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  1. #1
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    Why we must have brake lights and turn signals for bicycles

    Having brake lights and turn signals will help car riders know we are there and our intentions. Clearly just having a headlight, reflectors and a tail light are not enough.

    Here are some stats from the League of American Bicyclists.
    http://www.bikeleague.org/media/facts/#americans

    "7. How many cyclists are killed and injured each year?

    In 2001, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 728 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles and 45,000 were injured. These numbers represent 2 percent of the total number of people killed and injured in traffic crashes. In 2000, the number of fatalities dipped below the 700 mark for the first time in the past decade. Recent data also shows that there has been a 14% reduction in fatalities among cyclists between 1997 and 2007.: Source : National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (PDF)
    Year Fatalities Injuries
    2007 698 43,000
    2006 772 44,000
    2005 786 45,000
    2004 727 41,000
    2003 629 46,000
    2002 665 48,000
    2001 728 45,000
    2000 690 51,000
    1999 750 51,000
    1998 760 53,000
    1997 814 58,000
    1996 765 59,000
    1995 833 61,000
    1994 802
    1993 816
    1992 723
    1991 843
    1990 859


    However, a significant number of bicycle crashes requiring emergency room treatment are not included in these reported fatalities and injuries. Studies indicate that as few as ten percent of injury crashes are reported to the police as they do not involve a motor vehicle, and/or do not happen on the roadway. Indeed, a recent Federal Highway Administration study found that 70 percent of bicycle injury events in emergency rooms did not involve a motor vehicle and 31 percent of bicyclists were injured in non-roadway locations. The number of bicyclists visiting hospital emergency rooms is estimated to be in excess of 500,000 per year.

    11. How safe do people feel bicycling?

    The Omnibus Survey completed for the Bureau of Transportation Statistics in February 2003 asked all respondents how safe they felt using different modes of transport. When asked:

    How satisfied are you with how your local community is designed for making bike riding safe?
    22.57 % were Very Satisfied
    31.32 % were Somewhat Satisfied
    17.55 % were Neither Satisfied, nor Dissatisfied
    16.84 % were Somewhat Dissatisfied
    11.73 % were Very Dissatisfied "

  2. #2
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    Yea definitely! That will totally help. Maybe a big amber flasher on our helmets too, like service vehicles have.

    -D

  3. #3
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Doesn't seem to help motorcyclists all that much... Why do you think that slower human powered vehicles would benefit?

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    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    There's no correlation between bicyclist turning and stopping maneuvers and the vast majority of bicycle collisions. I've studied the real-world crash data, locally and from national sources, regarding crash types and causes. Most involve cyclists traveling straight, colliding with traffic pulling out in front of them, or turning in front of or beside them. Some involve straight traveling cyclists being struck by overtaking motorists. Only a tiny fraction involve cyclists making turns, and in those cases the problem was almost always the movement itself, and not the lack of a signal being seen.

    Even in the case of a cyclist turning left, wanting to signal to drivers behind that he is turning, no signal can compensate for the fact that overtaking drivers will frequently ignore the bicyclist's left turn signal. The cyclist must look back and merge left into the correct position for a left turn (near centerline or left turn lane) when it is safe to do so. Many experienced cyclists believe that looking back is in fact more important in obtaining driver cooperation than simply signaling, and in many cases the look back works by itself.

    An automated left turn signal might be helpful in those cases when the cyclist needs both hands to control the bicycle, but in those cases the look back is usually sufficient. A lighted turn signal might be more visible at night, but then again a typical rear blinky light gets as much attention and caution from drivers as the left signal is likely to.

    I use reflective dots on my goves and reflective piping on my bike jacket at night. I've not noticed any more difficulty getting drivers to cooperate at night than during the day. But one must always look back and waith for a gap before moving laterally.

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    Putting data with your point without explaining how the data is meaningful to your point...

  6. #6
    Senior Member bhop's Avatar
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    Eh.. never had issues with braking and I already have turn signals. (arms)

  7. #7
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sggoodri View Post
    There's no correlation between bicyclist turning and stopping maneuvers and the vast majority of bicycle collisions. I've studied the real-world crash data, locally and from national sources, regarding crash types and causes. Most involve cyclists traveling straight, colliding with traffic pulling out in front of them, or turning in front of or beside them. Some involve straight traveling cyclists being struck by overtaking motorists. Only a tiny fraction involve cyclists making turns, and in those cases the problem was almost always the movement itself, and not the lack of a signal being seen.

    Even in the case of a cyclist turning left, wanting to signal to drivers behind that he is turning, no signal can compensate for the fact that overtaking drivers will frequently ignore the bicyclist's left turn signal. The cyclist must look back and merge left into the correct position for a left turn (near centerline or left turn lane) when it is safe to do so. Many experienced cyclists believe that looking back is in fact more important in obtaining driver cooperation than simply signaling, and in many cases the look back works by itself.

    An automated left turn signal might be helpful in those cases when the cyclist needs both hands to control the bicycle, but in those cases the look back is usually sufficient. A lighted turn signal might be more visible at night, but then again a typical rear blinky light gets as much attention and caution from drivers as the left signal is likely to.

    I use reflective dots on my goves and reflective piping on my bike jacket at night. I've not noticed any more difficulty getting drivers to cooperate at night than during the day. But one must always look back and waith for a gap before moving laterally.
    Steve this (bolded above) has always been my biggest complaint about vehicular cycling... the fact that while I may act like the driver of a vehicle, all too often I am not treated like the driver of a vehicle...

    This is not to make this a VC conversation, but merely to further enhance the fact that brake lights and turn signals are not going to help one bit, as long as motorists chose to ignore such on every other form of vehicle, and tend to ignore even the best intended signals from cyclists.

  8. #8
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    this (bolded above) has always been my biggest complaint about vehicular cycling... the fact that while I may act like the driver of a vehicle, all too often I am not treated like the driver of a vehicle...
    If some drivers are ignoring your turn signal this means you are being treated like the driver a vehicle.

  9. #9
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noisebeam View Post
    If some drivers are ignoring your turn signal this means you are being treated like the driver a vehicle.
    One might say that I suppose... but on those occasions when I drive a car, and the signals are ignored, I am not subsequently violently passed... so there are differences.

    But I do see your point. Sure would be nice if we would all just co-operate on the roadways, regardless of the vehicle size or number of wheels. Why does it so often seem like some stupid competition to see who is the biggest ahole?

  10. #10
    Punk Rock Lives Roughstuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noisebeam View Post
    If some drivers are ignoring your turn signal this means you are being treated like the driver a vehicle.
    The fact that bicycles do not have turn signals and brake lights are one of the major reasons hat i do not view them as 'vehicles' on the roadway and do not feel they should be in the traffic lane (except briefly and intermittently); just as I do not feel cars/trucks should be on the shoulder (the bike lane, to me) except briefly and intermittently.

    All this chatter about "people don't use or pay attention to" turn signals is a red herring. My experience is that the vast majority do. And it seems like bellyaching from those who DON"T HAVE SIGNALS to whine about those who happen not to use them. As technology progresses 'black boxes' in cars will reveal if signals were used prior to an accident, making the issue largely moot.



    roughstuff
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  11. #11
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    A turn signal is only a request or indication of desire to merge. A driver of a faster vehicle is generally not required to, but only being courteous to slow to allow the driver of a much slower vehicle to merge. I find about 2/3rds of drivers extend the courtesy to me when driving a bicycle.

    When motoring my speed is generally equal or slightly less than other drivers. I rarely need to have a driver respond to my request, it is mainly a signal of intent, there is typically sufficient space and I merge into it, but if there is not about 1/2 of drivers will respond slow a little bit and let me merge, but about 1/5 drivers will respond, speed up in attempt to to prevent me from merging, trying to close that open space.

    In summary I find I get treated on average better as a cyclist than as a motorist when signaling a merge as a request to other motorists.

  12. #12
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roughstuff View Post
    The fact that bicycles do not have turn signals and brake lights are one of the major reasons hat i do not view them as 'vehicles' on the roadway and do not feel they should be in the traffic lane (except briefly and intermittently); just as I do not feel cars/trucks should be on the shoulder (the bike lane, to me) except briefly and intermittently.
    Huh, what, wow! So cyclists need to stick to the sidewalk?

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roughstuff View Post
    The fact that bicycles do not have turn signals and brake lights are one of the major reasons hat i do not view them as 'vehicles' on the roadway and do not feel they should be in the traffic lane (except briefly and intermittently); just as I do not feel cars/trucks should be on the shoulder (the bike lane, to me) except briefly and intermittently.

    All this chatter about "people don't use or pay attention to" turn signals is a red herring. My experience is that the vast majority do. And it seems like bellyaching from those who DON"T HAVE SIGNALS to whine about those who happen not to use them. As technology progresses 'black boxes' in cars will reveal if signals were used prior to an accident, making the issue largely moot.



    roughstuff
    Technology has been there for more than 10 years on that one. It's law/culture that's behind on blackboxes in cars.

  14. #14
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    Whether changing lanes in my car or changing lanes/lane position on my bike, some drivers will pass me after I start signaling to move left. I think I actually get more success obtaining cooperation when doing this on my bike with my hand and head turn than in my car with lighted signals.

    Once the cyclist is all the way to the centerline or in the left turn lane, the cyclist' body position indicates the cyclist's intentions, and the hand signal is mostly supplemental. It's extremely rare for a thru driver to still attempt to overtake to the left of a cyclist who has already merged to the center line or into a left turn lane, but in such cases, signaling or not really won't make any difference. Cycling safety classes like the LAB class I teach encourage cyclists to glance back just before executing their turn (after the merge left) to ensure that no driver is attempting such a nutball maneuver. I do this when turning left on a two lane road without a turn lane and with no oncoming traffic, but I usually don't bother to look back if I've just waited for an oncoming car to clear (so I know the opposite direction lane must be clear of overtaking traffic behind me) or if I am in a left turn only lane.

    There is significant research in NC on tractors being struck by passing traffic while attempting to turn left. In some cases, drivers did not see the tractor operator's hand signal, or none was given, or the tractor was far to the right before the turn. I think a bicyclist's leftmost lane position and hand signals are more obvious to overtaking motorists than what many tractor operators do.

  15. #15
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    Your turn signal is *supposed* to be a warning that you are turning or changing lanes in just a couple of seconds, maybe less. You're not supposed to use it to ask to get over. That's what my drivers ed taught me. And it's why they teach you to check before signaling.

    So your signal becomes a last ditch way for someone to hit their brakes before they get merged into.

    As far as turning, you're taught to ignore signals in drivers ed because they're unreliable. You look for what the vehicle is doing, not what it's signaling. But you're supposed to signal several seconds back (sort of contrary to what I said earlier).


    Brake signals are something else. And I think bicycles slow speed, and their lack of prevalence in traffic, makes brake lights unnecessary. You give enough following distance to a bike that you can slow from 20 to 0 before hitting them. Really not a big deal, you're gonna pass them in a short time anyway.

    We have turn signals, our arms. If they're not visible in the dark, that could be a problem. In the daylight it's plenty. An arm out to the side is as conspicuous as a blinking light. In the dark it's harder to see, I'll admit that.

  16. #16
    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    OP, you're on a mission to make us to load our bikes with more useless crap, aren't you?

    My thoughts about turn signals on bicycles (which you've seen, I assume, but I'll post them here anyway):
    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...1#post11755206

    Quote Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
    Not really, no.

    My point has nothing to do with extra visibility or better signaling than hand signals can do.

    I have a partial point about making them wide enough so drivers who are far away can tell what they are. You'd need a central red taillight plus outboard amber lights.

    My real objection to turn signals on bikes, though, is because of the speed difference between bikes and cars, and that if you're doing things truly safely, you won't need to rely on signals.

    One of my earlier posts from another thread:

    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...=1#post7311859

    Quote Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post


    But seriously, I think that most of us are missing the point.

    (pre-PS: I'm going to assume a utopian society where people actually USE their turn signals )

    Where turn signals really earn their keep is when a vehicle is about to change lanes (which, in effect, includes turning off the roadway; but I'll stick with lane changes for the moment). Giving the signal before changing lanes notifies drivers nearby, including the one sitting in the blind spot. They can either make sure that there's room or honk to warn the first driver that they can't move.

    One big difference between bicycles and cars/trucks/motorcycles/buses/scooters is the speed differential. You're just not going to have a motor vehicle nearby for more than a few seconds (unless you're in a traffic jam, in which case you'll probably be moving faster than everyone else anyway). There's little use, then, in lighting up a turn signal.

    Making a right turn on a bike (on right-hand drive streets, that is) doesn't affect surrounding traffic very much; giving a hand signal is as much of a courtesy as anything else, probably appreciated more by cross traffic waiting at the intersection than by the people behind you.

    Making a left turn across the street shouldn't affect traffic very much, either. If you're crossing over safely, you're using a large enough gap in traffic that you won't be forcing people to jam their brakes (and, most likely, causing a rear-end collision somewhere behind them... which is in another thread). So, then, there's nobody near & to the rear that needs to see a signal.

    I figure the safest way to ride on the street is to ride as if nobody can see you -- don't depend on their attentiveness for your safety. I still think that good headlights & taillights are necessary, and a brake light is a good idea (and easy to implement with a B&M DIWA generator setup). But, I think that turn signals just aren't necessary.

    IMO.
    http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...1#post11755244


    Quote Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
    Thinking about the speed differential part --

    This makes it a very narrow market indeed.

    Motor traffic rarely trundles along at 12-15 mph. They're either stopped, crawling in first gear at 5 mph, or hustling at 25 mph or faster. If you're going to be fast enough to need to be signaling with lights, you're saying that you can cruise for a while -- on city streets, with starts and stops -- at 25-30 mph or more.

    If traffic is jammed, you can pass everyone else without going too fast yourself. You don't need to signal then. If they're all going faster than you, you can try signaling, but they're going to be bearing down on you pretty quickly -- and you'd better hope that they see you, AND hope that they don't cause another wreck while trying to avoid you.

    Turn signals, then, and IMO, are only useful when you're going the same speed as motor traffic when they're cruising, and that range starts at 20 mph. Think of how many cyclists you know who can do that, and then think of how many more you know who can't ride that fast.

  17. #17
    Senior Member squirtdad's Avatar
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    I am definitely on the "safety nanny" side of most discussions and I firmly believe that cyclists are safer when visible (i.e blinkies front and back day time, good lights and lots of reflective at night)....but I don't think brake lights and turn signals will do much for cyclist safety.

    Key reason is on a vehicle the size of a bike, they just are not discernable . for turn signals to be meaning full...right and left lights would need to separted...ie on outriggers to really imply any directionality.....and brake lights would have to stand out from blinkies.......
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    I think I will drive a car instead. Riding a bike is too damn complicated according to A&S.

  19. #19
    Senior Member canopus's Avatar
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    Well that is 5 minutes of my life I won't get back...
    An anecdotal call to arms and regulation, great.

    This is just one more reason to support birth control.

    Thanks OP.

    (P.S. - If you want those items, please get them and be happy, but don't impose your shortcomings on me in the form of regulation/mandates for safety sake. I don't appreciate it and know how to drive in traffic already.)
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  20. #20
    Senior Member mikeybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roughstuff View Post
    The fact that bicycles do not have turn signals and brake lights are one of the major reasons hat i do not view them as 'vehicles' on the roadway and do not feel they should be in the traffic lane (except briefly and intermittently); just as I do not feel cars/trucks should be on the shoulder (the bike lane, to me) except briefly and intermittently.
    Wow, if I used the "traffic lane" only briefly and intermittently, I'd never be able to leave my apartment complex.
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  21. #21
    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeybikes View Post
    Wow, if I used the "traffic lane" only briefly and intermittently, I'd never be able to leave my apartment complex.
    Sounds like "Roughstuff" should change his name to "NambyPambystuff".

  22. #22
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by crhilton View Post
    Your turn signal is *supposed* to be a warning that you are turning or changing lanes in just a couple of seconds, maybe less. You're not supposed to use it to ask to get over. That's what my drivers ed taught me. And it's why they teach you to check before signaling.
    As I said it is a signal of intent or can be used as request (they two are really not any different), but in both cases (except certain specific situations) when merging the lane you are merging into has right of way, so it is not up to the other driver to ensure it is safe (i.e. heed the warning or request). Using the signal as a request was likely not taught in drivers ed. as it was not driected toward drivers or slow moving vehicles or bicycles. As a slow moving driver your 'warning' that you will turn in practicality works as a request as you will only turn if is it safe to do so. Other drivers are not legally required to respond to this request.

  23. #23
    Senior Member mustang1's Avatar
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    Turn signals on bikes are too close together to be easily visible to drivers so it's difficult to tell if you're turning left or right. We need an increase in cyclists' education that will allow a cyclist to better judge the turns they're attempting to make. I've seen the following way too many times:

    Cyclist wants to turn. Cyclist flicks hand outwards. Doesn't look. Makes turn. Causes vehicles behind (cars as well as other cyclists) to brake abruptly. Seems like the cyclist doesn't realize (or cant be bothered to realize) that they're the slowest moving object on the road and they need to take account of other road users' speeds as well as other users taking into account a cyclist's lower speed.
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  24. #24
    Bike ≠ Car ≠ Ped. BarracksSi's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noisebeam View Post
    Other drivers are not legally required to respond to this request.
    Which is exactly why it's pointless to put them on a bike.

    We all know drivers who simply signal a lane change and then do it without even glancing to see if it's safe. You can bet that there will be cyclists who do the same with bike turn signals (it'll probably be the same people, too). If I see one of them get hit, I'll just stand over them after dialing 911 and think, "What a dumbass..."

  25. #25
    Yabba-Dabba-Doo! AlmostTrick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LAB stats posted by the OP to show why "we must have brake lights and turn signals"...
    However, a significant number of bicycle crashes requiring emergency room treatment are not included in these reported fatalities and injuries. Studies indicate that as few as ten percent of injury crashes are reported to the police as they do not involve a motor vehicle, and/or do not happen on the roadway. Indeed, a recent Federal Highway Administration study found that 70 percent of bicycle injury events in emergency rooms did not involve a motor vehicle and 31 percent of bicyclists were injured in non-roadway locations. The number of bicyclists visiting hospital emergency rooms is estimated to be in excess of 500,000 per year.
    Yes, brake lights would be very helpful in preventing crashes that didn't involve motor vehicles or the roadway.
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