By Aimee Sterk, MATP Staff
My husband has recently gotten very interested in cycling, and as the nights get longer and it is dark so early, I’ve gotten very concerned about his visibility and safety. Visibility for people who use mobility devices is even more of a challenge because often the height of wheelchairs, powerchairs, scooters, and other devices is below eye level for drivers (my biggest concern).
I talked with Ross Schueller at 3rd Coast Cycles in Hudsonville, Michigan about options for increasing visibility that would work well for cyclists and mobility device users. There are several categories of options:
- Gear—As Ross pointed out, what matters most is that drivers and others notice the person (not necessarily the bike or chair). The gear you wear can vastly improve visibility. Ross suggests cycling gloves with reflective pieces sewn in so if you are propelling your chair with your hands, or indicating your plans for turning, or waving to get attention, your hands are highly visible and yet protected from the cold. You might also consider safety vests or running and biking gear made for visibility and winter conditions.
- Tape—While bike shops have reflective tape, Ross suggested a cheaper option is to visit your local hardware store and buy some of their reflective tape and place it strategically on your device. You could even get artistic and make a cool design (If you do will you send us a picture?).
- Lights—Bike shops are great places for “blinkies” of all sorts. They come in long-running LED varieties. You can mount them on your device and/or as my husband does, also mount them on your helmet or head with a strap. When mounted high enough, they provide visibility of you, and for you, as you maneuver the dark streets. Most cyclists put lights on the front and back of their bikes. You might want to do the same and consider the sides as well. I even found blinky light earrings online if you want to really deck yourself out. Laura Hall, MATP staff, is getting a cool set of Bike Brightz for her chair. They are directional and might also help you see where you are going. They are available in a variety of colors.
- Wheels—Ross reminded me that there are some really cool spoke lighting systems for bikes. Your local bike shop may be able to help you install them on your wheelchair. If you have big bucks to spend, you can get some really cool wheels like the Monkey Light Pros (starting around $900/wheel). If your budget is more like mine, you might want to consider the regular Monkey Light M232s , which come in 42 themes and 64 colors and ranges from $30-$50. Ross did explain that because there is so much variety in wheelchair wheels, sometimes bike-related gear works, and sometimes it doesn’t. You’ll want to check specifications and connect with your local shop. Ross also indicated that sometimes commuter bike tires with reflective sidewalls are a great options for wheelchairs.
- Flags—Bike shops that specialize in family bikes and bikes for kids will have some options for flags to attach to your mobility device. Again, it might be cheaper and easier to rig something up yourself from your local hardware store.
How do you deck out your mobility device for safety? Do you get creative for style too?Tweet