Last evening, driving home (in my car) westbound on Lawrence from Lincoln Square toward Milwaukee, it was already dark. I was counting the bicyclists I saw, in both directions. For a 20 minute ride in a car I counted 8 cyclists total. Only one had lights on his/her bike. The other 7 had no lights, none whatsoever.
I don't know how to get the message out. We all know that we need lights in order to be seen. It's very difficult to see a bike in the dark when it has no lights on, even when the driver is paying attention, let alone distracted. The Chicago vehicle code requires a headlight, and a rear reflector, but for all practical reasons, on a city street, one really needs a tail light above all else.
I really think the majority of those not using lights are not aware of Chainlink and do not communicate with other cyclists regarding bike safety. I regularly ride down Lawrence at the end of the day, and rarely see anyone else with lights on.
Yeah, it always baffles me that people ride without lights. It doesn't get much cheaper or easier than this:
I think there is a false misunderstanding that cars can see you with reflectors alone - I think people assume the street lights offer enough light but they don't. I always call no-lights cyclists ninjas because when I'm in my car, I cannot see them until I am just about right behind them.
Last night I was in a car on a semi-lit area of a side street. I barely saw pedal reflectors on a bike coming towards us, lit up by our headlights. No lights on the bike, of course.
The law is not about cyclist safety. The law requiring a headlight and a rear reflector is about protecting pedestrians who need to see a cyclist coming before they step off the curb. We need to focus on being safe in traffic ... and that requires good lights, front and rear. The law is irrelevant to your safety as a cyclist.
How bright is your headlight? I've seen some lately that were blinding even in daylight, made worse by the fact that they were flashing. Perhaps you have it aimed too high. If you're blinding drivers, that may not work in your favor. Worth a look, and perhaps a bit of angle adjustment.
I have a moderately bright headlight, aimed so most of the light is below the horizontal. No high beam response. Your mileage may vary....
I think this is a growing problem and is part of the "minimalist" mentality that lights are just another accessory (like helmets and brakes) that are not necessary.
Or shoes. Seeing fewer and fewer shoes out there.