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  1. #1
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    What is it with blinkies?

    Everyone seems to have an attachment to rear blinkies. As an attractant device they make sense, but from a driver's perspective they are confusing in the extreme because they don't offer sufficient spatial positioning information.

    If ppl were serious about safety then they would be promoting the use of a SOLID rear light accompanied by a blinkie attractor AND a reflector if required by law. The solid rear light provides continuous spatial positioning information for drivers approaching from the rear, as does the reflector.

    So what's the deal with using blinkies on their own? Is the price of a couple of batteries worth more than the price of your life?

  2. #2
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    I'm not sure it's unsafe to have only a blinkie visible from a distance-- you're posting only becuase you *see* these lights and have to pause to figure them out, for example.

    That said, I agree that it's even better to combine the blinkies with solid lights or reflectors. When I ride with a pair of blinkies and reflectors (ankle, vest, rear rack) I get a lot more room than in the daytime.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merriwether
    I'm not sure it's unsafe to have only a blinkie visible from a distance-- you're posting only becuase you *see* these lights and have to pause to figure them out, for example.
    That didn't make any sense at all. If your driving a car and you have to 'pause' or divert your attention from the natural information flow then you are in an unsafe driving state.

  4. #4
    Just riding andygates's Avatar
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    As a driver, I prefer steady lights to blinkies. Blinkies make me think "cyclist" and try to locate him; steadies mean the cyclist is just parsed by my subconscious driver autopilot, the same thing that means I don't hit kerbs and cars and streetsigns.

    My brain makes more mistakes than my autopilot. Run both steadies and blinkies, if you like, but run a strong steady light as the minimum if you ride in traffic.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockmuncher
    That didn't make any sense at all. If your driving a car and you have to 'pause' or divert your attention from the natural information flow then you are in an unsafe driving state.
    If you see something you don't understand while driving, then you need to be sure everything is safe. That means you need to slow down until you understand the situation, among other things.

    Blinkies can cause drivers to do this. So, not only does it make sense that blinkies increase safety, by causing drivers to slow down in the presence of bicyclists, it's true, too.

  6. #6
    RAGBRAI. Need I say more? Steele-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockmuncher
    If ppl were serious about safety then they would be promoting the use of a SOLID rear light accompanied by a blinkie attractor AND a reflector if required by law. The solid rear light provides continuous spatial positioning information for drivers approaching from the rear, as does the reflector.
    I always figure that most people (at least the ones on BF) already have reflectors in place. I would hope that a single blinkie would not be ones only rear visibilty aid.
    Quote Originally Posted by andygates
    As a driver, I prefer steady lights to blinkies. Blinkies make me think "cyclist" and try to locate him; steadies mean the cyclist is just parsed by my subconscious driver autopilot, the same thing that means I don't hit kerbs and cars and streetsigns.

    My brain makes more mistakes than my autopilot. Run both steadies and blinkies, if you like, but run a strong steady light as the minimum if you ride in traffic.
    I prefer large amounts of reflectivity in addition to a couple of blinking blinkies. While a steady light is useful for judging distance, I do not feel safe relying on the fact that a motorist is going to take notice to a reflector or a solid light. Think how many times you see a traffic cone (with reflective tape) laying along side the road. Now if that cone would have had a blinkie...

  7. #7
    Get outdoors! :) Becca's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rockmuncher
    Everyone seems to have an attachment to rear blinkies. As an attractant device they make sense, but from a driver's perspective they are confusing in the extreme because they don't offer sufficient spatial positioning information.

    If ppl were serious about safety then they would be promoting the use of a SOLID rear light accompanied by a blinkie attractor AND a reflector if required by law. The solid rear light provides continuous spatial positioning information for drivers approaching from the rear, as does the reflector.

    So what's the deal with using blinkies on their own? Is the price of a couple of batteries worth more than the price of your life?
    I don't know about all states, but Tennessee and North Carolina both require slow-moving vehicles (bikes, horse-drawn carriages, ect) to have blinking rear lights if they have lights at all.

    On my bike, my lights blink until I either 1) apply my brakes, or 2) turn on my turn signal. Then the rear light goes solid red.
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    I also think at least one steady light should be run.

    I run the stock reflector, a truck marker reflector (about 1.5" x 4"), a 5-LED light on the seat post, another 5-LED on my helmet (both on steady light) and an amber xenon strobe blinking twice per second, plus a flagman's reflective vest. 20W halogen + 3LED steady white light plus std reflector up front.

    I'm thinking about glo-gloves and reflective tape on the wheels as well.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rockmuncher
    Everyone seems to have an attachment to rear blinkies. As an attractant device they make sense, but from a driver's perspective they are confusing in the extreme because they don't offer sufficient spatial positioning information.

    If ppl were serious about safety then they would be promoting the use of a SOLID rear light accompanied by a blinkie attractor AND a reflector if required by law. The solid rear light provides continuous spatial positioning information for drivers approaching from the rear, as does the reflector.

    So what's the deal with using blinkies on their own? Is the price of a couple of batteries worth more than the price of your life?
    I use two blinkies, one solid and another flashing rapidly. However, if I had only one blinky, it would NOT be solid. Here's why.

    1. The solid light might be mistaken as something else. Possibly a cone or it may get lost in a host of other solid lights. In other words, your light gets mixed with those from other motorists.

    2. The blinking light is universally understood by the motorist to be a hazzard or danger. This in my opinion is a far better position to be as a cyclist.

  10. #10
    No Rocket Surgeon eubi's Avatar
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    I have read studies that show blinking lights add to the confusion of drunk drivers.

    No blinkers for me!

    For my early morning commute, I use a steady red light clipped to my jersey, reflectors on my shoes and panniers, and a reflective vest. It's obvious SOMETHING is ahead, and the reflectors on the shoes give a good indication of distance.

  11. #11
    Senior Member rule's Avatar
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    It is definitely a fact that drunks are attracted to blinking lights, at least as far as the cops, firefighters and EMTs in the Dallas area are concerned. They train to watch out for it, and it has saved a number of lives just this year alone. Not sure how that would relate to zeroing in on a cyclist with a blinking tail light, but I sure have thought about it on many of my night rides.

    I have also noticed the lack of spatial reference issue with riders when I am driving. Most of the time though, it is a cyclist who is riding with no other reflective material and just a rear blinkie. The ones with reflective material on the heels of their shoes, or on their pedals, and who have reflective material along their torso are pretty easy to interpret.

  12. #12
    going down... salmonchild's Avatar
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    in england, it is law to have solid front and rear lights and bike mounted reflectors.
    i must say that i don't like 'blinkies' especially if the flash rate is low. its really disconcerting to see a red light that appears then fades and re-appears a couple of meters on down the road
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  13. #13
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    Blinkies make you look though, right?

    Don't hate the playa, hate the game.

  14. #14
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    I have not distance perception trouble with LED blinkies. They are on long enough to sense the distance. The strobe lights which are only on for 1/1000 sec are a problem.
    Cyclists with dark clothes, no lights or reflectors are also a problem.

  15. #15
    coitus non circum. Mars's Avatar
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    I think that a blinking light is a positive because a steady light may be harder to pick out against the light clutter of a typical street. Our tailights are dim in comparison to oncoming car headlights, streetlights, storefront signs, etc. they may not be noticable againgst these sources of glare and cognitive interferance. When they are blinking, they draw attention as something dfferent or alien to the driver, who then takes notice.

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    coitus non circum. Mars's Avatar
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    John Ridley: one man discotech!!

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    I live in the inner city where main streets have both lots of vehicles and thousands of flashing and blinking lights from stores, restaurants, bars, advertising signs...the visual distractions for drivers are endless.

    In my neighborhood, blinking lights are not enough. A cyclist needs to LOOK like a cyclist, and not like one of a jillion blinking lights. White helmets, yellow jackets with reflective stripes, reflective ankle bands, reflective pedals...all of these thinks MIGHT wake up a driver to realize "hey, there is a PERSON in front of me".

    At night, I try to select streets with very few cars, where the flow of traffic is 25 mph or less. If I have only ONE car to avoid, and the driver of that car has only ME to think about, we are probably going to do okay.

  18. #18
    Lentement mais sûrement Erick L's Avatar
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    I have a blinky on my rack to be seen from a distance and be identified as a cyclist and a solid light on my seatpost so drivers can follow me as they get close.
    Erick - www.borealphoto.com/velo

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Merriwether
    If you see something you don't understand while driving, then you need to be sure everything is safe. That means you need to slow down until you understand the situation, among other things.

    Blinkies can cause drivers to do this. So, not only does it make sense that blinkies increase safety, by causing drivers to slow down in the presence of bicyclists, it's true, too.

    Blinkies cause drivers to give me a wide berth... Ah gee, guess that is the desired response.

    I use two different blinkies... a Nite Rider super bright blinkie and a smaller battery power 5 light blinkie. Frankly if a driver has to look twice to figure out what is going on, and further if they are still not sure and then go wide "just in case," then the darn things are working just the way I want.

    I hate it when they try to get as close as possible.

  20. #20
    Senior Member Paul L.'s Avatar
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    Police around here have strobe type lights on the roof. I find that when I see a blinkie the first thing that comes to mind at a distance is police officer and then I think cyclist. In both cases the blinkie makes me think a little more about what I am approaching and how to deal with it. That being said I use both solid and blinking and reflective clothing.
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  21. #21
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steele-Bike
    I would hope that a single blinkie would not be ones only rear visibilty aid. I prefer large amounts of reflectivity in addition to a couple of blinking blinkies.[/B]
    I see lots of people riding with only a blinkie, all reflectors removed from the bike.

    I don't use blinkies at all, but I've got a steady rear light powered by dyno, from one to four stationary reflectors (depends on the bike I'm riding), plus reflective tape and pedal reflectors. The pedal reflectors serve the same purpose as the blinkie without requiring batteries.

  22. #22
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by salmonchild
    in england, it is law to have solid front and rear lights and bike mounted reflectors.
    i must say that i don't like 'blinkies' especially if the flash rate is low. its really disconcerting to see a red light that appears then fades and re-appears a couple of meters on down the road
    Most European countries require steady white front and red rear lights on bikes, and there are standards in place. Not so in the US. You're on your own when it come to lighting. Most bikes are sold only with federally mandated reflectors, which do not meet the requirements for night riding in any state jurisdiction I am aware of.

    What if they sold cars without lights and told you that you would have to spend several hundred dollars equipping your car with after market lights before you could drive at night?

  23. #23
    Good Afternoon! SamHouston's Avatar
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    I have a large ceramic clown with a big red LED in it's nose that bobs up and down with the clowns head as I ride. It's attached to my helmet and it's pretty big so the clowns nose is about 2 feet above my head which puts it 7 1/2 feet up while I'm riding. Is that too high to be effective? I had a reindeer during the holidays that had the same nose but about a foot lower. Better?

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by SamHouston
    I have a large ceramic clown with a big red LED in it's nose that bobs up and down with the clowns head as I ride. It's attached to my helmet and it's pretty big so the clowns nose is about 2 feet above my head which puts it 7 1/2 feet up while I'm riding. Is that too high to be effective? I had a reindeer during the holidays that had the same nose but about a foot lower. Better?

  25. #25
    Senior Member Dchiefransom's Avatar
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    Something blinking gives a sense of motion. It's much easier for us to pick out motion than to see something stationary. A person standing in front of a building that you are looking at, with clothing similar to the color of the building, but not enough to act as camouflage, is easily noticed if they are walking, but might be missed if they stand motionless. My blinking rear light blinks fairly fast, and is easier to see that if I left it on "solid".

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