not to be confused with the supernatural movie of the same name, the british astronomical society's campaign for dark skies is, in their own words, a campaign to restore our natural, starry skies by reducing inefficient lighting. of course, the word inefficient is something of a subjective term; inefficient by whose standards, one might be prompted to enquire? the campaign, however, elucidates in the following manner 'to preserve and restore the beauty of the night sky by campaigning against excessive, inefficient and irresponsible lighting that shines where it is not wanted nor needed.'
it would be prudent to bear in mind, however, that this is the british astronomical association who have an agenda not necessarily in keeping with the rest of british society. their principal beef, as may be gleaned from even the above brief precis of the strategy, is street lighting that remains in the on position throughout the darkness of an evening. for the car driver, a lack of street lighting may not present much of a problem, while for both pedestrians and cyclists it can lead to feelings of insecurity and possibly even disorientation, and all because some folks with telescopes wish to better see the universe around them.
i don't wish to seem disfavourable towards this campaign, for i am a firm believer that everyone ought to have a hobby of some sort or another. scanning the heavens is surely one of the more innocuous pastimes that can be carried out in the hours of darkness and leading into the wee small hours. however, the bulk of the serious astronomical research takes place on the higher points of the andes mountains and that of tenerife where nobody else lives and thus has no real need of street lighting. and were that insufficient, there's the hubble telescope floating in earth orbit, far from any form of artificial light and able to see light years into the distance. i know, for i receive an endless succession of press releases from the european space agency advising of the latest discovery several thousand light years distant.
and in case your wondering why, i have truly no earthly idea.
but for the hapless cyclist, a decent spread of artificial light in the more urban of britain's towns and cities is probably something to be applauded. there is little point in knowing that a new star is appearing in alpha centauri when you've just been knocked down on the way home from work by a fiesta driver who adhered to the smidsy get out clause. but there's every reason to believe that the plethora of light in such areas, whether static or flashing, could well be as much to blame for such accidents after dark, as they are responsible for preventing them.
take a look at any city landscape at night and it will be filled with traffic indicating forward direction, intermittently glowing brake lights and orange hazard lights atop industrially associated vehicles. add to that the almost inevitable passage of speeding emergency services, and it would be a tad unfair to apportion sole blame to the average motorist midst this melange of ever-shifting light sources.
however, though it is a legal requirement to affix appropriate lighting to each and every bicycle, there is no real demand for that lighting to offer the kind of illumination that would allow the velocipedinist to find their way in complete darkness. thankfully, much of this task is handled by the motorist and that street lighting so abhorrent to the british astrnomical association. therefore, it is incumbent on the prudent cyclist to purchase lighting that will make them as highly visible as possible. far better to appear as a mobile christmas tree than risk yet another smidsy.
many current cycle lights offer to flash brightly, preferably in the faces of following and oncoming traffic, but as described above, this risks merely becoming a contributing part of all that contradictory urban lighting noise. such a situation has come to the attention of the intelligence behind brainy bike lights, based on the findings of research conducted by the department of psychological research at oxford university. this effectively brought to their attention that lighting which advised of that to which it is attached would conceivably stand out more dramatically from the surrounding flashing, flickering and brightness.
in honouring that research, brainy bike lights consist of a pair of square boxes with a white cyclist on bicycle up front and a red outlined cyclist on bicycle for the rear. when the button is pressed on either, a brightly-lit cyclist appears pointing front or rear. press the button for a second time, and the graphic flashes; press for a third time and a brighter static image is revealed, while a fourth press elicits a brighter and quicker flashing light.
the front light is impressively shiny, though never the sort you'd need to find your way down uiskentuie strand of a dark evening. the rear light will brightly identify you as a cyclist, hopefully rescuing you from the surrounding luminetics that can prove so confusing to driver and cyclist alike.
though i can find no obvious downside to the lights themselves, i do have slight concerns over the mounting brackets. these take the form of oversized rubber watch straps, intended to fit round the handlebar up front and apparently the seatpost for the rear. i tried the front bracket on several different handlebars, all of which it fitted, but the need to slide the light in sideways often meant that it fouled on cables, bar tape or other device mounts. granted, the intention is for fitting to commuting cycles rather than those of pelotonic intent, but i can't help feeling that the ability to slide the light in from the top (as with the rear bracket) would make it more user friendly.
if your bicycle is anything like mine, there's just an outside possibility that you have an underseat pack fitted to carry a multi-tool and spare inner tube, thus obscuring any light you may choose to fit to the seatpost. and the rear bracket requires that the light be fitted vertically; a tad awkward if there's none too much seatpost showing. the saddle might conceivably get in the way. i do, however, have a substantial tubular rack fitted to the rear of the taurus, but mounting the bracket on this fits the light sideways, and nor does it offer much in the way of stability round this narrower tubing. the lights may well be brainy, but the brackets could do with a smidgeon more thought in my opinion.
however, with christmas looming on the horizon, there is little doubt that a pair of brainy bike lights would be a very welcome choice as stocking filler for one whose need outweighs that of the british astronomical society. and while i'm here, i'd advise their speaking to a good brand consultant; the choice of brainy bike lights as a marketable name doesn't strike me as their finest hour.
monday 29 september 2014..........................................................................................................................................................................................................