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  1. #1
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    Side lighting for front headlight new law in some states.

    I'm a newbie here at Bike Forums so forgive me if I screw up a bit. Just reading all the great posts about bicycle lighting and some of the great ideas for using flashlights as head lights. Just wanted to throw in my 2 cents about some of the states changing their laws about bicycle lighting apparently because more people are riding at night. In Ohio we now must have a head light that also distributes light to the sides at 180 degrees, visible for 300 feet. That would eliminate using a flashlight set up here ( unless you figure the police won't bother you for such a trivial jab at the law ). I know there are reflectors on the bicycle wheels that reflect light at night, but the new light laws are supposedly because of a motorist being parked at night, ready to exit their car, being able to see a bicyclist to their immediate left before opening the door into the bicyclist's path. I guess that sounds like a good reason, but I've not heard of any instances of that occuring in our area. So just a heads up so you can check to see if your lighting idea conforms to possible new lighting laws in your state. My old light didn't...my new light does.

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1 Miyata Biker View Post
    I'm a newbie here at Bike Forums so forgive me if I screw up a bit. Just reading all the great posts about bicycle lighting and some of the great ideas for using flashlights as head lights. Just wanted to throw in my 2 cents about some of the states changing their laws about bicycle lighting apparently because more people are riding at night. In Ohio we now must have a head light that also distributes light to the sides at 180 degrees, visible for 300 feet. That would eliminate using a flashlight set up here ( unless you figure the police won't bother you for such a trivial jab at the law ). I know there are reflectors on the bicycle wheels that reflect light at night, but the new light laws are supposedly because of a motorist being parked at night, ready to exit their car, being able to see a bicyclist to their immediate left before opening the door into the bicyclist's path. I guess that sounds like a good reason, but I've not heard of any instances of that occuring in our area. So just a heads up so you can check to see if your lighting idea conforms to possible new lighting laws in your state. My old light didn't...my new light does.
    I don't see the logic in the claimed reason. First of all, it's not advisable for traffic (either cyclist or motorist) to be in the door zone. Secondly, if the person in the car looks back before opening his door the cyclist who ends up next to the door when it actually opens would be quite a few feet back when the motorist first looks. So he should have a clear view of the front light shining forward with his initial glance. OTOH, if he just opens the door without looking then any light shining sideways from the cyclist won't be seen anyway. The cases I've seen of doorings have happened because the driver was looking forward when he opened his car door - not at all in the direction of the cyclist. By far the most effective light to avoid these would be a bright light shining forward so that portions of the car on the left side and in front of the driver (mirror, left edge of dash, etc.) are illuminated by the beam.

    Is there any other definition given for the side lighting beyond the 'visible from 300ft.'? Note that the effectiveness varies widely depending on other ambient lighting or distracting lights in the same general direction. If the light is isolated and on a dark night, human vision can see a single candle at a distance of up to 30 miles (How Far Can the Human Eye See? | Human Visual Acuity | LiveScience). So very little light would really be needed to see something 300' away under optimum conditions. If the edge of a cyclist's flashlight beam hits any part of his cables, brake levers, front tire, etc. then it would probably be visible from that distance as seen from the side - again, under optimum conditions.

    California has had a similar provision for some time (I don't remember any changes in the last 20 years) that requires:
    "A lamp emitting a white light that, while the bicycle is in motion, illuminates the highway, sidewalk, or bikeway in front of the bicyclist and is visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and from the sides of the bicycle." Most bicycle-specific lights I've seen do emit a tiny bit of light to the sides (enough to say they comply under good conditions, but probably not very useful in practice). And any decently bright flashlight should be casting enough light on the road and other objects ahead of the cyclist so as to be seen by someone observing the cyclist from the side.
    Last edited by prathmann; 04-04-14 at 10:37 PM.

  3. #3
    Senior Member 01 CAt Man Do's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1 Miyata Biker View Post
    ... In Ohio we now must have a head light that also distributes light to the sides at 180 degrees, visible for 300 feet. That would eliminate using a flashlight set up here ( unless you figure the police won't bother you for such a trivial jab at the law )...
    It intrigues me that some one would think that such a set-up would be so important that it would be worth bothering to pass a law. Once again I think the whole purpose here is to "provide a legal out" to people who might hit a cyclist at night. If the cyclist has no side lighting that meets the required legal definition the perpetrator could get off with a reduced sentence. Otherwise, no one else ( police included ) are going to give a damn if the guy on a bike has a light/side light or not.

    Looking at it another way, you could have your entire bike outfitted with side reflectors and side lights but if you don't have a "Front light with 180 visibility" the perpetrator could claim he couldn't see you and as stupid as that might sound, it can happen. ( so much for my faith in our justice system )

    Prathmann's analysis nails it IMO.
    Last edited by 01 CAt Man Do; 04-05-14 at 05:45 AM.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
    I don't see the logic in the claimed reason. First of all, it's not advisable for traffic (either cyclist or motorist) to be in the door zone. Secondly, if the person in the car looks back before opening his door the cyclist who ends up next to the door when it actually opens would be quite a few feet back when the motorist first looks. So he should have a clear view of the front light shining forward with his initial glance. OTOH, if he just opens the door without looking then any light shining sideways from the cyclist won't be seen anyway. The cases I've seen of doorings have happened because the driver was looking forward when he opened his car door - not at all in the direction of the cyclist. By far the most effective light to avoid these would be a bright light shining forward so that portions of the car on the left side and in front of the driver (mirror, left edge of dash, etc.) are illuminated by the beam.

    Is there any other definition given for the side lighting beyond the 'visible from 300ft.'? Note that the effectiveness varies widely depending on other ambient lighting or distracting lights in the same general direction. If the light is isolated and on a dark night, human vision can see a single candle at a distance of up to 30 miles (How Far Can the Human Eye See? | Human Visual Acuity | LiveScience). So very little light would really be needed to see something 300' away under optimum conditions. If the edge of a cyclist's flashlight beam hits any part of his cables, brake levers, front tire, etc. then it would probably be visible from that distance as seen from the side - again, under optimum conditions.

    California has had a similar provision for some time (I don't remember any changes in the last 20 years) that requires:
    "A lamp emitting a white light that, while the bicycle is in motion, illuminates the highway, sidewalk, or bikeway in front of the bicyclist and is visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and from the sides of the bicycle." Most bicycle-specific lights I've seen do emit a tiny bit of light to the sides (enough to say they comply under good conditions, but probably not very useful in practice). And any decently bright flashlight should be casting enough light on the road and other objects ahead of the cyclist so as to be seen by someone observing the cyclist from the side.
    I just read an article about this very subject involving biking in Chicago, Illinois. In Chicago their bike lanes are right next to the parked vehicles. Right in the "door zone" that was brought up. Chicag currently has a $500 fine for any motorists exiting their car and causing an accident with a bicyclist. Plus they're responsible for the bike damage and any hospital bills. Next month the fine goes up to $1,000! Guess Chicago needs the money!

  5. #5
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    Obviously the laws' writers were football fans.

  6. #6
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    some bike headlights include side spill

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