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Eek! A flasher!


I’ve discovered the joy of flashing.

No, not in the mardi gras sense, and not like that creepy, rotund, pasty old guy down the street who insists on mowing every time shirtless and wearing those too-short shorts.

The flashing I’m talking about here involves the light on my bicycle handlebars. See, most bike lights have steady and flash settings, and for the bulk of my bike-commuting life, I’ve been a slow and steady kinda guy, both in terms of my pedaling prowess and my lights.

Maybe it’s a reflection on my personality. I’m not flashy and prefer not to call too much attention to myself. I’m steady and kinda dim, and my bike lights reflect that. The steady part, at least.

Once a couple of years ago, I was racing a thunderstorm home and, about two miles from home, the wind picked up, and the temperature dropped, and just as I was steeling myself for what I was sure to be a wet rest of the ride home, my light strobed — the signal it was about to run out of juice. To conserve power, I switched it over to flash mode and rode the rest of the way blinkin’.

And I didn’t feel too good.

Something about the flash pattern seemed to upset my stomach, and I rode somewhat queasily home. I beat the storm by seconds; once I switched off the blinky light, my tummy stopped turning, and all was good.

So I pretty much vowed not to ride with my light on the flashing setting again.

That changed a couple of weeks ago when, riding my backup ride with the less-powerful backup light, I had a series of close calls with cars. The drivers of said cars seemed not to see me — not like they don’t see me during the daylight, but like they REALLY don’t see me — and I blamed my weak beams.

I switched over to flash and — what do you know? — no near misses. It’s anecdotal, sure, but just watching the swiveling heads of drivers and pedestrians alike has convinced me there’s something to this blinky-light thing.

I spared no expense in buying either of my bike lights, and they’re both big and bad, but there’s something about the flicker that just seems brighter. I know the eye is drawn to movement and all, but I’m tickled to see highly reflective signs blocks away light up when hit by my candlepower.

And that’s the thing: My lights on steady-high attract attention in my direction; my lights on blink seem to get attention first away from me, as folks see signs down the street lighting up, then back to me as they try to figure out just where from where that flash is coming.

So blink it is. I reckon I’d rather be the guy with a turning tummy than the guy with a grille embedded in his femur.


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