side visibility.
I have another red blinkie on my basket. It’s a pretty cheap thing and has fallen off so many times it’s lost its cover, and I should probably replace it. [Update: I have replaced it.] By law I’m only required to have one red taillight, which is my reelight, but I prefer more. Because the reelight attaches to the axle, it is lower down. A second light higher up helps outline my shape.
I have a downlow glow but I need to order a new battery for it (from Rock the Bike). It is a rechargeable battery which lived out its life. My downlow glow creates an orange pool of light underneath me. This also helps with the side visibility.
I used to have a helmet light. I liked being able to control the direction of that light. But it tended to slip off my helmet and fly off, landing on the road, and after a few of these falls it died. It used up a lot of batteries.
In addition to keeping me safe, my lights serve another purpose, which is that if I ever did get hit at night, it will be more difficult for the driver to get away with “I didn’t see her”. The way I bike protects me legally as well as physically. Bicyclists are at a disadvantage in the courts because while most judges and jurists are motorists, few are bicyclists. They can more easily sympathize with a fellow motorist who just “didn’t see” the bicyclist than they can with the bicyclist. While law enforcement does the best it can with limited resources, “police bias” is a well documented phenomenon that further disadvantages cyclists.
But my main goal is to prevent the wreck in the first place, and lights at night are a big part of that.

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