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  1. #1
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    Should headlights be red?

    In my search for a new flashlight I noticed that they have bright red LED flashlights. Red, it is said, does not decrease your night vision as much as white. I wonder if a red head light, or a bright red mixed with a bit of white would not be the best for seeing obstacals, both in the beam of light and outside it, at night.
    2000 Montague CX, I do not recommend it, but still ride it.
    Strida 3, I recommend it for rides < 10mi wo steep hills.
    2006 Rowbike 720 Sport, I recommend it as an exercise bike.
    1996 Birdy, Recommend.
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  2. #2
    cab horn
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    Your title says headlights but your post says flashlights. Which is it? I wouldn't use red anything on the front of the bike. Good way to confuse motorists.
    Mes compaingnons cui j'amoie et cui j'aim,... Me di, chanson.

  3. #3
    Senior Member DieselDan's Avatar
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    That would be ILLEGAL. Red is for the back. Has been for a few centuries. Unless your suicidal.
    Bikes use brakes to stop.

    If your bike has breaks, don't ride it.

  4. #4
    On the big ring deanp's Avatar
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    They is enough other white light, street lights, cars, moon, buildings, that you your eyes will never become accustomed to the red ight. It takes total darkness for several minutes for the effect to take hold. And like the others have stated it will confuse motorists. Red for the back.

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    Red also has very little throw, so it would be impractical for such a light to be used as a headlight along with the very low color rendition all of the road will seem like a smooth blanket of red. Besides, red is only approved for brake lights for emergency lights so you will get a ticket.

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    Red is only useful for rear lights, special districts, and night heat lights for reptiles.
    It is especially horrible to see with. So, no. That and it is illegal to use.

  7. #7
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    Here in Texas, red lights in the front are reserved only for emergency vehicles, or hazard warning systems. Plus its hard to see much with them in front of you unless you are using IR goggles.

    I'd just keep the red lights in the back, buy yourself a good white light. I picked up a pretty good front headlight for about $20 that can easily handle 100+ hours of lighting per four AA batteries, and the light can be set to flash in the day to further add to visibility.

  8. #8
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    I guess red headlights are an idea whose time has not come.
    2000 Montague CX, I do not recommend it, but still ride it.
    Strida 3, I recommend it for rides < 10mi wo steep hills.
    2006 Rowbike 720 Sport, I recommend it as an exercise bike.
    1996 Birdy, Recommend.
    Wieleder CARiBIKE (folding), decent frame.

  9. #9
    Good Afternoon! SamHouston's Avatar
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    Not so much that as one that wouldn't work, technically or customarily, for all of the reasons stated above. I hope you'r not going to be a barnstormer trying it out. Risking yourself is one thing, but the possibility of confusing other road users is extremely high.

  10. #10
    Faster but still slow slowandsteady's Avatar
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    Are you coming or going???
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  11. #11
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Check the laws in your area ... chances are red headlights are illegal.


    Incidentally, if you are currently using flashlights as your headlights ... do yourself a favor and invest in a good bicycle headlight.

  12. #12
    Belt drive! vtjim's Avatar
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    Pilots use red flashlights. Red doesn't screw up your night vision, which takes upwards of half an hour to truly "engage".

  13. #13
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    Yes, and pilots use red landing lights at night. Not.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by geo8rge
    In my search for a new flashlight I noticed that they have bright red LED flashlights. Red, it is said, does not decrease your night vision as much as white. I wonder if a red head light, or a bright red mixed with a bit of white would not be the best for seeing obstacals, both in the beam of light and outside it, at night.

    I have used a bright red led to read by when it was the only light available, & it was ok, but as others say, other road users don't expect it on the front of a bike.

    So, have you found anything suitable, & are you swapping it around your bikes, or do you only ride a particular one at night?

  15. #15
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rowan
    Yes, and pilots use red landing lights at night. Not.
    People who want to preserve their night vision use a red light. The intensity of red light is such that it doesn't cause the light receptors in you eye to become overwhelmed. Pilots may use them during the flight (I'm not a pilot but I'll assume that vtjim knows what he's talking about), astronomers - both amatuer and professional - use them, military used to use them.

    If it's really dark, you want to be able to read something and still want to see stuff - like stars- in the dark, you want to use a very low intensity red light.

    And no, you shouldn't use one on the front of a bike because people will think you are a wrong way cyclist or they may not see the light until they have invalidated your third dimension.
    Stuart Black
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  16. #16
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    Just for the record I do not use a red headlight. I wonder if you could combine red and white leds to get a superior beam (brighter with less loss of night vision), that would comply with laws and common sense.
    2000 Montague CX, I do not recommend it, but still ride it.
    Strida 3, I recommend it for rides < 10mi wo steep hills.
    2006 Rowbike 720 Sport, I recommend it as an exercise bike.
    1996 Birdy, Recommend.
    Wieleder CARiBIKE (folding), decent frame.

  17. #17
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by geo8rge
    Just for the record I do not use a red headlight. I wonder if you could combine red and white leds to get a superior beam (brighter with less loss of night vision), that would comply with laws and common sense.

    According to the province of Alberta Traffic Act:
    http://www.qp.gov.ab.ca/documents/Re...sbn=0779717090


    Part 1, Division 1: Headlamps (to define what a headlamp is)

    (4) The light from a headlamp must be white, and the lens and bulb of the headlamp must be made of clear, untinted glazing.

    (5) A person shall not attach or apply anything that colours the light from a headlamp to the headlamp, part of the headlamp or a bulb in the headlamps.


    Part 4, Division 3: Bicycles (to apply this to bicycles)

    Bicycle equipment

    99(1) A person shall not ride a bicycle at night time unless the bicycle has the following:

    (a) at least one headlamp but not more than 2 headlamps;

    (b) at least one red tail lamp;

    (c) at least one red reflector mounted on the rear.



    Therefore, combining red and white lights for a headlamp on your bicycle would not be legally permitted in Alberta. You should check your own highway traffic act to see exactly what it says about lighting and bicycles before you proceed.

  18. #18
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by geo8rge
    Just for the record I do not use a red headlight. I wonder if you could combine red and white leds to get a superior beam (brighter with less loss of night vision), that would comply with laws and common sense.

    NO.
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  19. #19
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    The reason why the INSTRUMENT lights might be red on aircraft is so that light pollution in the cockpit doesn't interfere with the pilot's ability to see outside (a) when ambient light requires wide-open pupils and (b) so they can see clearly when using their WHITE lights to land and take off.

    If red was a solution of greater visibility, do you not think the motor vehicle industry would have put something in place before now.

    Oh, and the definition of a WHITE light for headlamps/lights on vehicles, including bicycles, has always bemused me in terms of the BLUE light cast by LEDs... leading me to think that technically they could be interpreted as being illegal.

  20. #20
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    White light has red as a component. What I was thinking was if you took red and mixed it with the other colors or white you could get a 'superior' beam that would both illuminate the road and preserve night vision.

    For example you could mount white lights low and mostly horizontal on the fork, and a red pointing down from the handle bars. The beams would be focused on the same point.

    This is all speculation of course.
    2000 Montague CX, I do not recommend it, but still ride it.
    Strida 3, I recommend it for rides < 10mi wo steep hills.
    2006 Rowbike 720 Sport, I recommend it as an exercise bike.
    1996 Birdy, Recommend.
    Wieleder CARiBIKE (folding), decent frame.

  21. #21
    On the big ring deanp's Avatar
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    Use amber or yellow. Unsubscribing. We've beat this dead horse.

  22. #22
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by geo8rge
    Just for the record I do not use a red headlight. I wonder if you could combine red and white leds to get a superior beam (brighter with less loss of night vision), that would comply with laws and common sense.
    It's the brightness of the beam in the shorter wavelengths (bluer light) that interfers with your night vision. The rod cells in your eyes are more sensitive to the blue light but they are also insensitive to red light. That's why you can preserve your night vision with a red light. The light doesn't overwelm the rod cell and allows you to pick up the blue light that is coming from stars and reflections from the sun in the atmosphere.

    Since you are already using a white light with lots of shorter wavelength light in it, adding red won't do anything. The best thing to do is just add more light (white) and overwelm the darkness
    Stuart Black
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    Picking the Scablands. Washington and Oregon, 2005. Pie and spiders on the Columbia River!
    Days of Wineless Roads. Bed and Breakfasting along the KATY
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  23. #23
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    ahh, red is for reading, not riding

    you need yellow spectrum to see well on tar or trails,
    red slices thru fog, yellow does too. but yellow provides
    more return light you can use to navigate with.

    pure white like HID is good too, but anything with too
    much blue will be poor in the rain or fog. yellow/white is overall
    the best, HID is great because there is so much light it works
    no mattah what. blue is garbage for any wet or foggy condition
    (blue is scattered by water and you get less return photons, though
    if someone else has blue, you can see then miles away, they just
    can't see much of their own light coming back)

    I've tried red headlights before, while trying to photograph the
    critters at out the cabin in teh woods....it is doable but crappy
    you would need 4x lumens
    to be able to navigate at speed if using red. that means too much
    battery and light to be practical.

    besides, red is for the rear, in 99.999999% of the world.

  24. #24
    Dog is my co-pilot 2manybikes's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by edzo

    besides, red is for the rear, in 99.999999% of the world.

    plus or minus .000001 %
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by 2manybikes
    plus or minus .000001 %
    no pretty much just plus

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