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  1. #1
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Negotiating left merges at night

    This thread is about techniques/challenges/equipment for sucessfully and safely negotiating left merges in moderately busy and fast traffic at night with low level of streetlights.

    Challeges (vs. daylight conditions) include:
    -Distance, speed and decelleration perception of fsdt more difficult
    -Lateral movement of vehicles harder to discern
    -No visibility of driver inside vehicle
    -Driver can not see arm signals or cyclist turning head to look back until very (most often too) close when cyclist is illuminated by headlights
    -Equipment may include reflective or illuminated gloves and/or arm sleeves/striping

    Al

  2. #2
    genec genec's Avatar
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    I only make right turns at night.

  3. #3
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    I only make right turns at night.
    I mostly do as well. But I have one left turn at a T intersection with no light (but a left turn lane) and no marked crosswalk where making a ped crossing is very hard as well due to rush hour traffic. It happens to be my 'low traffic' route (my high traffic route continues across the top of the T. The stem of the T gets me into a residential area.

    Now that it is getting darker it reminded me of this challenge I faced last winter.

    Al

  4. #4
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noisebeam View Post
    I mostly do as well. But I have one left turn at a T intersection with no light (but a left turn lane) and no marked crosswalk where making a ped crossing is very hard as well due to rush hour traffic. It happens to be my 'low traffic' route (my high traffic route continues across the top of the T. The stem of the T gets me into a residential area.

    Now that it is getting darker it reminded me of this challenge I faced last winter.

    Al
    To be honest with you my old commute had a left turn near the beginning... I would simply time it to meet the light at a red and then filter forward and indicate to the motorists that I was making a left with big gestures. Worked every time.

    My current commute would require a left turn on a freeway off ramp, but I don't do it at night.

  5. #5
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    It's definitely more challenging to get drivers' attention in the dark, but the principles are the same. You signal/negotiate until someone yields, then move left. I rode with my bright yellow rain jacket last night after 9pm, and the bright yellow long sleeves seemed to help them see my arm signal.

    My rear light setup has a lot of room for improvement on my new commuter. I have only one blinky and two red reflectors. I added a blinky to my ankle last night, but need to get more lights on the bike.

  6. #6
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    don't ride at night much, do ya now, HH?

    negotiating by waiting for a yield at night, how exactly do you determine that? do you stop by the side of the road until you get a car to stop and wave you in?

    I'm equally or perhaps even more assertive at night taking the lane, and have a dedicated night commuter with large array of reflective and blinkies on it- a lateral move into a lane is made more obvious with a wider, brighter rear array.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  7. #7
    genec genec's Avatar
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    There is one system of lights I have seen on a web page that might help, but I don't know how well they work. Supposedly you flick your wrist and these things turn on.

    http://www.safeturn.com/the_product.html

    Seriously, I simply work to avoid left turns where I have to wait for motorists to acknowledge me at night. There is simply too much light pollution at the major intersections where I would choose to turn.

    I have plenty of light on the bike, (Niterider 12V digital with their rear blinker + LED blinky) but that outstretched arm at night on a busy road with night pollution just ain't gonna cut it.

  8. #8
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Fagerlin View Post
    I would say that you don't have enough light if you're having problems turning left at night.

    I don't arm signal. I find that looking over my shoulder while riding at night with my helmet light gets driver's attention.
    A helmet light might make the difference... good suggestion. But I still wouldn't depend only on a "head turn" as a signal (although it has worked in some cases in the past).

    The biggest issue I have is simply light pollution from all the business around busy intersections... I don't think I would stand out well enough trying to signal in the conventional manner.

    One thing I do however is make left turns on the corner before the stoplights and busy (light filled) intersections. This is more of a "messenger move" rather than a vehicular move. However, not all potential turns have alternate routes.

  9. #9
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Fagerlin View Post
    An HID helmet light will make you stand out, even in well lit/light polluted areas.
    Sure to the drivers approaching me from the front, with this I agree, but the ones coming up from behind will only be "dazzled" by my flashing red lights and the quick glance I make just before I turn.

  10. #10
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Any particular brand/model of HID helmet light anyone want to recommend?

  11. #11
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    I have plenty of lights, reflective material on me, my bike, my rear of helmet, etc. Once I am in a lane I am confident I can be seen. Yes, when there is a sufficiently safe gap I can take it without signaling desire (or a signal visible to driver so far back) and then my lateral movement is seen

    What I want to do is get a driver (in 45mph posted area, probably driving faster than that) to slow for me. In the day time I signal early with arm outstretched for 10sec, with repeated look backs and after 1-3 drivers one slows and lets me in, then on to the next lane. At night I just don't grab that wanting to turn attention that gets drivers to slow for me. Sticking my arm out and looking back sometimes gets zero response. I can only estimate the difference is lack of ambient light that shows my face and arm.

    I do wonder how effective a helmet front facing light is. Turning my head to look back shines the light at 30-45 offset from directly behind me. (I know this from trying one and as I ride with someone who uses one and when they look back I only see their light making a spot on the road next to them) Really enough to signal a desire to merge for drivers well back? I can see it working if moving 20-25mph in 30-35mph traffic where drivers can be closer before they slow only moderately, where you are looking at drivers 2 car lengths or so back, not 100' back.

    There is some good advice here I'll further sift thru and consider.

    Al

  12. #12
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noisebeam View Post
    I have plenty of lights, reflective material on me, my bike, my rear of helmet, etc. Once I am in a lane I am confident I can be seen. Yes, when there is a sufficiently safe gap I can take it without signaling desire (or a signal visible to driver so far back) and then my lateral movement is seen

    What I want to do is get a driver (in 45mph posted area, probably driving faster than that) to slow for me. In the day time I signal early with arm outstretched for 10sec, with repeated look backs and after 1-3 drivers one slows and lets me in, then on to the next lane. At night I just don't grab that wanting to turn attention that gets drivers to slow for me. Sticking my arm out and looking back sometimes gets zero response. I can only estimate the difference is lack of ambient light that shows my face and arm.

    I do wonder how effective a helmet front facing light is. Turning my head to look back shines the light at 30-45 offset from directly behind me. Really enough to signal a desire to merge for drivers well back? I can see it working if moving 20-25mph in 30-35mph traffic where drivers can be closer before they slow only moderately, where you are looking at drivers 2 car lengths or so back, not 100' back.

    There is some good advice here I'll further sift thru and consider.

    Al
    Pete seems to think the helmet light works... perhaps shining it on your outstretched arm might also help.

  13. #13
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bekologist View Post
    I'm equally or perhaps even more assertive at night taking the lane, and have a dedicated night commuter with large array of reflective and blinkies on it- a lateral move into a lane is made more obvious with a wider, brighter rear array.
    I am with Bek on this. That is, if the traffic is dense enough such that moving into the left lane requires "negotiating" with motorists, then there is usually enough light for motorists to see my hand signals and head turns. When I move left, I take the entire lane and establish position. If the density is low such that I can simply wait until all traffic passes and then establish my position as a moving Christmas Tree.

    Mind you, around here there is enough ambient light that most drivers can probably see a cyclist once they are noticed; i.e. with the blinky. I also wear blinky armbands to help my hand signals be noticed.

  14. #14
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec View Post
    Pete seems to think the helmet light works... perhaps shining it on your outstretched arm might also help.
    I have a 10W HID light bar mounted. It is not helmet adaptable for a few reasons.

    To try a helmet mount HID involved at $200 expense, well worth it if it works and makes my commute safer. But too much too lose if it doesn't.

    I'd like a bit more real world experience stories from other folks about HID helmet lights getting drivers to slow when one turns their head before spending another $200+

    Al

  15. #15
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    I recently started using a helmet light. It seems to be quite helpful in getting attention since you can flash it in varying directions as well as at people.

    LED lights are quite good and powerful. I don't need an HID light since I can see the road without it; although the light certainly helps see the finer details. I believe that my model is the P5525 on this page http://www.nite-hawk.com/bikeemitter.html .

    If memory serves me right, I got it on sale at performance for something like $80-90 before coupon.

  16. #16
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noisebeam View Post
    I'd like a bit more real world experience stories from other folks about HID helmet lights getting drivers to slow when one turns their head before spending another $200+

    Al
    You probably would get a ton of responses in the commuter forum.

    -G

  17. #17
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Fagerlin View Post
    I run 13w HID on the bars and a 13w Hid on my helmet.

    When commuting I would also have a rear blinkie and backpack with reflective strips but during the Winter there are many nights when I am in "ninja" mode with all reflective gear removed so while the spill of light from both lamps is bright, there is no light being reflected/projected rearwards.

    Despite me being "ninja" during those occasions it's still very easy to create a gap by looking back. My helmet lamp is narrower than my bar lamp but even the light spilling from the sides (i.e. not the hotspot) is enough to grab driver's attention.

    It strikes me as being similar to a LEO with a flashlight at night doing the "up-down-up-down" in terms of grabbing attention.
    Thanks Pete. That does help. Building justification for a 2nd high power light already!
    Al

  18. #18
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Fagerlin View Post
    I run 13w HID on the bars and a 13w Hid on my helmet.


    Nice pic... really has a great feeling of motion.

  19. #19
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    This video show me doing a left merge from BL into adjacent vehicular lane at night with lots of hand signalling and looking back and minimal response.

    This is a different place than I was refering to, but I post it to give a sense of traffic volume and speed as this is typical during my commute.

    I just uploaded it to YouTube today, but it is from Jan 5th, 2006 before I got an HID headlight (I had a much dimmer 10W/6W dual Halogen at the time)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k3zC12s8tUc

    Al

  20. #20
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Pete Fagerlin View Post
    I think it looks dark mostly because your video equipment has difficulty in low light conditions. It wasn't even picking up the car's headlights.
    Yep, of course that is why it looks dark. As I noted above I was posting to show traffic conditions, not ambient light, that was implied, but not said.

    My HID light does show up on the road with the same video set up, which is perhaps why I mentioned it.

    Al

  21. #21
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    While I have tried helmet lights, the only thing I've found effective for nighttime merges is moving very far left in my lane and signalling with a full outstretched arm while looking back for a longer than normal (for daylight) time. While it may take longer than in daylight, I've never missed the left turn off the 45mph arterial into my neighborhood because I couldn't merge. Staying near the center of the lane virtually guarantees that I will receive no response from drivers in the left lane. Going near the line grabs a lot more attention. Not looking back also seems to be a factor in getting ignored. You seem to need to "really" want to merge to get it done at night.

    [really late EDIT] My first sentence should read: "While I have not tried helmet lights..."[EDIT]
    Last edited by joejack951; 10-03-07 at 08:05 PM.

  22. #22
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joejack951 View Post
    While I have tried helmet lights, the only thing I've found effective for nighttime merges is moving very far left in my lane and signalling with a full outstretched arm while looking back for a longer than normal (for daylight) time. While it may take longer than in daylight, I've never missed the left turn off the 45mph arterial into my neighborhood because I couldn't merge. Staying near the center of the lane virtually guarantees that I will receive no response from drivers in the left lane. Going near the line grabs a lot more attention. Not looking back also seems to be a factor in getting ignored. You seem to need to "really" want to merge to get it done at night.
    At night and day I rarely if ever have any problem merging from one vehicular lane to an adjacent vehicular lane as I am usually centerish for thru travel and can move left in that lane before begining the negotation to the next lane. Drivers are behind me and day and night (with headlight) see me and my signals.

    The problem at night (and to some, but a lesser degree in the day) is negotiating a merge out of a bike lane into the adjacent vehicular lane. There one can not use within lane position for a signal you are moving left, nor is your presence (with or without arm signal or look back) that important to fsdt. I think drivers look even more tunnel straight ahead at night.

    Thinking about this more that is the problem at night I am trying to deal with, getting out of the bike lane. Once I am in the outer lane it is easy to get one or two more lanes over.

    Al

  23. #23
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    blaming the bike lane once again, eh?

    so its' not merging left across lanes of traffic, it's leaving the bike lane you have a problem with at night?

    that's the exact opposite of my experience, it is very easy to move from a bike lane into the traffic lane.

    here's my basic nightime rear array. I have a superflash shining and blinking up thru the safety triangle. with a pannier with large reflective patch on it, my bike appears 4-5 feet wide at night, and hopefully gets me better clearance even when NOT moving laterally.

    Where do you get a HID system for 200 bucks? they are, like 375 and up for current LIM or Niterider systems..... The new LED systems are remarkably bright. LIM Stella, Niterider Minewt X2.

    Stella, if you had it on your helmet on flash, would be shockingly obvious to vehicles once you swivelled your head around.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  24. #24
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    actually, there is the new Niterider Trinewt LED headlight which is just shy of 500 lumens, right in HID territory.

    but you are right, not quite as bright as a HID. on the plus side, LEDs FLASH for conspicuity, even the 500 lumen Trinewt. if you aimed a 500 lumen, flashing helmet light at a driver behind you..... imagine how attention grabbing that would be.

    I went out and tested the new LEDs last night on the ride home from the bike shop, I mounted up a Stella and a Niterider X2.

    I think I caused a driver to crash.. ..they were flashing their brights at me as we closed on each other, and I then heard a crash as I passed them....

    I don't believe the Enduro is a 2007-08 model year light, you're buying old batteries with that setup..... there is a 2008 Enduro lithium headlight.

    BTW, the buzz at Light in Motion (from the rep, just two weeks ago) is LIM R&D is looking to phase out HID entirely as LEDs become more efficient and they can dump the heat off them effectively enough....

    however, maybe a wrist mounted, flashing red LED like a Serfas. you could aim it directly at the drivers with a flick of the wrist.

    all my light talk above is is not proven but imagine the possibilities.

    I find being as visible as possible, and being more assertive with lane merges, is what it takes. Joejack's mention of riding far left in the lane, that is a good one I use.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 10-02-07 at 10:56 PM.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  25. #25
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=Bekologist;5379838]blaming the bike lane once again, eh?

    Where do you get a HID system for 200 bucks? QUOTE]

    Not blaming anything, just stating what I know from hundreds of experiences in trying to merge out of BL vs. mergeing from one vehicular lane to another.

    The TrailTech HID system I got was just under $200. (batteryspace)

    Al

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