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Old 07-24-14, 06:52 AM   #26
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After scanning the SWOV paper, I was struck by this

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It has never been sufficiently studied whether carrying bicycle lights by cyclists actually benefits road safety; therefore, no clear-cut conclusions can be drawn about this issue. Moreover, carrying bicycle lights is not registered as a standard in the case of crashes involving cyclists. It would be relevant to study the research question whether bicycle lights have an effect on road safety...
It also appears from the article that the collection of data about light usage by cyclists involved in bicycle accidents during dark hours is missing. Law enforcement just may not include the use of lights in their reports so the data is missing. Without data, the problem can't be studied and if the problem has never been studied, there are few conclusions you can draw.

I also put the lack of study of lights no bicycles into the "well, duh!" category of science. It's a trivial hypothesis that doesn't really deserve much study. Lights on a bicycle at night have the dual purpose of being able to see where you are going and being seen by other road users. The latter is probably of less importance than the former but if your lights are bright enough to see the road, they are bright enough for other road users to see them. On the other hand, if your lights aren't bright enough to see the road by, they are probably ineffective as a signal to other road users in urban environments.

I don't think that I'm going to volunteer as part of a blind test to see if using lights is a good idea or not. As I said above, it's most a "well, duh!" conclusion.
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Old 07-24-14, 07:31 AM   #27
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I'm with cyccommute on this one. I'll put a lot of stock in studies well grounded in data, but "not proven" doesn't do much for me. Deductive reasoning and experience doesn't always need to be blessed by science.

I'll put my headlight back on when the days get shorter, and when I do I'll fire them up for traffic in the daytime. Common sense.
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Old 07-24-14, 07:37 AM   #28
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Used to ride ninja in Tucson in the 80s. Worked graveyards so lots of night time riding. The thing I noticed was you have to ride differently at night without lights. More caution, awareness at all times. Watching, listening and having a bailout plan at all times. Not saying that you shouldn't be careful with lights, but you can tell the difference in how the cars drive around or by you. Just my 2 cents.
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Old 07-24-14, 09:53 AM   #29
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Made a Light Bar for my trike...Suprised how great it worked.

I remember seeing this in another post and I thought it was amazing. If I ever get a recumbent I will fashion a light bar like this. I imagine it works quite well.
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Old 07-24-14, 10:16 AM   #30
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First I'm going to talk about the effects of headlights then tail lights.

I know for a fact my headlight has prevented some cranes with pedestrians. I angle it about six or seven feet in front of me on the ground. I have seen pedestrians stop when about to jaywalk or get out of the bike lane or street when they notice it at night. I've observed no such effect in daylight. Also so I know headlights make bikes more visible to us and drivers at night. How many of us have encountered ninjas or salmon ninjas? Probably most of us who ride at night a fair bit. In these regards light help and the study is full of more holes then Swiss cheese.

As for taillights they make bikes immediately visible from the rear. Again how many of us have encountered ninjas? So at night they do help. I always run mine during the day. They way I see it you are competing for the drivers attention with texts, the radio, navigation system, passengers, traffic, tiredness, food, drinks, being lost, and sometimes their own stupidity. Has running a taillight helped me at all? Has it hurt me? I'll never know. However, the potential it has helped save my life against the cost of batteries seems like a pretty good trade off.

Finally let's consider the fact that the law demands we use lights at night. We would probably demand the same from cars. So how can we refuse when it makes us safer?

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You guys are way too reasonable. Maybe I should have posted this in A & S.

someone used the H word which means it would already have been locked by now. Of course would make for better reading then here. If by better reading you mean people screaming at each other like toddlers.

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Old 07-24-14, 10:26 AM   #31
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Lights at night, lights during the day. Bright lights. Many lights, flashing lights. Clearly, the incredible disparity between American accident and death rates vs other First World countries shows, that despite the American obsession with lights, hi-viz and helmets, all of this diligence is irrelevant in the face of a driving public unsympathetic towards the performance and vulnerability disparity between even the smallest automobile and a bicycle. So... rock the lights, but don't for a minute be fooled into thinking they mean anything. What they do, is establish a baseline of credibility for your claims should anything untoward occur. And that baseline can be established with just one rear tailight and one forward light. Either or both may flash. I mean.. come on... if you are out there at night then you already know how much more visible just one flashing tailight is vs nothing at all. Do you really think three will be better? There is absolutely no need to rock $500 of assorted light equipment. It won't make you safer than $20 of assorted light equipment. Ride defensively. That is the best strategy given the road culture prevailing in the United States.
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Old 07-24-14, 10:27 AM   #32
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Pardon my ignorance, but what is the H word?
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Old 07-24-14, 10:40 AM   #33
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living in chicago (one of the most egregiously over-illuminated cities around) bike lights are not necessary to see at night, yet i still rock a front and rear blinkie on all my bikes.

perhaps studies show that they don't help at all, but i think it'd be a tough argument to make that they hurt. besides, they are cheap and it seems like a good idea intuitively at least.
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Old 07-24-14, 10:57 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
Lights on a bicycle at night have the dual purpose of being able to see where you are going and being seen by other road users.
No one is denying that lights are useful when it's dark outside (to see and be seen) but the idea that lights are necessary in a well-lit urban environment is not so obvious. I have no problem seeing where I'm going in urban portland at night. (And judging from complaints about bike ninjas most motorists have no problem seeing cyclists either.)
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Old 07-24-14, 11:01 AM   #35
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Finally let's consider the fact that the law demands we use lights at night. We would probably demand the same from cars. So how can we refuse when it makes us safer?
In Portland far more pedestrians are hit and killed by motorvehicles than cyclists. Why don't we require pedestrians to wear reflectors and safety lights?
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Old 07-24-14, 11:02 AM   #36
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Lights at night, lights during the day. Bright lights. Many lights, flashing lights. Clearly, the incredible disparity between American accident and death rates vs other First World countries shows, that despite the American obsession with lights, hi-viz and helmets, all of this diligence is irrelevant in the face of a driving public unsympathetic towards the performance and vulnerability disparity between even the smallest automobile and a bicycle. So... rock the lights, but don't for a minute be fooled into thinking they mean anything. What they do, is establish a baseline of credibility for your claims should anything untoward occur. And that baseline can be established with just one rear tailight and one forward light. Either or both may flash. I mean.. come on... if you are out there at night then you already know how much more visible just one flashing tailight is vs nothing at all. Do you really think three will be better? There is absolutely no need to rock $500 of assorted light equipment. It won't make you safer than $20 of assorted light equipment. Ride defensively. That is the best strategy given the road culture prevailing in the United States.
I don't agree. Bright headlights go a long way towards giving you credibility on the road. If nothing else a light that is approaching the intensity of a motor vehicle will make other drivers wonder if there is another motor vehicle approaching and give them pause. I've had many instances where a car will wait for long times at an intersection because they couldn't determine if the lights coming at them was coming from a car that could cause them harm or something else. I don't use flash mode on headlamps for exactly that reason. I don't want to give them any information that I'm riding a bicycle.
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Old 07-24-14, 11:04 AM   #37
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I like myself too much to take chances with my visibility. And I know for a fact that drivers give me more buffer when I'm well lit.
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Old 07-24-14, 11:04 AM   #38
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Used to ride ninja in Tucson in the 80s. Worked graveyards so lots of night time riding. The thing I noticed was you have to ride differently at night without lights. More caution, awareness at all times. Watching, listening and having a bailout plan at all times. Not saying that you shouldn't be careful with lights, but you can tell the difference in how the cars drive around or by you. Just my 2 cents.
You don't actually have to ride any differently, it just feels that way. My theory is that they see you in both cases, but when you are without lights anger towards you enters the equation. I've had drivers come right at me and I know they saw me. I can't prove it and they know that. If they nail you with flashers agoiing they will have a harder time saying "gosh, he just like materialized, I didn't see him until it was too late... ... ". Not that they would want to hit you in either case, but the American need to be the bossy mom to total strangers and teach them 'lessons' in the consequences of being errant citizens sometimes backfires. That culture of bullying will continue until we get some European style accountability on the part of drivers for the bad things that can happen to pedestrians and cyclists as a result of their incompetence or distraction or their hostility.

H
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Old 07-24-14, 11:05 AM   #39
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What is the drawback of having the lights? They are inexpensive and as far as I know can't hinder your visibility to others.

I name my two front lights, "See" and "Be Seen". "See" is a solid light angled in front of the front tire a few feet, far enough out that over running the light when I see an obstacle at cruising speed is unlikely. "Be Seen" is a fast flasher that is angled straight ahead so it hits the street signs and car reflectors. I commute at least 15 miles in the dark on poorly lit roads taking me on frontages, rural farm roads, through old downtowns and new suburban areas and finally along a multi-lane 50mph stretch (what could be called an expressway as its got only 4 lights in 5 miles)

Those of you that say you dont need a light to see obstacles, etc. are not considering the effect of night vision and how you can lose it when you see an oncoming car or bright street light. Just after that point were you lose your night vision, there could be something the light would let you see.
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Old 07-24-14, 11:06 AM   #40
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i think it'd be a tough argument to make that they hurt. besides, they are cheap and it seems like a good idea intuitively at least.
i agree with this. but if they don't help that much should they be legally required? (i believe some US states only require relectors.)
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Old 07-24-14, 11:09 AM   #41
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No one is denying that lights are useful when it's dark outside (to see and be seen) but the idea that lights are necessary in a well-lit urban environment is not so obvious. I have no problem seeing where I'm going in urban portland at night. (And judging from complaints about bike ninjas most motorists have no problem seeing cyclists either.)
I live in an urban area (Atlanta). Even though most areas are well lit enough that you won't be stumbling around without lights, that doesn't mean that lights don't make objects stand out more noticably and at greater distances. And even though the area is urban, there may be many pockets of darkness here and there. It would be quite a waste of electricity if there weren't!
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Old 07-24-14, 11:13 AM   #42
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I don't agree. Bright headlights go a long way towards giving you credibility on the road. If nothing else a light that is approaching the intensity of a motor vehicle will make other drivers wonder if there is another motor vehicle approaching and give them pause. I've had many instances where a car will wait for long times at an intersection because they couldn't determine if the lights coming at them was coming from a car that could cause them harm or something else. I don't use flash mode on headlamps for exactly that reason. I don't want to give them any information that I'm riding a bicycle.
I am surprised at you. You are much too well informed in general to believe such tripe. Surely you drive, even occasionally. When have you ever confused a bike for another car?! Cars wait for bikes at intersections for many reasons. It happens during the daytime as well when they can clearly see you from a long way off. Sometimes I am even waving them on, in effect saying, go ahead already, I won't be there for another four seconds. They wait anyway. Sorry to be the one to break it to you but they know you are a bicycle. Motorists run down cyclists because they are entitled and lack judgement in situations where there is a large speed, size and/or power discrepancy between vehicles. It is simultaneously not as bad as you fear, nor is it as safe as you now think it is because you aren't providing any clues as to your true identity.

H
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Old 07-24-14, 11:14 AM   #43
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I commute at least 15 miles in the dark on poorly lit roads taking me on frontages, rural farm roads
as the OP i don't know how many times i have to say that i believe lights are a good idea when cycling during dark conditions. heck, i believe they are a good idea when walking/jogging/running along unlit roads.
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Old 07-24-14, 11:19 AM   #44
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Those of you that say you dont need a light to see obstacles, etc. are not considering the effect of night vision and how you can lose it when you see an oncoming car or bright street light.
there is no "night vision" in a city like chicago where the whole damn city is completely awash in the ubiquitous all-consuming orange glow from the millions of sodium vapor street lights that line every single street and alley (check out the aerial photo posted above). it's weird, living in chicago you kinda forget that night is actually dark in some places because here we just have two phases to each 24 hour period: "daylight" and "orange glow". there is no darkness.




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but if they don't help that much should they be legally required?)
i don't know. i tend to leave legality discussions to the fools of the A&S forum.

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Old 07-24-14, 11:20 AM   #45
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as the OP i don't know how many times i have to say that i believe lights are a good idea when cycling during dark conditions. heck, i believe they are a good idea when walking/jogging/running along unlit roads.
I am not disagreeing with you at all. Lights are important to me. i want to make it home to my kids so I'll take whatever extra edge i can get to make that happen!
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Old 07-24-14, 11:24 AM   #46
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there is no "night vision" in a city like chicago where the whole damn city is completely awash in the ubiquitous all-consuming orange glow from the millions of sodium vapor street lights that line every single street and alley. it's weird, living in chicago you kinda forget that night is actually dark in some places because here we just have two phases of each 24 hour period: "daylight" and "orange glow". there is no darkness.
I can see that for super urbanized areas like a major metro city this may be the case.
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Old 07-24-14, 11:46 AM   #47
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Old 07-24-14, 11:58 AM   #48
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...This suggests that the different rules have only a marginal impact on the safety of bicycle traffic in the dark. Only a small number of nighttime accidents can be clearly attributed to the lack of lights: Other major risk factors are driving or riding under the influence of alcohol, higher driving speeds on empty roads at night and impaired night vision especially in older drivers.
Bolding mine.

And just why is night vision impaired? Oh yea, because there is not enough light, but lights on a bike won't help?

Sounds to me like the study "can clearly be attributed to lack of lights" really means can solely be attributed to lack of lights.

It should be the other way round, what should be counted is every case where lack of lights is a contributing factor.
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Old 07-24-14, 12:00 PM   #49
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I am surprised at you. You are much too well informed in general to believe such tripe. Surely you drive, even occasionally. When have you ever confused a bike for another car?! Cars wait for bikes at intersections for many reasons. It happens during the daytime as well when they can clearly see you from a long way off. Sometimes I am even waving them on, in effect saying, go ahead already, I won't be there for another four seconds. They wait anyway. Sorry to be the one to break it to you but they know you are a bicycle. Motorists run down cyclists because they are entitled and lack judgement in situations where there is a large speed, size and/or power discrepancy between vehicles. It is simultaneously not as bad as you fear, nor is it as safe as you now think it is because you aren't providing any clues as to your true identity.

H
You may want to look at your own tripe before you criticize mine. Motorist don't "run down cyclist because they are entitled"...at least not in the vast majority of cases. There may be a psychopath or two out there that would intentionally run down a bicyclist but normal people that are involved in an accident involving a bicyclist do so accidentally. If nothing else, they are trying to avoid the paper work involved. Having been on both sides of that equation, I can tell you that avoiding the paper work is perhaps the best reason to not "run down a cyclist".

As for the cars confusing me with other cars, I've heard response from drivers (and pedestrians) as I go by them along the lines of "Holy crap! That's a bike?!" I've heard that response more than once.
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Old 07-24-14, 12:20 PM   #50
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I don't agree. Bright headlights go a long way towards giving you credibility on the road. If nothing else a light that is approaching the intensity of a motor vehicle will make other drivers wonder if there is another motor vehicle approaching and give them pause. I've had many instances where a car will wait for long times at an intersection because they couldn't determine if the lights coming at them was coming from a car that could cause them harm or something else. I don't use flash mode on headlamps for exactly that reason. I don't want to give them any information that I'm riding a bicycle.
I guess unless you've got one mother****er of a light that doesn't sit right with me.

As I like riding bicycles, I like to think that I'm generally more aware of bicyclists than the average bear.

When I'm driving, and I see a bike light- like the majority of bike lights- I have to actually notice it- if it could be a porch light or something peeking through trees or whatever, I don't pay a whole lot of attention to it. Then it's usually seeing the reflectors that make me realize THAT'S A BIKE. I don't like that surprise. When I see a blinking headlight, I know right away that it's a bike and I have awareness of that cyclist.

I believe the vast majority of cyclists with lights have functional lights like the Planet Bike 1/2 and 2 watt lights. Fine lights for what they are. But they don't bathe the environment in light.
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