A red reflector can be more important than you might think.
The law in Massachusetts (and nearly every other state) requires bikers riding after dark to have a white headlight, and “either a lamp emitting a red light, or a red reflector visible for not less than six hundred feet when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle.”
You read that right: a red rear light OR reflector.
As I’ve mentioned before, bike laws are primarily about determining who was at fault for a crash. If it’s dark out and you’re hit from behind without a rear light, the crash will probably be considered your fault. However, a red reflector can be the difference between getting your mangled bike and hospital bills paid for, and getting stuck paying for the damage you did to a driver’s front bumper.
Now let me be clear: I’m not telling you it’s ok to ride without a rear light.
That would be ridiculous—everyone knows that proper lights are more effective than reflectors for nighttime visibility. I’m just saying it’s a good idea to have both. That way, if something happens to your rear light, you’re still in compliance with the law.
Still not convinced you should get a reflector in addition to your rear light? Here’s the top three reasons it’s a good idea:
1. Reflectors won’t get stolen.
Unlike your lights, they don’t have much value to a thief, so you can always leave them on your bike without worrying.
2. Reflectors never run out of batteries.
Zero power consumption means zero chance that they’ll run out of juice, leaving you stranded.
3. In a crash, lights often break off, reflectors don’t.
It happens far more often than you might think, and instead of asking, the police almost always just write that the biker had no lights in their report.
I wanted to make it easy for everyone to add this little layer of extra legal protection to their rides. That’s why I’ve teamed up with my pal Emily Thibodeau (owner of Hub Bicycle Co. in Cambridge) to create a solution. We’re calling them Retrostrips.
They’re little stickers made of red retroreflective laminate that you can put on your seat stay, helmet, seat post, rack, fender, or wherever else you can think of. They look super cool, but more importantly, they can be seen by cars from more than 600 feet away, so they’ll keep you covered under the law.
Oh yea, and they’re free. Find out how to get one at bikesafe.com/retro.