I'm happy to write this before I have real reason to. I didn't get hit. Nobody is hurt. I thought of this while biking past the ghost bike at McGuiness Blvd and Kent St for Liz Byrne.
I biked to Flatbush Ave in Brooklyn and was thinking how nice it is, once you get out of Queens, that you can bike the whole way, more or less, in a bike lane. So many hipsters on bikes. And none of them had lights. Outside the bar I was going to a large man complimented me on the lights on my bike. He was serious.
Turned out he was a MTA bus driver. As a professional driver, he just wanted to be able to see bikes. He couldn't figure out why bikers dress in all black. (Hey it's New York. But he pleaded, "just wear something I can see!" He was also keen on bikes not passing on the right when he's pulling into a bus stop... But that seems reasonable enough.)
Look, I'm not your mother. And personally I don't give a damn if you use a light or wear a helmet. But it just strikes me as crazy to not have a light at night. Even just a little red blinky light does wonders. Maybe the more bikes people can't see the more careful some drivers will be, thus increasing my chance of survival.
I like Blackburn Mars 3 or Planet Bike's Blinky 7 for the rear (those little and seemingly more popular button-sized lights really aren't worth shit) and a Streamlight Stinger on the front (not cheap, but well worth it), held on with one of these things (they last about a year before the velcro gives out...).
The Stinger is what the man complimented me on. It's a common police flashlight. Just make sure you aim into into the ground so you're not a schmuck blinking people with your lights. Unlike a blinky light, the Stinger actually lights the ground in front of you, which really does come in handy. The light runs for just over an hour, which is good enough for the longest night ride. An extra battery in nice to have, though. Especially if you ride both ways in the dark.
Some people, can take this to a bit of an extreme. Yikes.
Live to bike another day.