When Being Tough Can Be Cool

Night riding: be visible.

A few weeks ago, my son ended up hanging out at a friend’s house longer than planned, which was fine until he had to ride his bike home.  “Can you pick me up?”

“No, but I’ll bring lights for your bike.”  When I got there, he argued that it would be much easier to put his bike in the car, but I wanted him to ride his bike home.  He flat out refused the head and tail lights so I went to Plan B:  drive home behind him so that traffic would see my headlights on him.

The dude knows how I feel about bicycle safety.  I complain every time we drive by someone who rides without a helmet, through stop signs, doesn’t have a light…  Since that night when he was mortally embarrassed by Mom’s driving home behind him, he has been careful to get home before dark.

Until today.  He and a group of friends were out, lost track of time and were near busy-ish streets.  One mom and I realized that they would be riding home in the dark and started texting.

Mom: I might just head over and pick them up.

Me: There are too many bikes (5).  Some of them still need to ride.

Mom: Yup.

Me: I have headlights.  I’ll meet you down there.

I had four lights.  One came from the Energizer Night Race a few years ago, another from the Trek or Treat Race, and two others were won as prizes.  Fortunately, one of the boys had a headlight on his bike so we actually would end up with each kid being visible, as long as there wasn’t a battle about lights not being cool.

I was slow getting out of the house (after all, I did have to make sure that the batteries were working) and, when I got there, my son must have known what was coming because he ran to me and asked me to wait in the car.

“Um, no, I have lights so you boys can ride home.”

The youngest in the group ran up to me.  “Can I, please, have a light so that I can ride home with them?”  My guy gave in and I looked at the older boys.  “Here’s a headlight for you,” I said, starting with one whom I recognized as a former student of my own school.

“No, it’s okay.”

“All the cool kids have them,” I sang.

Supernova Lights – by Road ID.

“Okay,” he laughed as he took one.  The fourth boy followed.  Then, I clipped the Road ID  Supernova lights onto the backs of the two youngest.

“Wow!  You’re the cool mom!” I was told.

Energizer headlights and Supernova (Road ID)

Success! Within minutes, I went from being told to wait in my car to being respected as the cool mom.  They took off, I followed, and when I saw how visible the posse was, I drove ahead to meet them at the house.

One of the boys, clearly visible on a dark street.

And I might have spied on them, just to make sure that they were still wearing them, and everyone was.  No one complained when they handed them back.  Instead, they thanked me and reminded me that I was cool.

 

Do You See What I See?

A few weeks ago, when mornings were suddenly dark at 6:30, a friend emailed me:

“Cynthia, I’m so upset.  I almost hit a jogger.  I didn’t even see him.  He was wearing black.  I’m still shaking.”

Tonight, while driving along a dark and quiet street, I went through similar emotions.  A man was running on the road, facing the direction of oncoming traffic (i.e. me), and wearing an orange jacket with a reflective strip.  He likely thought that the orange made him visible; it did not.  The jacket itself was not reflective and the reflective strip was worn so I didn’t see it until after I saw his face – at the last minute.   I swerved to get out of his way and he was fine.  In fact, he probably had no idea of what was happening or that I felt panic; he continued jogging down the road and I cursed the fact that he wasn’t wearing reflective clothing.

Visibility for runners is essential.  Whether it is day or night, we need to be seen.  For this reason, I tend to run on the road – and am sometimes criticized for this by my non-running friends – but I am safer.  First, drivers are more likely to see me when I am on the road than on the sidewalk; since I am sharing a lane with traffic, it is hard for them not to notice me.   Secondly, without trying to sound too cocky, most drivers can’t judge my speed; if I am on the sidewalk, a driver will often try to quickly swerve into a turn, thinking that he/she can beat me to the intersection but, instead, forces me to a grinding stop just as I am about to jump off the sidewalk onto the road.  For me, running on the road often seems to be the better option; I just have to dress for it.

For the past few winters, I was sporting a Vizipro jacket by Saucony.

Reflective gear 1
Kelly-Lynne and me in our Vizipro vest and jacket.

I loved its vibrant pink and, even more, the battery-charged piping that lit up when I ran.  When training with my club, I often did a reverse-Rudolph run and ran at the back of the pack so that we could be sure that cars from behind would see us.

In January, when I found myself lying face down in the middle of a busy road, I clearly remember thinking “It’s okay.  Drivers will see me.  I have my jacket on.”  The next day,  I looked at my running gear and noticed a rip on the right sleeve of my Saucony jacket.  Since I loved that jacket, I considered fixing it with duct tape but I didn’t want to spend the rest of the jacket’s life looking at the sleeve, remembering the night that I broke my jaw.  My husband agreed.  “Get rid of it,” he said.  Being frugal, I usually pass unwanted gear onto running friends but this one didn’t make the cut; I didn’t ever want to see someone else wearing this pink vizipro because of the negative connotation it now had.  Straight into the garbage it went.

Since I haven’t really needed to run in the dark or the cold since that night, I haven’t had to worry about a jacket either. Reflective gear2 A few  Tuesday’s ago after school, I was dressed to run when my husband stopped me at the door.  “You are not wearing that,” he insisted.  “You’re wearing black.  By the time you get home, it’s going to be dark.  No one will be able to see you.”  I reminded him that I hadn’t replaced my reflective jacket yet.  “Take my Brooks jacket.  I don’t need it.  I have another.”   It is orange (not my favorite colour), a little big on me and a little warmer than I need right now, but it does the trick.  I can be seen when I run.

Tonight, I realized how much I do need this jacket until I do replace it with one that fits better.  In the past few weeks, drivers have slowed down to let me go first, or they have given me space on the road; I know they can see me.  But the guy who was running tonight when I was in the car?  He was not visible; he may as well have been dressed in black.

A simple trick to check your reflectivity is to ask someone to shine a flashlight on you, dressed in your gear, before you head out the door.  If that doesn’t work, trying taking a selfie outside.  You may be surprised by what you do – or don’t – actually see.