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Old 10-14-07, 02:39 PM   #1
jbosh
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Reflectors & Lights?

Is it safe to remove my front/rear reflectors if I have front/rear lights?
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Old 10-14-07, 02:40 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by jbosh View Post
Is it safe to remove my front/rear reflectors if I have front/rear lights?
Short answer, yes. Reflectors don't do all that much compared to lights. If you want to read more, look on Sheldon Brown's site:
http://sheldonbrown.com/reflectors.html

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If you go for a drive tonight, you'll see reflectors shining brightly from mailboxes. You'll see reflectorized stop signs. If bike riders are out, you'll see their pedal reflectors . All these reflectors will appear bright, and very easy to avoid.

So here's the seven million dollar question: If all these reflectors are so darn bright and easy to see, how come the bike safety nerds insist you need active lights to be seen at night?

There is a very scientific answer: reflectors work only under very specific conditions. Those conditions happen to prevail in most of the nighttime driving we do, so we get the impression that reflectors work most or all of the time. But reflectors don't work at all if those conditions aren't met, and many well-defined bicycle accident types occur in situations when we can expect reflectors to not work.

Few people understand how easy it is to wander outside the range of conditions in which reflectors will work. But it's astonishingly easy.

Why would a reflector decide to malfunction? And how could it? It doesn't have electrical components to fail, like, say, a British car.

It does, however, have other limitations. Among them:

* It can be anywhere outside the beam of a driver's headlights.

* It can be tilted at an angle ("entrance angle") that severely degrades its optical performance. (If you look at bikes parked on the campus bike rack, you'll see reflectors aimed in all sorts of dysfunctional directions.)

* The driver's eye may be outside the narrow cone of light which the reflector sends back to the light source. (The angle between the light source and the driver's eye is the "observation angle.")

* Fog can completely block the reflector when other lights remain visible. (Howzat? The farther light travels through fog, the more the light gets absorbed-and light from a reflector is making a round trip, twice as far as light from an active light source.)

* The driver may have a burned-out headlight (possibly a lethal problem if it's the left headlight-generally, the right headlight's observation angle is too big for good reflector performance). Or the headlights may be mis-aimed or covered with dirt. Or powered by a Lucas electrical system in the throes of an 8-volt brownout.

* The reflector surface can be abraded, covered with moisture or dust, or otherwise altered in a way that wrecks its optical performance.

This list is surely incomplete, but it makes a point: many factors can prevent a reflector from beaming light at the intended observer. This point is not hypothetical-our nightly accident rate shows that. Roughly once per night in this nation, a person is killed on a bicycle after dark. Many more are injured. Very often, I suspect, these accident victims have Consumer Product Safety Commission approved- and required- reflectors on their bikes. So here's my message to those who say, "These reflector requirements are safe and effective." You've lost all credibility.

To understand how reflectors can fail, you need to learn about fifty cents worth of industrial engineering. The relevant topics are: entrance angle, observation angle, headlight beams, positions on the roadway, the human propensity to make big mistakes, and "other."

There's more on the website, take a look at the link.
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Old 10-14-07, 02:44 PM   #3
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Thanks - I had a feeling it would be OK - wanted to make sure though. All my night riding is on well lit city streets.
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Old 10-14-07, 02:48 PM   #4
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The reflectors may still be required by state or local laws even with lights. At least check, so you know if you are breaking the law if you choose to remove them.
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Old 10-14-07, 03:23 PM   #5
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We have a massive collection of old reflectors at the shop as most folks have made the switch to using active lighting and I only mount them some bikes for nostalgic reasons since they have very limited range and always have led blinkies and other lighting available.

Wearing safety vest or having a highly reflective riding jacket or shell is far better as it offers better reflectivity.

For compliance reasons one can mount 3M reflective tape in lieu of conventional reflectors and this stuff works really well as it can wrapped in a manner to provide 360 degress of reflection and has a high level of reflectivity.
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Old 10-14-07, 09:01 PM   #6
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I still use rear reflectors and/or reflective tape on all my bikes in addition to lights. If a car is approaching from the rear with its brights on, the reflector can actually appear brighter than your tail light.
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Old 10-14-07, 09:07 PM   #7
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run lights AND reflectors for redundancy and safety. wheel reflectors, reflective tape, front and rear reflectors in addition to active lighting. what if your lights go out or otherwise fail/are dim? reflectors are good safety enhancements if you ride regularily at night.

Additionally, like CBHI said, check with your local and state law- running a bike without a rear reflector would leave the bicyclist liable in a night time collision in my state. there's a reason the called the old CPSC reflectorized Vistalites 'lawyer lights'- they met the legal requirements of a rear reflector.

Last edited by Bekologist; 10-14-07 at 09:19 PM.
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Old 10-14-07, 09:11 PM   #8
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I do it all. I've got active lighting in the front and back, an extra rear blinkie on my helmet, and side spoke reflectors. The rear generator taillight is also a reflector. I've also got DOT reflective tape on my frame. The ony thing I don't have is one of those front reflectors. It didn't come standard on my bike, and I don't really see the point of it when I have a front light.
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Old 10-14-07, 10:20 PM   #9
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Batteries fail. Electrical connections fail. Plastic mounting brackets snap under the inertia of AAAs when you hit bumps.

Reflectors are a nice backup. I use big automotive ones on the back.
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Old 10-14-07, 10:38 PM   #10
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With lots of reflectors and reflective tape, along with some fairly high powered lights on my winter commuter, plus add some bright highly reflective clothing, it makes me look like I should be on my way to a fire rather than commuting to and from work.
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Old 10-14-07, 11:17 PM   #11
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The more visibility, the better. You can get the world's best reflective tape at a local truckstop near you. Unbelievably reflective. Look for the DOT-C2 designator. Or, maybe at a safety supply store.
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Old 10-14-07, 11:55 PM   #12
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I just wanted to post a quick follow-up with an example of reflective tape. There was a thread about it on BF, "Stealth reflectors."

Here's my bike, an old Raleigh Record. It's got a bit of reflective tape visible from the side and rear. The next steps are putting reflectors on the pedals (I like the motion) and white reflective tape on the fork.



The thinking here is to provide people looking from the side (where no lights point exactly) with the outline of a bike frame.
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Old 10-15-07, 01:14 AM   #13
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My Trek 6700 when she was rigged for commuting...

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Old 10-15-07, 01:37 AM   #14
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I have lights and the (rather puny) reflectors which came with the bike. In the dark I wear a reflective sash, and have reflective bands around my ankles.

The ankle bands I would really recommend; I bought some after seeing them on another cyclist. They work really well because:
- they go 360 deg around, so work from all angles
- the motion instantly marks you out as a cyclist

Other reflectors / lights might be seen, but could be mistaken for a bollard, parked vehicle etc. I think that in addition to being seen, being recognised early as a cyclist is also important.
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Old 10-16-07, 06:49 AM   #15
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There are a couple of taillights out there that also have reflectors built in. I bought a generic version of the Performance Bike one that works well. It's nice because it frees up some space on your seatpost.
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Old 10-16-07, 08:56 AM   #16
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In addition to active front and rear lighting, I have used reflective tape for many years. I particularly like the red-and-white diagonal stripe tape.
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Old 10-16-07, 09:11 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by chtorr View Post
I still use rear reflectors and/or reflective tape on all my bikes in addition to lights. If a car is approaching from the rear with its brights on, the reflector can actually appear brighter than your tail light.
I love the stuff. My old commuter was a Trek MTB which I had tagged all over the place with reflective tape. I especially liked it because it was a dark bike (the green-black-green paint scheme) and I got black tape so it didn't look like anything was there until it was hit with a light, then it glowed. I also used an LED rear and more serious front light, but the tape was key. Added bonus was that it was totally passive.
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Old 10-17-07, 08:54 AM   #18
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Most head- and tail-lights have built-in reflectors to disperse their own light so there is very little to gain by using small front and rear reflectors in addition to lights. However, making large surfaces reflective can help. I almost always wear a bright green reflective vest when I ride. The reflective strips make me more visible in the dark and the bright green color makes me more visible in daylight too.
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Old 10-17-07, 09:01 AM   #19
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most head and taillights have built in, effective reflectors? Hardly.

that doesn't reflect current bicycle lighting.

additionally, having CPSC certified reflectors is a legal requirement in some places. no quasi or nonexistant reflector is going to meet legal requirements in Washington state.

Here's an example where NOT having reflectors can be a real liability for a bicyclist:

a bicyclist gets sideswiped in Washington state, is injured. the driver stops to give assistance, exchange information. the bicyclist later decides to persue legal action against the motorist. As lawsuit progresses, Driver will claim 'didn't see bicyclist'. consul for the motorist investigates photos taken by bike shop for damages and discovers no CPSC certified rear reflector on bicycle.

motorist has compelling grounds to have suit dismissed; bicyclist was not running legally required reflectors.
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Old 10-17-07, 09:35 AM   #20
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Some states actually mention CPSC in their lighting statutes?

I prefer lighting statutes that focus on performance instead. I use automotive reflectors, which are much brighter than the current crop of CPSC reflectors. I greatly exceed the NC statute requirement for a rear reflector but I don't have a CPSC reflector on my bikes (except maybe one that is integrated into one of my lights).
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Old 10-17-07, 10:00 AM   #21
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a 'reflector' is different from a rear light. I'm not sure how the 'rear reflector' law is written up, but there are requirements to have a reflector.

reflective tape, rear lights without CPSC- certified reflectors DO NOT meet legal requirements for reflectors in Washington state.

sorry to confuse you with the 'CPSC' talk, i refer generally to lights that have certified reflectors built in like some of the Serfas tailights, and the old vistalites.
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