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Safety Accessories

Accessories go a long way to keeping you safe. Stock up on accessories, sure, but also make sure you learn how to not get hit! 

are absolutely essential for night-time riding. Most cyclists who get killed are hit at night don’t have lights.

Every year the bike lights you can buy are better, brighter and cheaper than the year before. Any article on lights quickly becomes out-of-date. The article below reviews some of the generic technology, but to see what is best this year go to the Bicycle Network website, log in to Blink (if you are a Bicycle Tasmania member), and go to RideOn. Look in the current or latest editions - lights surveys come out in the March-April edition each year.

For a
rear light, ge
t a cheap ($10-15) red flasher, which runs off AA or AAA batteries that will last for months (up to 200 hours of use). This is a cheap way to keep you from being invisible. Red flashers are cheap and effective. This is a no-brainer. Get one.

With headlights, you have a choice. You can get a light similar
to red flashers, but with white. The 
advantage is that it's cheap and the batteries last forever. It's bright enough to get you noticed in some situations, but it's not as noticeable as a rechargeable halogen headlight. It's also not bright enough to light up the roadway, but if you're riding in the city, this usually isn't a problem since the whole city is lit up like a Christmas tree at night anyway. 

Your other option in a front light is a powerful rechargeable
. These start out at $200, though some models cost a lot more. Most of these headlights have limited battery life (usually a charge gives 5-6 hours of run time). The advantages of rechargeable halogen lights over flashers is that they are bright enough to light up the roadway and are often 10x's more powerful. 

A mirror  

is an absolute must. Your paranoia will decrease by 75% once you can 
see what's behind you! 

Another extremely handy device is an Air Zound horn It's
LOUD! If a car 
blasts you, you can blast them right back! The horn mounts to your handlebars, and the air canister is shaped like a water bottle and fits in your water bottle cage on the frame. You refill it with a standard bike pump, and it's good for about 20 good blasts between refills. I use it when I'm biking at night and there's someone ahead of me on the right who's about to pull out of a driveway or parking lot. Never again do I need to worry that they can't see me. The horn can also scare off some (but not all) dogs. It's pricey, but worth it. 

Don't confuse wearing a helmet with bicycle safety. A helmet only makes it safer to crash, but does nothing to make it safer to ride. A helmet might only help once you've already been hit. Your goal is to avoid getting hit in the first place.
To that end, you can greatly improve your chances 
of not getting hit by getting lights, a mirror, and an Air Zound horn, by not riding recklessly, and by being aware of the main ways a car can nail you (pulling out in front of you from your right, making a right-hand turn in front of you, and opening their door in your path). Also remember that a helmet doesn't make you invincible -- local cyclists have been killed in accidents in which they WERE wearing their helmets. All this aside, it's still a good idea to wear a helmet because it may afford some protection in the event of a crash, but don't think that strapping on a helmet makes you "safe" -- being knowledgeable, alert, and well-equipped will go a lot farther toward protecting your life than simply strapping on a piece of styrofoam. 

Make sure you know how to adjust your helmet to fit properly. If you wear it wrong it'll come off in a crash, erasing any safety benefit you might have gained. (Note that used helmets may be less effective if they've been dropped or impacted in a collision, but if you're pressed for funds, a cheap helmet beats no helmet.) A helmet at a bike shop starts out at around $50, but the folks at a bike shop can also show you how to make sure it fits properly.