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  1. #1
    Junior Member stevattle's Avatar
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    Share The Road With Epileptics

    Hello everyone! November is Epilepsy Awareness month, and believe it or not 10,000 more American's die from this orphaned disease than do of Breast Cancer.

    It has been brought to my attention something very alarming on the streets of Seattle. The latest trend amongst bikers is to affix 4-5 flash per second lights on the front and back of their bikes. This is a flash rate unacceptable to people with epilepsy -- as such a fast flash will trigger seizures. My opinion on this matter is that these lights are counter-productive and someone will die as a result of them. Either a driver having a seizure and killing themselves, or worse, crashing into others and taking their lives.
    Consider using a light with a 1 flash per second or less flash rate, or one that simply does not flash. Thanks!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e2ThbJBPn9A

  2. #2
    z90
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    Senior Member z90's Avatar
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    I'd like to be supportive, but the idea of someone driving who has epilepsy that is triggered by flashing lights frightens me. Cyclist are far from the only source of flashing lights out there. Do you have this condition, and if so, do you drive?

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    Junior Member stevattle's Avatar
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    I think the issue is that a lot of times, people don't know they have the condition and episodes occur at very inopportune times -- driving especially. I had a couple of seizures as a kid, and outgrew the condition, thank goodness. Epilepsy is hell, and there is a high suicide rate amongst people who can not control their seizures. 1%+ of the population in America have this condition, and most people drive as they have their seizures under control by medication. But I believe that these lights are so outrageous, that bad things will happen -- probably sooner than later.

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    Junior Member stevattle's Avatar
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    "Cyclist are far from the only source of flashing lights out there" This is true, but the rate of the flashing is the issue. Emergency vehicles lights flash -- but not as fast as these, and they are therefore not so much a problem.

  5. #5
    RIP Sonny RaleighSport's Avatar
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    I'd be supportive.. but given that lights flash at night.. why would this really matter? Don't most people with this condition choose not to drive at night?!?!?!?!?!
    "Seriously is what I want to be, so I put on spandex and show off my gear, my junk, my thing, yes my ding-a-ling."

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    Junior Member stevattle's Avatar
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    They seem to be on the road at all times, as they are used for being seen while riding. People with the condition drive all the time. And it really isn't a huge deal, unless something like this pops up. All DOT's in the country allow people with the condition to drive if they are seizure free for a year or longer, and I think rightly so -- it's MUCH safer having them on the road than people who have had a DUI. Much safer! Also, people with the condition many times don't drive, they walk or take public transit, and they are still exposed to these lights, and while they probably won't slam into someone with their bodies and kill them like they would with their cars, they still are human beings and have a right to be protected from these crazy lights!
    I believe these things have already been banned in Germany and a few other places btw.

  7. #7
    Insane Bicycle Mechanic Jeff Wills's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stevattle View Post
    They seem to be on the road at all times, as they are used for being seen while riding. People with the condition drive all the time. And it really isn't a huge deal, unless something like this pops up. All DOT's in the country allow people with the condition to drive if they are seizure free for a year or longer, and I think rightly so -- it's MUCH safer having them on the road than people who have had a DUI. Much safer! Also, people with the condition many times don't drive, they walk or take public transit, and they are still exposed to these lights, and while they probably won't slam into someone with their bodies and kill them like they would with their cars, they still are human beings and have a right to be protected from these crazy lights!
    I believe these things have already been banned in Germany and a few other places btw.
    Germany requires taillights to be "steady" instead of blinking. In my experience, a steady light is indistinguishable from an automotive taillight, which could cause accidents by fooling auto drivers into thinking they're following a car instead of approaching a bicycle.

    There's no free lunch. I do wish cyclists riding at night would not wear dark or black clothing. That makes it that much tougher to see them. I see plenty of commuting cyclists since my job is right next to one of Portland's more popular cycling corridors.
    Jeff Wills

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  8. #8
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    I have epilepsy and drive, but I've been seizure free for a couple of years now. I'd rather see a blinking light while driving than a steady one as it would confuse me thinking it was a car. It's not always the frequency, but how long you look at the light and most of us with seizures know that. I find white blinking lights hurt (but don't cause seizures for me) and the red blinking ones are fine. Whatever makes you visible is the most important thing, but if these are causing problems to anyone, not just people with epilepsy, don't use them. Anyone can have a seizure if the conditions are right.

    Epilepsy sucks, but that's how it is. I've had it for 36 years and am still around. Like anything else, you get used to but never really get over it.

    What really scares me is having a seizure on a bike. I have what are called complex partial seizures and would just pedal the bike aimlessly down the road possibly into traffic until I came out of it a few minutes later. Think walking underwater in slow motion and not being able to do anything about it and that's what a complex partial seizure is like. I just keep a list of my meds and a form of ID on me at all times even though I'm seizure free.

  9. #9
    Junior Member stevattle's Avatar
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    Thanks for sharing Bethany, wish you the best....

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    I'm sympathetic, but the problem seems a bit larger than the bike lights. We are using high frequency blinking lights in an attempt to pull motorists out of their stupor and cause them to pay attention and actually see us. If motorists took driving seriously (it is, after all, life and death), then we could get away with steady lights. Maybe you should focus your efforts on improved driver training, better traffic law enforcement and meaningful license suspensions. That would likely save more lives than any ban, voluntary or otherwise, on flashing bike lights ever will.

  11. #11
    Infamous Member chipcom's Avatar
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    is there any data that indicates how many epileptic drivers have actually suffered seizures caused by flashing bike lights?
    "Let us hope our weapons are never needed --but do not forget what the common people knew when they demanded the Bill of Rights: An armed citizenry is the first defense, the best defense, and the final defense against tyranny. If guns are outlawed, only the government will have guns. Only the police, the secret police, the military, the hired servants of our rulers. Only the government -- and a few outlaws. I intend to be among the outlaws" - Edward Abbey

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    Junior Member stevattle's Avatar
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    Epilepsy isn't called the orphaned disease in America for nothing, there is very little data. Working on it though.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by chipcom View Post
    is there any data that indicates how many epileptic drivers have actually suffered seizures caused by flashing bike lights?
    Epilepsy is a very well-studied disease. I just did a Medline search using the terms "epileptic seizures from bicycle lights" and no relevant citations were returned. Using the term 'epilepsy' returned 128808 citations; hardly what you would expect from an orphaned disease.

    So unless you can actually quote something from the relevant literature, it looks as if you have no medical basis for your opinions.
    Regards, MillCreek
    Snohomish County, Washington USA

  14. #14
    Senior Member Black wallnut's Avatar
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    Beyond what MillCreek states, your point is to ask us to make a compromise in our safety and the safety of motorists so that a very small percent of our population may be safer. Really? Blinking lights are for my safety and yours. If the blink rate is too fast then perhaps the CPSC should madate those away.


    Mark

  15. #15
    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
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    I'm going to jump on the side of devil's advocate here: You object to changing flash rate to accommodate the safety of a very small portion of the population. But think about it: cyclists on the road are a very small part of the transportation population, and we want drivers to take actions to keep us safe.

    Pot, meet kettle.
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

  16. #16
    Senior Member Seattle Forrest's Avatar
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    It's weird how people from California, Nebraska, Ohio, and Texas have taken up residence on the Pacific Northwest forum lately. I'm not complaining (and this thread really isn't a regional issue), but it's odd. ( See also. )

    Perhaps this thread could be moved to somewhere like A&S - they like this sort of thing there - and enjoy a wider audience?
    Don't believe everything you think.

  17. #17
    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
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    I mostly navigate from New Posts, which shows everything. I saw this was a topic in NW, but the subject of the thread is not peculiar to the Pac NW. So here I am.

    Quote Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
    Same story there.

    I'm quite the troublemaker, eh?
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

  18. #18
    Senior Member Black wallnut's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doohickie View Post
    I'm going to jump on the side of devil's advocate here: You object to changing flash rate to accommodate the safety of a very small portion of the population. But think about it: cyclists on the road are a very small part of the transportation population, and we want drivers to take actions to keep us safe.

    Pot, meet kettle.
    Seems to be an error in logic here. You need to insert the word SOME before cyclists and use I instead of we because I am sure there are more cyclists like myself that do not agree with your statement. I put lights on my bike for three reasons, it is the law, for my safety and other roadway users safety. I obey traffic laws and only have the reasonable expectation that others do as well. The only action I want auto and truck drivers to take they are already required to by law. Drive with due care and caution. Of course outside of the PNW your laws may differ.

    Then again my ideas are probably skewed what with my 20+ years in trucking, a short stint in law enforcement, and only commuting by bike for several months through a small college town before there is much traffic in the AM, then country rides home. Although most of my riding is on narrow county roads without lane lines and a speed limit of 50 mph and some highway miles with limits of 65.
    Last edited by Black wallnut; 10-26-11 at 11:27 PM.


    Mark

  19. #19
    You gonna eat that? Doohickie's Avatar
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    Okay, so you're studly and better than the rest of us.


    Whatev.
    I stop for people / whose right of way I honor / but not for no one.



    Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."

  20. #20
    Sore saddle cyclist Shifty's Avatar
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    This short article lists the most common sources of flashing lights that people with this disorder should avoid. Bike lights are not mentioned, but many others are. People with epilepsy should avoid flashing bike lights, I'd suggest holding a hand up to block the light from vision, or looking away for the very short time you encounter the light while driving. Are people with epilepsy suppose to be driving a car? The driver should know how to avoid this exposure, bike riders need the flashing red lights, I'm not so sure about the ultra bright flashing white lights.

    http://www.epilepsy.com/epilepsy/flashing_lights
    Those voices in your head aren't real, but they have some great ideas

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by stevattle View Post
    I think the issue is that a lot of times, people don't know they have the condition and episodes occur at very inopportune times -- driving especially. I had a couple of seizures as a kid, and outgrew the condition, thank goodness. Epilepsy is hell, and there is a high suicide rate amongst people who can not control their seizures. 1%+ of the population in America have this condition, and most people drive as they have their seizures under control by medication. But I believe that these lights are so outrageous, that bad things will happen -- probably sooner than later.
    If the lights will trigger seizures, then the seizures aren't under control of medication. QED. And if people "don't know they have the condition", they aren't taking medication anyway, right?

    I find your logic uncompelling, and your position untenable. There are a lot of flashing lights out there, and posting in a bike forum isn't going to affect even the smallest percentage of them. If there's a risk of seizures being triggered, those in the risk pool need to quit driving until/unless you get those lights legislated (by manufacture/sale) off the road. I have empathy for those with seizures (my sister can't drive due to repeated surgery for a benign brain tumor), but no sympathy for those who are willing to put OTHER people's lives at risk.

    KeS

  22. #22
    BF Risk Manager
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shifty View Post
    Are people with epilepsy suppose to be driving a car?
    As a healthcare risk manager, I deal with this issue several times a year. The majority of states require that you be seizure-free for six months, and get a physician's certification accordingly, before allowing you to drive. Some states require a 12-month seizure-free interval. In addition to a seizure-free interval, some states also require that you be taking anti-seizure meds, if you have diagnosed epilepsy.

    My physicians are sometimes approached by patients who want a certification when they are not in fact seizure-free or are not compliant with their meds. Please don't ask for this; we won't do it.
    Regards, MillCreek
    Snohomish County, Washington USA

  23. #23
    Senior Member
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    I usually just browse through the "new posts" and saw the post mentioning epilepsy so I chimed in. I actually have only known about my epilepsy for 14 years after having my first gran mal seizure as an adult. Turns out I've had epilepsy since birth due to brain trauma/stroke/sub-dural hematoma when tests were done. All the "funny" feelings I had as a kid/teengager that I thought were normal were actually complex partial seizures. I've had maybe 3-4 gran mal seizures during the past 14 years usually because of a medication change. It's extremely possible to have seizures and not know it until something sets it off.

    Just like with cyclists taking cycling seriously, most of us with epilepsy take the condition seriously. Believe me, falling backwards into a bathroom with a near miss of the toilet and sink as your first gran mal seizure makes you take your meds extremely seriously. I never even thought about cyclist's lights causing seizures until it was brought up in the post. I don't think most of with epilepsy have even thought about bike lights as problems as well so there wouldn't be any studies of it. We are too busy living our lives to let everything get in the way.

    The OP was just worried about those that are photosensitive when it comes to seizures. Just keep yourselves visible so cars can see you. Last thing you want is brain damage of any kind.

  24. #24
    Junior Member stevattle's Avatar
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    Saw a group of three bikers, all with these lights Yesterday. Someone is going to die, I guarantee! These things are a disgrace.

  25. #25
    Insane Bicycle Mechanic Jeff Wills's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by stevattle View Post
    Saw a group of three bikers, all with these lights Yesterday. Someone is going to die, I guarantee! These things are a disgrace.
    Passed a couple riders this evening, wearing dark clothes and with minimal lights. Damn near impossible to see. That's disgraceful.
    Jeff Wills

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