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  1. #1
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    Proper use of bike lights and flashing units!

    As a cyclist and someone who uses two and four wheels on regular basis, I have to mention I have a strong dislike for flashing bike lights. Most usually this is because they are usually either used wrong, or installed wrong. I understand that people want to be safe, that's good, but please, think about other people on the road and how you appear to them. This is not only to benefit the others, but it also makes us cyclists better accepted as road users.

    When I'm on a bike and see someone coming at me with a bike light, if it's a powerful strobe and I'm coming at it on a dark road, it can even make it more difficult for me to see ahead or even blind me. Not very polite towards a fellow cyclist! A head lamp mounted on the helmet is the worst - guaranteed to point directly at people's eyes. There's a very good reason why motored vehicle lights have to be correctly aimed at a bit below horizontal.

    So please, when installing a light, make it so that it's aimed below horizontal line. Often, you can install a light down to a 45 degree angle - there's enough scattered light from the lense that it's easily seen from the distance at horizontal level. It's easy to verify by putting the light on and walking 10-20 steps behind the bike. Most car drivers sit at below your standing eye level anyway. Note that not only does aiming the light low prevent other from being blinded, it actually makes you more visible because it's more reflected from the bike and the ground.

    Also, as an important safety thing: please don't use just a single flashing light! It's very hard to instantly determine distance/speed/direction when you have a single flashing light in the dark. This becomes a very important if you meet a car or a cyclist on a winding road. In my opinion, you should have a light that stays always on, and then add a second flashing unit to catch attention. The flashing unit doesn't have to be that strong to catch attention, either.

    TL;DR - Use a always-on light and spice up with an extra flashing unit. Aim all lights a below horizontal to be seen better and to avoid blinding other cyclists.
    Last edited by proileri; 07-28-12 at 09:16 AM.

  2. #2
    Senior Member Digital_Cowboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by proileri View Post
    As a cyclist and someone who uses two and four wheels on regular basis, I have to mention I have a strong dislike for flashing bike lights. Most usually this is because they are usually either used wrong, or installed wrong. I understand that people want to be safe, that's good, but please, think about other people on the road and how you appear to them. This is not only to benefit the others, but it also makes us cyclists better accepted as road users.

    When I'm on a bike and see someone coming at me with a bike light, if it's a powerful strobe and I'm coming at it on a dark road, it can even make it more difficult for me to see ahead or even blind me. Not very polite towards a fellow cyclist! A head lamp mounted on the helmet is the worst - guaranteed to point directly at people's eyes. There's a very good reason why motored vehicle lights have to be correctly aimed at a bit below horizontal.

    So please, when installing a light, make it so that it's aimed below horizontal line. Often, you can install a light down to a 45 degree angle - there's enough scattered light from the lense that it's easily seen from the distance at horizontal level. It's easy to verify by putting the light on and walking 10-20 steps behind the bike. Most car drivers sit at below your standing eye level anyway. Note that not only does aiming the light low prevent other from being blinded, it actually makes you more visible because it's more reflected from the bike and the ground.

    Also, as an important safety thing: please don't use just a single flashing light! It's very hard to instantly determine distance/speed/direction when you have a single flashing light in the dark. This becomes a very important if you meet a car or a cyclist on a winding road. In my opinion, you should have a light that stays always on, and then add a second flashing unit to catch attention. The flashing unit doesn't have to be that strong to catch attention, either.

    TL;DR - Use a always-on light and spice up with an extra flashing unit. Aim all lights a below horizontal to be seen better and to avoid blinding other cyclists.
    I know that you mean well with your advice. But I would suggest that before you start to criticize your fellow cyclists for the position or intensity of their light(s) . That you look at the headlights on not only your car but every other car on the road and ask yourself this question:

    What effect are my/other car headlights having on cyclists?

    Then ask yourself this question:

    When I'm approaching a cyclist, do I remember to dim my highbeams?

    Just about every night when I am out riding I am CONSTANTLY being "blinded" by motorists either coming at me "headon" or from behind who do NOT remember to dim their lights like they're suppose to.

    That and it seems like the low beams are brighter then they used to or need to be.

    Just the other night, it took several blasts of my air horn before the dumbass JAM realized just WHY it was that he was being honked at and lowered his effen high beams.

    There are WAY more motorists whose headlights are more than a little annoying to us cyclists.

    So as I said BEFORE you complain about the lights that we cyclists are using look at the lights of not only your own car but ALL cars on the road ask yourself what effect are these lights going to have on a cyclist?
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  3. #3
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    I'll have to check my rear light. It's a Superflash so I really doubt it's bright enough to cause problems, but I'll send one of my boys out at dusk and follow in the car. Helmet light is pretty dim too, it's just a "be seen" at dusk. No night riding for me yet, don't have a headlight.

    What I hate is the police flashers on my way home from work at 1:00 AM. Even on lit freeways I'm totally blinded.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Digital_Cowboy View Post
    I know that you mean well with your advice. But I would suggest that before you start to criticize your fellow cyclists for the position or intensity of their light(s) . That you look at the headlights on not only your car but every other car on the road and ask yourself this question:
    I'm sorry, but what does that have to do with correct use of bike lights?

    I agree there are a lot of inconsiderate drivers on the road. Personally, I try to avoid being one, no matter what I'm riding

  5. #5
    Member Canada Panda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Digital_Cowboy View Post
    I know that you mean well with your advice. But I would suggest that before you start to criticize your fellow cyclists for the position or intensity of their light(s) . That you look at the headlights on not only your car but every other car on the road and ask yourself this question:

    What effect are my/other car headlights having on cyclists?
    How are car headlights relevant to bicycle light positioning? The OP is spot on with his advice - it's counterproductive to blind oncoming traffic; you want them to be able to avoid you, which is made much harder when all they see are blue spots and glare. If you have issues with inconsiderate car drivers, you can start a thread about that - this does not negate advice on bicycle light usage.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by proileri View Post
    TL;DR - Use a always-on light and spice up with an extra flashing unit. Aim all lights a below horizontal to be seen better and to avoid blinding other cyclists.
    I agree 100%. I keep two forward lights on my bicycle when riding near or after sunset - a small 150 lumen light pointed forward which is strictly to allow me to be seen by motorists, and a 800 lumen light pointed downward which is used as a high beam. On two-lane roads, the 800 lumen light is turned off when approaching oncoming traffic; it is left on while on unlit four-lane (or wider) roads.

    I keep a rack-mounted taillight which is roughly 50 lumen and solid; it takes up the entire width of the rack which makes it easy to judge my distance and speed. I also have a 5-LED flasher clipped to my left pannier and pointed downwards which gets the attention of approaching drivers. Liberal and creative use of reflective tape also helps - I've been told that I was spotted from 5 blocks away!

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  7. #7
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    reflective tape is awesome, 3M makes good stuff...also, drunk drivers are attracted to flashing lights BTW.

  8. #8
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    I always wondered about people that only use flashing headlights. It seems like you would really want to have two lights, one steady and one flashing.
    Flashing headlights drive me nuts, I have a headlight that will flash and I couldn't get it turned to steady fast enough.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Digital_Cowboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by proileri View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Digital_Cowboy View Post
    I know that you mean well with your advice. But I would suggest that before you start to criticize your fellow cyclists for the position or intensity of their light(s) . That you look at the headlights on not only your car but every other car on the road and ask yourself this question:
    I'm sorry, but what does that have to do with correct use of bike lights?

    I agree there are a lot of inconsiderate drivers on the road. Personally, I try to avoid being one, no matter what I'm riding
    What it has to do is that there are (in my opinion/experience) more motorists on the road who are inconsiderate in how they use their headlights then there are cyclists doing so.

    And I was suggesting that you honestly check out and evaluate the headlights on cars before complaining about the lights on bicycles.

    When I've been out riding, I've had both motorists and pedestrians compliment me on my lights. One pedestrian said that with my lights I looked bigger than I was, and that from the rear that I looked like a motorcycle.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member Digital_Cowboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Canada Panda View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Digital_Cowboy View Post
    I know that you mean well with your advice. But I would suggest that before you start to criticize your fellow cyclists for the position or intensity of their light(s) . That you look at the headlights on not only your car but every other car on the road and ask yourself this question:

    What effect are my/other car headlights having on cyclists?
    How are car headlights relevant to bicycle light positioning? The OP is spot on with his advice - it's counterproductive to blind oncoming traffic; you want them to be able to avoid you, which is made much harder when all they see are blue spots and glare. If you have issues with inconsiderate car drivers, you can start a thread about that - this does not negate advice on bicycle light usage.
    CP,

    Again, it's relative because car headlights cause not only cyclists problems, but each other problems as well.

    As I've said it seems as if the vast majority of motorists that I encounter on the road "forget" to dim their high beams.

    I have way more problems with cars and their lights than I do with cyclists.
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  11. #11
    Senior Member Richard Cranium's Avatar
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    Hmmmm - lights being used incorrectly ????? Oh - say it ain't so !!!!

    As discussed earlier this year - proper light usage resides in the "eyes" of the user - NOT the blinded.......

    The bigger issue with all technology - whether it is a boom box or a cell phone - I bought it - I don't need your advice.....
    Sorry about my comments - I thought you wanted honest feedback.
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  12. #12
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    I've used twin flashing lights on the front since I saw how visible it made other bicyclists that used them. I would assume that if they were blinding to drivers than a local Sheriff or State Trooper would have clued me in. I certainly am not seeking to annoy drivers, but I do want to make damn sure I'm seen and in my experience as a driver, flashing lights make bicyclists much easier to see from a distance.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Digital_Cowboy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jon c. View Post
    I've used twin flashing lights on the front since I saw how visible it made other bicyclists that used them. I would assume that if they were blinding to drivers than a local Sheriff or State Trooper would have clued me in. I certainly am not seeking to annoy drivers, but I do want to make damn sure I'm seen and in my experience as a driver, flashing lights make bicyclists much easier to see from a distance.
    Jon,

    I agree with you. As I've said I've received numerous compliments from both pedestrians and motorists for all of the lights that I have on my bike, and how visible it makes me. That and as I've said, I've also been told that I look like a motorcycle.
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  14. #14
    Senior Member Digital_Cowboy's Avatar
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    To the OP, and anyone else who has a problem with the lights on a bicycle, or rider. If you honestly think that there is something wrong with the placement or intensity of the lights. Pull over and call your local police none emergency number and report them.
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  15. #15
    Senior Member rumrunn6's Avatar
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    good advice, I do point my front strobe downward slightly
    cycling is like baseball ~ it doesn't take much to make it interesting

  16. #16
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    I can't comment either way on this as I see very few cyclists using headlights in my area. I do see cyclists with no lights, and cyclists with red blinkers facing forward, once I saw a cyclist with both red and white flashers facing both front and back! However as a driver I would like to see some sort of standard on the flash rate/pattern so I can quickly "tune-in" to a bicycle ahead.

    Personally I don't ride at night but I do run a daytime front white flasher and rear red flasher for extra visibility,.

  17. #17
    Senior Member volosong's Avatar
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    I also don't ride at nite. However, ever since I started running a strobe light front and rear, (white and red, respectfully), during the daytime, not one single car has attempted to make an unsafe left turn in front of me until after I had passed. I no longer have the ability to stretch my left arm out and be able to touch an overtaking car because all of them move way over to their left when passing me.

    p.s. In California, at least, flashing lights are prohibited at night. They have to be solid.
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by volosong View Post
    p.s. In California, at least, flashing lights are prohibited at night. They have to be solid.
    The only restriction I see on bicycle lighting in the Calif. Veh. Code is in Section 21201.3 b) which prohibits use of blue lights (either solid or flashing) since that color is reserved for 'peace officers.' There are additional restrictions in Sections 24250+, but those specify that they apply to "motor vehicles" and therefore wouldn't apply to bicycles.

    There is a requirement that bicycles used at night have a front light that illuminates the roadway and it could be argued that a flashing light doesn't do that adequately, but that still allows use of a flasher in addition to a steady light. And in the rear the only requirement is for reflectors so one is free to supplement those with either flashing or steady lights or some combination.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by adamjmeek View Post
    reflective tape is awesome, 3M makes good stuff...
    Have to agree on that. That reminds me, need to tape up my new bike, I have a bunch of red and white reflective tape somewhere..

    Oh, that reminds me: one trick is to tape only the half of each side of the rim with reflective tape, or to cover half of the reflecting surface on the side of your tires. That way anyone can see if you're changing your speed at intersections. Same reason why many old-school fire engines have two-color pattern on their wheels.

    9907_05_27---911-emergency-fire-truck_web.jpg

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