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  1. #1
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    Is bicycle lighting really necessary in urban areas?

    Several recent studies suggest that bicycle lighting is yet another example of the motoring majority imposing faux-safety-prophylaxis on the cycling minority.

    http://www.icsc2013.com/papers/huhn2...0Accidents.pdf


    The German Cyclists’ Federation ADFC has studied the subject of bicycle accidents at dusk and in the dark in Europe…

    ...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.
    Hat tip: Alan 1.0 at bike portland.
    BikePortland Podcast: The Great Blinking Light Debate (and more) - BikePortland.org


    See also a Dutch study:

    http://www.swov.nl/rapport/Factsheet...n_the_dark.pdf

    And this citation is dedicated to acidfast7:

    StVZO §67: Lichtechnische Einrichtungen an Fahrrädern

    It turns out that even the dynamo mad germans have decided that cheap battery-powered led lighting is OK!
    Road rash is a precious gift. Road rash is your friend. Bask in it, appreciate it, love it. Above all, learn from it. --Robert Hurst

  2. #2
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    I have not read the links yet.

    But like driving with all light on in the car (I turn the headlight switch every time I get drive) I will still ride with lights all day.

    In my opinion it may not be shown to help, but it has not been shown to hurt. Maybe a long term financial study of bulb and battery costs will show negative benefits.

    I like the idea that it may help someone who otherwise might not see me to notice me. As well some side streets with thick tree cover can be rather dark in comparison to no tree cover. I like the lights then.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by joeyduck View Post
    In my opinion it may not be shown to help, but it has not been shown to hurt. Maybe a long term financial study of bulb and battery costs will show negative benefits.
    Sounds to me like a fairly moderate position. However, the idea that bike lighting in urban areas increases safety is often accepted as an incontrovertible fact. It's fascinating that this may not be true.

    PS: I use bike lights most of the time in the winter.
    Road rash is a precious gift. Road rash is your friend. Bask in it, appreciate it, love it. Above all, learn from it. --Robert Hurst

  4. #4
    Senior Member pavemen's Avatar
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    Tell that to the one dead kid and the one critically injured kid that were hit at 9pm under a dim street light crossing against the red. The driver did not see them (one bike, they were riding the bars) and hit them.

    While I do not advocate requiring lights and reflectors, I do recommend them. They are lightweight and inexpensive, why not have the added security? When has a light caused an accident, that would not have been caused had it be a construction light, another vehicle light, etc)

    Regarding the entire seizure argument in the one link you posted, if you are subject to seizures and you know it, then you are not allowed to drive, at least in California and I believe most of the US.

  5. #5
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    spare_wheel, there is similarly not enough clear data to show that helmet use improves a cyclist's chances of avoiding injury or death, or so some people say. A helmet saved my life once, and I'm glad I was wearing it, and I continue to wear a helmet (though not the same one that saved my life). I am one person and not statistically significant, so my story proves nothing.

    When I ride in traffic at night with strong lights, I am sure that other road users behave more respectfully towards me. This is a single anecdote and not statistically significant, but it's enough for me to continue to use lights.

    I've also noticed that be-seen lights do not get sufficient respect from motorists. To me, they send the message, "Please don't hurt me, please don't hurt me," in a tiny mousy voice. On the other hand, to-see lights seem to send the message, "Hey you! I'm here! You got that? Good." spoken in a loud, authoritative voice.
    You don't read my signature anyway, do you?

    Tom Reingold, noglider@pobox.com
    Residences: West Village, New York City and High Falls, NY
    Blogs: The Experienced Cyclist; noglider's ride blog

  6. #6
    Quirky Grifter LesterOfPuppets's Avatar
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    I like my lights. I go brighter when downtown. Disco headlamps and all. Out Where there are no street lamps I go with a single, dim, steady headlamp.

    Pbsf in back for both conditions.
    1980ish Free Spirit Sunbird fixed * 1996 Mongoose IBOC Zero-G * 1997 KHS Comp * 1990-ish Scapin * Lemond Buenos Aires Triple

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by spare_wheel View Post
    Sounds to me like a fairly moderate position. However, the idea that bike lighting in urban areas increases safety is often accepted as an incontrovertible fact. It's fascinating that this may not be true.

    PS: I use bike lights most of the time in the winter.
    I agree that it is interesting, but in all reality not surprising that they may not be safer. Personal anecdotal evidence shows that I notice bikes with lights sooner than ones without, but I am a cyclist (which I think make me inherently more aware).

    I prefer to err on the side of caution, so I always use them.

    One thing I am curious about is: in N. America is there an increase of nighttime accidents as a result of daytime running lights in horseless carriages. The safety factor I would focus on is nighttime accidents as a result of individuals not turning on lights, thinking since the headlights are on the rear lights are on. I am a proponent of all lights all the time in cars also. But in my opinion parking lights are sufficient for daytime running lights; full beam headlights should not be necessary.

    Sidebar: Chrysler and GM trucks to tone down their low beams brightness, which have been increasing to blinding proportions the last decade.

    To be a PITA are bicycles covered in the law requiring day time running lights?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by noglider View Post
    When I ride in traffic at night with strong lights, I am sure that other road users behave more respectfully towards me. This is a single anecdote and not statistically significant, but it's enough for me to continue to use lights.
    Yeah...I notice the "back off" effect of bright lights but this is a subjective thing. What really struck me about the above studies was that the percentage of people riding without lighting in many european cities approaches 50%. Given how much safer these cities are then USAnian cities, the necessity of lights seems to be a much more open question than I had imagined.
    Road rash is a precious gift. Road rash is your friend. Bask in it, appreciate it, love it. Above all, learn from it. --Robert Hurst

  9. #9
    Senior Member klmmicro's Avatar
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    At night, I always have my lights on as it helps me pick out glass and other tire damaging debris in my lane. I have found several wallets and 4 watches so far at night because of my bright bar light.

    I did get a car to pull in and stop in front of my once so that the lady could yell at me that my light was too bright. Told her that was the point, so she might notice me while she applied her make-up during an important text session. It convinced me that it does indeed help with visibility.

  10. #10
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    necessary? Likely not. But that depends on the area and the exact meaning. In most cities you don't need a light to see. Our cities are lit up more than enough to get around just fine without a light.

    Now a to be seen light may be justified, but that would need a study, and would likely depend on the city. In a city like Amsterdam you likely do not need a light at all. Motorists there are well aware that bicycles will be on the street and to look out for them. But if you are in the car culture that is say Atlanta, Ga, it's likely a good idea to have a light as so few get around on bike.

    And for the record, I use always on lights, Generator powered. I want light, but I don't want to have to think about them, or change batteries.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by klmmicro View Post
    At night, I always have my lights on as it helps me pick out glass and other tire damaging debris in my lane. I have found several wallets and 4 watches so far at night because of my bright bar light.
    i'm most definitely not questioning the utility of lights in an unlit environment.
    Road rash is a precious gift. Road rash is your friend. Bask in it, appreciate it, love it. Above all, learn from it. --Robert Hurst

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by harshbarj View Post
    In a city like Amsterdam you likely do not need a light at all.
    You guys are way too reasonable. Maybe I should have posted this in A & S.

    Road rash is a precious gift. Road rash is your friend. Bask in it, appreciate it, love it. Above all, learn from it. --Robert Hurst

  13. #13
    Senior Member Jaeger99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noglider View Post
    spare_wheel, there is similarly not enough clear data to show that helmet use improves a cyclist's chances of avoiding injury or death, or so some people say. A helmet saved my life once, and I'm glad I was wearing it, and I continue to wear a helmet (though not the same one that saved my life). I am one person and not statistically significant, so my story proves nothing.

    When I ride in traffic at night with strong lights, I am sure that other road users behave more respectfully towards me. This is a single anecdote and not statistically significant, but it's enough for me to continue to use lights.

    I've also noticed that be-seen lights do not get sufficient respect from motorists. To me, they send the message, "Please don't hurt me, please don't hurt me," in a tiny mousy voice. On the other hand, to-see lights seem to send the message, "Hey you! I'm here! You got that? Good." spoken in a loud, authoritative voice.
    +1 to all of this.

  14. #14
    Senior Member lanahk's Avatar
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    Necessary? No, especially if you only ride in the daytime on paths. I feel better with a steady red light on the back, white light on the front, safety green shirt or jacket, and reflective gear. I use the lights less in the summer, but all the time in other seasons.

    I've even taken to carrying a couple of cheap red blinkies with silicon fasteners in my pocket. I give them to kids riding their bikes on the streets or sidewalks. The parents are usually glad to have them.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by harshbarj View Post
    necessary? Likely not. But that depends on the area and the exact meaning. In most cities you don't need a light to see. Our cities are lit up more than enough to get around just fine without a light.

    Now a to be seen light may be justified, but that would need a study, and would likely depend on the city. In a city like Amsterdam you likely do not need a light at all. Motorists there are well aware that bicycles will be on the street and to look out for them. But if you are in the car culture that is say Atlanta, Ga, it's likely a good idea to have a light as so few get around on bike.

    And for the record, I use always on lights, Generator powered. I want light, but I don't want to have to think about them, or change batteries.
    I live in Atlanta, and just built up a bike a few months back with a dynamo hub, 70 Lux front light and BM Top Line rear and there is no comparison. I ride with friends in the evening who have battery lights and I purposely ride behind them and light up the entire street while their lights illuminate a basketball sized area. As funding allows, I'm going with dynos on the rest of the bikes and donating the blinkies to the co op. I run them all the time and I also firmly believe they improve my visibility to drivers. I noticed it, drivers see me (and perhaps think I'm a motorcycle). Still not as safe perhaps as being wrapped in a car (just ask a motorcyclist), but I'm on board, brighter lights work, and not just blinding brightness as in Lumens, but overall coverage as in Lux.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by spare_wheel View Post
    percentage of people riding without lighting in many european cities approaches 50%.
    Infrastructure.

  17. #17
    aka Tom Reingold noglider's Avatar
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    I have some European lights, too, two powered by dynamos and one by battery. They pour the light on the road completely and not at all on the trees, not even the roots of the trees. Someone even stopped me to ask me about my amazing light. It does not go into people's eyes, because it has a sharp cutoff at the top of the beam, so I consider it far superior to round-beam lights. These lights are rated in Lux instead of lumens, which are not comparable. If you measured the lumen output of these lights, you'd think they couldn't do the job. But let me tell you, they can do the job. My Bianchi Volpe has a dynamo hub powering both headlight and tail light. The drag the hub produces is imperceptible, at least to me, so I leave the lights on all the time. All I do is go. I don't ask myself if I charged my lights recently. I don't ask myself if I have enough charge to get the rides I plan to do and maybe the unexpected rides. These lights just work. And they stay on for a few minutes after I stop, too.

    The headlight is partially obscured by the handlebar. It's mounted by a bolt where the brake would be attached if I had a caliper rim brake. The tail light is on the back of the rack. The dynamo is the big chunky front hub.

    You don't read my signature anyway, do you?

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    Residences: West Village, New York City and High Falls, NY
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  18. #18
    Senior Member hermanchauw's Avatar
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    Yes. Sometimes people don't notice bikers without lights, especially in dark areas. Even with bell, some people can't hear bikers because they are using earphone.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by lanahk View Post
    Necessary? No, especially if you only ride in the daytime on paths. I feel better with a steady red light on the back, white light on the front, safety green shirt or jacket, and reflective gear. I use the lights less in the summer, but all the time in other seasons.

    I've even taken to carrying a couple of cheap red blinkies with silicon fasteners in my pocket. I give them to kids riding their bikes on the streets or sidewalks. The parents are usually glad to have them.
    I'm a recent convert to the small blinkies - they're cheap, bright and unobtrusive. Also, they cost US$1 each (including battery) here so it's the equivalent of giving everyone who needs it a pack of gum.

  20. #20
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    I have two cautions when drawing conclusions from that quote.

    1. While the implication is that the articles are saying that lights may not have an impact based upon a lack of gathered evidence of harm in their absence, I don't believe that the article is directing people to remove their lights. If you remove your lights based on these articles, that is because you personally drew that conclusion and chose to accept that risk.

    2. While it states that there isn't statistical evidence of people who were hurt/killed due to a lack of a light, there is also no data stating how many people were not hit by cars because of the presence of a light. How could there be? This distinction is important.

    If I'm in a vehicle and I see a light, I know that I personally take extra caution to avoid that person. I can say with confidence that the use of bicycle lights does alert me to a bicyclist's presence and in turn influences my behavior as a motorist in a manner that adds a level of safety to that bicyclist.
    Last edited by _Cyclopath; 07-23-14 at 10:37 PM.

  21. #21
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    Without a light, most drivers will - truthfully or not - claim they did not see you if you get hit. Most people who read or saw the news would be inclined to agree.

    There is a huge variety of small and unobtrusive lights out there going for minimal cost. If someone chooses to ride without a light, they are absolutely asking for trouble, and very few people will pity them. There is just no excuse ever to go without one when the benefits far exceed the costs.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Jim from Boston's Avatar
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    Is bicycle lighting really necessary in urban areas?

    Quote Originally Posted by pavemen View Post
    Tell that to the one dead kid and the one critically injured kid that were hit at 9pm under a dim street light crossing against the red. The driver did not see them (one bike, they were riding the bars) and hit them.

    While I do not advocate requiring lights and reflectors, I do recommend them. They are lightweight and inexpensive, why not have the added security? When has a light caused an accident, that would not have been caused had it be a construction light, another vehicle light, etc)…
    I recently got involved in a philosophical discussion about dismissing the utility of mirrors. Just substitute “lights” for “mirror.” :

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Sawyer View Post
    And there are those who take advantage of a free and open forum to repeatedly insist that everyone else conform to their personal tastes, and mocking others when they exercise their freedom of choice by doing (and recommending) what feels right to them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
    I've gotten into similar tussles about using rearvew mirrors (I'm markedly pro-mirror).
    Quote Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
    While one may not agree with the utility of a mirror, it's always disheartening to me to read of active discouragement of the practice, in this case based on one incident [recent studies]

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
    …FWIW and to each his own, but I would not discourage mirror use, or even dismiss riding with a mirror, as freely given advice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim from Boston View Post
    …Yesterday I tried to reassess my position about the utility of mirrors by asking the questions, What are the downsides?... When would mirrors be dangerous?

    Quote Originally Posted by spare_wheel View Post
    …I think the fact that mirror users are having a hard time imagining scenarios where a mirror would not be necessary speaks to the dogmatism of this argument…
    Personally, who has time to critically read and analyze "studies" based on large data, and not necessarily applicable to individual situations, in this case with life-or-death consequences? I'll follow my own instincts. But as above, why try to dissuade me, an experienced urban cyclist from a seemingly harmless practice? And what about the novice cyclists seeking advice?
    Last edited by Jim from Boston; 07-24-14 at 04:55 AM.

  23. #23
    Senior Member linnefaulk's Avatar
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    Drivers are so distracted these days. Anything can help them see cyclists is a good thing.
    sharon

  24. #24
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by linnefaulk View Post
    Drivers are so distracted these days. Anything can help them see cyclists is a good thing.
    Made a Light Bar for my trike...Suprised how great it worked.

    [SIZE=1][B]What I like about Texas[/B]
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGukLuXzH1E

    Set F1re To The Ra1n ( NY Night Rain Ride)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W7jfcWEkSrI

  25. #25
    Senior Member linnefaulk's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
    Made a Light Bar for my trike...Suprised how great it worked.

    That is quite the set up.
    sharon

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