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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 06-17-06, 10:57 AM   #1
georgiaboy
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Nighttime Riding - Are headlights really needed?

Recently bought the cateye LD1000 tailight and the Cateye EL400 headlight.

Both work really well.

The taillight is great especially in the oscillating mode. It makes me very visible from vehicles approaching form the rear.

The headlight pretty much serves as a defensive light. When riding in the inner city most streets I commute on have a street lamp. The headlight itself does not illuminate the road. Some pedistrians approaching from the opposite direction have commented that the light is blinding to them.

Do I really need a defensive light on the front of my bicycle?
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Old 06-17-06, 11:01 AM   #2
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Most places the laws say yes, you need a light. Even with out that they do make you more visable to others so every little bit helps.
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Old 06-17-06, 11:02 AM   #3
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Yes, absolutely necessary, must have.
It does not matter if you can see oncoming traffic, what matters is that the oncoming traffic can see you.
Besides that, here in Georgia it's illegal to ride on the street after dark without lights. Not that a cop will ticket you, but he could.
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Old 06-17-06, 11:03 AM   #4
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Yeah, it's more of a visibility thing for me. It never really gets dark if you live in urban area.
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Old 06-17-06, 11:05 AM   #5
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Yeah, because of this, for starters:

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(a) Every bicycle when in use at nighttime shall be equipped with a light on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of 300 feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the Department of Public Safety which shall be visible from a distance of 300 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlights on a motor vehicle. A light emitting a red light visible from a distance of 300 feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector.
You don't want some yahoo getting off on a technicality if they collide with you. You don't want them sticking you with liability for damage to their car, injuries, mental suffering, etc either. If the light's too bright for pedestrians, aim it down just a hair maybe?
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Old 06-17-06, 11:14 AM   #6
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#1 Without a doubt necessary.
#2 There is no such thing as too many lights on a bike.
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Old 06-17-06, 11:54 AM   #7
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How many ped's have actually made the effort to get your attention and complain about a light which they saw for a few seconds at best. Sounds to me like they need to get a life. "OH! Your light is SO bright! It's BLINDING me?! Your light simply isn't all that intense, compared to some of the more powerful halogens and such. I run a couple Cateye EL500's. They're actually bright enough to light the way in the dark (long as I slow down a tad) and I've never had anyone complain. And hey, at least those ped's saw you coming. Don't sweat it.

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Old 06-17-06, 12:31 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by georgiaboy
Recently bought the cateye LD1000 tailight and the Cateye EL400 headlight.

Both work really well.

The taillight is great especially in the oscillating mode. It makes me very visible from vehicles approaching form the rear.

The headlight pretty much serves as a defensive light. When riding in the inner city most streets I commute on have a street lamp. The headlight itself does not illuminate the road. Some pedistrians approaching from the opposite direction have commented that the light is blinding to them.

Do I really need a defensive light on the front of my bicycle?
Yes, you do. Just about every US state has laws requiring cyclists to use front and rear lights when riding after dark. Cars pulling out of parking spots, pulling out from side streets, or making left turns while coming towards you may not be able to see you if you don't have a headlight.

You say that "most" of the streets that you ride on have a street lamp. How do you expect other road users to see you on the streets that don't have a street lamp, and how do you expect to see road hazards (potholes, broken glass, etc.) if you don't have a functional headlamp?

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Old 06-17-06, 01:03 PM   #9
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It is against the law to ride at night without lights, BUT (in my opinion) it is FUN to ride with a REALLY GOOD light. I have a homemade 20-watt MR-16 halogen headlight and I am quite a thing of beauty (so I like to tell myself).

If you want a second opinion on the value of lights, go driving at night and look for those bikers riding in dark clothing with no lights and sometimes even no reflectors. But be careful, you might not see them until you have run them over.
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Old 06-17-06, 01:04 PM   #10
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yeah dude, can't overdo visibility at night, it's the drivers that are tired, distracted or drunk/high that kill bikers, stimulate their retinas.
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Old 06-17-06, 01:24 PM   #11
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A front light is arguably even more important than the rear light. At the back you can usually get away with reflectors because you are right in the beam of the headlights of the car behind you. But, say, an oncoming car that wants to turn left DOESN'T illuminate you with its headlights! So if they don't see you, they'll turn right into you!

As for pedestrians... do they complain about car lights? Those are much more powerful...
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Old 06-17-06, 01:34 PM   #12
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When people see a HID light, they think, "What the f*** is that thing coming at me?!!" and hesitate when they step out of a cross walk into your path, or pull out in front of you, etc.
You don't really need much of anything but sometimes it's better just to have it.
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Old 06-17-06, 01:49 PM   #13
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You don't really need much of anything but sometimes it's better just to have it.
+1

I dont think it does much good, but it certainly doesnt hurt.
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Old 06-17-06, 01:53 PM   #14
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Sometimes you want to see small things like glass that could give you a flat.

It can be a pain to get a flat in the dark. Trust me.
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Old 06-17-06, 02:12 PM   #15
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Thanks for all the replies.

I certainly want to be covered in case of an incident. So, it's important to watch my p's and q's regarding the law.

I have not ridden without a headlight. But I have seen some nighttime commuters with just a taillight only.

There is reason to be visible from the front i.e. vehicles exiting parking lots and side roads, etc.

I will continue to use the headlight.
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Old 06-17-06, 03:15 PM   #16
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Suppose you don't use a headlight and the same ped that complained about it blinding him, now steps out in front of you. You can't stop in time. Answer: the ped of course takes you to court and gets your bicycle and lots of money in the settlement.
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Old 06-17-06, 03:29 PM   #17
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I rode with crappy front lights for a few years when in the city. After moving out to suburbia where some of the lighting is not so hot, I got a 10 W low and 30 W high-beam night sun and I'll never go back. You can see the road much better, even in urban areas, and your visibility is much increased to other drivers.

If my old bike had been stolen, I would have been way more pissed about the light than the bike.
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Old 06-17-06, 06:15 PM   #18
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I was riding home from work with a friend, at night in the city with car headlights and the occasional streetlight, and glanced back to see if he'd come round the corner yet or not. If not for the headlight, his bike would have been invisible.

As it was, set to steady beam rather than oscillating, I could make out where he was, but I knew what to look for; I think the blinky light mode is more helpful for visibility's sake, because it's different to the other headlights, and it says bicycle.
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Old 06-17-06, 06:16 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lelak
As it was, set to steady beam rather than oscillating, I could make out where he was, but I knew what to look for; I think the blinky light mode is more helpful for visibility's sake, because it's different to the other headlights, and it says bicycle.
In certain places in america, sometimes it's best not to advertise "bicycle" until absolutely necessary. It's much wiser to advertise "vehicle on the road".
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Old 06-17-06, 07:34 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slvoid
In certain places in america, sometimes it's best not to advertise "bicycle" until absolutely necessary. It's much wiser to advertise "vehicle on the road".
No kidding. With my HID cars don't pull out in front of me anymore because they can't tell that I'm a bicycle. With my old headlight drivers could tell I was on a bike and would think I was going too slow and just pull out, causing me to have to hit the brakes.

Plus, I never got any compliments until I put the HID on. I was riding home one night after the bars closed and some cyclists were sitting outside of an apartment building and one of the girls yelled "I like your light!" as I rode by.
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Old 06-17-06, 08:52 PM   #21
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Are lights necessary? No. I did a midnight commute 2 years without them. Thousands ride in my city without them, and none have gotten hit...yet.

Are lights desirable? Definitely. They add some measure of safety for yourself and for others, especially pedestrians and other cyclists. I would never ride at night without them again.
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Old 06-18-06, 02:10 AM   #22
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I was stopped three times by police thinking I didn't have a light.
I actually did have lights at the time, but I was only using some blinkies front and back, different colors, and I was wearing black.
The excuse I gave them was that the Micro-Halogen gobbles up batteries(burn time 2 hrs on 4x2AA) and I only use it when absolutely necessary. As for the clothing, they saw my "rent-a-cop" gear on and just wished me a "good evening".
Now on my current bike, I sport a Cateye Opticube and brighter flashers.
Neon/Puke green for the front. And two reds in the rear.
The backpack I wear has some reflective stripping on it as well.
All in all, I'm lit up like a Christmas tree for desert riding.
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Old 06-19-06, 12:49 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by slvoid
In certain places in america, sometimes it's best not to advertise "bicycle" until absolutely necessary. It's much wiser to advertise "vehicle on the road".
Perhaps, but in this case I meant "bicycle, i.e. separate vehicle and not just reflected fragment of vehicle headlight".
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Old 06-19-06, 06:55 PM   #24
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Like others above, I have a small dual halogen setup that causes cars to think twice before pulling out. If riding in the suburbs, or outside rush hour when the traffic is flowing fast, I highly recommend it. This is almost a necessity when riding established bike paths because in my area, trees make the meagre lighting useless, and without some serious light projection, your speed is limited.

I run real blinkies commuting as nothing quite beats their attention grabbing.

If I am out on my drinking bike, I take keychain blinkies for visibility crossing roads, but generally ride stealth on the footpaths to avoid attracting attention.
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