Wednesday, April 3, 2013

What Happened to Reflectors?

When my son accidentally busted the wheel reflector on my Ross I realized that the bike had no more reflectors. Period. I haven't seen many reflectors—if any—on new bicycles either. And the more I thought about it I realized something was amiss.

It seems we advocate wearing high visibility clothing, using lights, and defensive cycling. But barring all those, shouldn't all bicycles come equipped with—at the very least—wheel reflectors?

Jeesh, not one reflector on any of my dream bikes. Who knew? (Not me, of course.)

Pedal reflectors. Photo credit: Tamia Nelson

I recall the days when bicycles were covered in reflectors. The more the merrier. A white reflector on the stem, a red one attached to the seat post, one on each wheel, plus two on each pedal rounded out the collection, rendering a bike lit like a Christmas tree when a car's headlights shined. And sure, reflectors are only effective under certain lighting conditions, but for simple, low cost safety that doesn't need a battery, I believe reflective material goes a long ways towards making bikes safer for everyone.

While I ride the Ross around town, I better make sure I'm not out after dark, because I'm afraid I'll be invisible, even if I ride the sidewalk. Gotta put a blinkie in my pocket...

Our rental bikes in France. Michele's bike had two reflectors on each wheel. Look at that shine!

It seems we've lost a built-in safety measure in favor of simplicity. Sure, bikes look less cluttered, more streamlined—sleek even—which may appeal to a broader market. Or possibly those new to cycling. Why would a newbie want to ride a bike full of orange and red beacons that remind them of childhood rides? And, who doesn't like the simple single-speed? I betcha you won't find any reflectors on those babies.

Once you lose or break a reflector, they rarely get replaced. Out of sight; out of mind. I'm guilty of that. (Is that why orange vests became popular?) But still, I lament the fact that plastic reflectors have gone the way of the dinosaur.

8 comments:

  1. New bikes here are supplied with both front and rear reflectors and in many cases wheel reflectors too...I think that it's a legal requirement. Mind you one of the first things a lot of people do with a new bike is to remove them...stupid I know and I am guilty of it too....

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    1. There are some passionate responses to this issue on the Internet. Some people advocate for their complete removal because of accidents caused by wheel reflectors breaking and jamming into spokes, etc. I still think that possibility is unlikely and reflectors do more good than harm.

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  2. Reflectors are still required on all bikes in my state. So new bikes all come with them. Almost every parts bin I have in my basement has several reflectors in the bottom. I remove them and use lights or other means of reflective material. I think they make my bikes look like cheap department store bikes.

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  3. Also....all my commuter bikes have Schwalbe tires, including my studded tires. Schwalbe tires have reflective sidewalls. No need for plastic reflectors in the spokes.

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    1. I like the idea of reflective walled tires.

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  4. Pretty sure new bikes sold here are required to have front, rear, pedal and wheel reflectors. I too remove them mostly for aesthetic reasons and replace with lights.

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  5. Annie, you might like this. I'd use a reflector like this.

    http://velo-orange.blogspot.com/2013/04/shiny-bits.html

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    Replies
    1. Very nice and classy reflector, and nice fender for that matter. That would look great on my Miyata.

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