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Blinking Lights During the Day on Roads and Streets

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Blinking Lights During the Day on Roads and Streets

Old 07-06-20, 09:00 AM
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flangehead
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Blinking Lights During the Day on Roads and Streets

There was recently a post regarding daytime running lights which included objections to blinking lights. The OP of that thread was actually asking about motivation so I think it best to post this in a new, separate thread.

To make this useful, I'd suggest the scope be limited daylight operation on roads and streets.

I use blinking lights during the day on the road to increase my conspicuity to motor vehicles. However, there was a comment that it can trigger seizures. I don't want anyone to get hurt on my trip. Another comment was that flashing bicycle lights are not permitted in Germany.

I followed the link to the UK Epilepsy Society provided by mrv. https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/p...y#.XwMtLuWSntS Some relevant notes from that link:

What rate of flashing light can trigger seizures?
  • Between 3-30 hertz (flashes per second) are the common rates to trigger seizures but this varies from person to person. While some people are sensitive at frequencies up to 60 hertz, sensitivity under 3 hertz is not common.
Possible triggers if you have photosensitive epilepsy:
  • Flashing or flickering lights or images between 3 and 60 hertz (flashes per second).
  • Flashing bicycle lights or other LED lights, if this creates a high enough flash rate against a dark background, and the effect fills your vision.


I'm working on how to actually measure the flash rate of my DRL, but they appear to be slower than 3 Hz. And in the street/road case, it seems unlikely that my light would fill the vision.

I've poked around some other epilepsy websites and haven't found anything substantially out of line with the bullet points above.

Though photosensitive epilepsy affects a very small population, I wouldn't want to trigger anyone's seizure. From what I can see so far, the chance is vanishingly small.

Regarding German rules, I found this at German Bicycle Laws.
  • Lighting: Non-blinking front headlamp to illuminate the road of white or pale yellow color. A red rear taillight that stays lit when stationary and may blink (intensity 1 cd). In the USA, blinking lights are sold but they are not legal in Germany.
​​​​​​​

So the research I've done so far has not dissuaded me from using flashing front and rear lights during the day to increase my conspicuity. However, I recognize that there are a lot of things I don't know so opening up this thread.

Last edited by flangehead; 07-06-20 at 09:14 AM. Reason: Unnecessary quote removed
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Old 07-06-20, 11:03 AM
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It should be pretty easy to tell how many flashes per minute a standard flashing light gives off. In some of the more complex patterns, maybe not as easy. I suppose if you were really concerned you could ask the manufacturer of your specific light. There's a lot of reading out there. Most of it leads me to believe that even the more complex flashing patterns wouldn't induce seizure.
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Old 07-06-20, 11:05 AM
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I'm sure the manufacturers took the epilepsy/strobing effect into consideration when they designed their flashing lights. Like everything there is going to be someone somewhere that actually might get an episode triggered by this. However chances are probably less than any other component on your bicycle failing and injuring you or someone else. Maybe even less than having the winning lottery ticket for the big jackpot. But I'm supposing..... so others can bring it on if they can do anything but likewise guess and suppose like me.

One of the things I remember reading about a long time ago when flashing lights on bicycles were a newer topic was that they didn't flash at a steady rate between each flash nor group of flashes. Also they were at a rate that wasn't commonly accepted as a problem frequency for epilepsy triggers.

I use the flashing front and back on solo rides. Mine aren't more than 100 or 200 lumens. I don't specifically point them out and slightly up so they hit other oncoming persons square in the eyes. I've actually read threads were people said they did this..... and at night too.

I do try to think about if I'm going to be annoying people in very shaded parts of the trail with them. So that's why one of the things I am looking for when I replace my edge 500 is that the new device be able to control my lights while riding. My son does this with his edge 820.

There are some local and state laws, even federal laws or guidelines for the national park service that have various rules and suggested pratices for light use flashing and not flashing.

Some places still have laws requiring reflectors too. How many road bikes today come with a reflector much less a light that most states require?
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Old 07-06-20, 04:33 PM
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Many states have laws outlawing flashing headlights as well. this link is for Washington State RCW 46.37.280

There are too many laws in this country, but sometimes they enact them for good reason. This, in my opinion, is one of those times.

this article is very informative and well written. Don't be "that guy" who puts his personal safety over everyone else's

https://crosscut.com/2013/11/bicycle...linking-lights

Keep in mind the bicycle fatality rate in German is a fraction of what it is in the US.

Germany vs US bike stats

Oh, and the Germans tend to not wear helmets

German bike helmets

Last edited by Pop N Wood; 07-06-20 at 04:40 PM.
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Old 07-06-20, 10:19 PM
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I will use a strobe headlight in certain daytime higher speed downhill situations when riding vehicular, otherwise it stays off, and always in steady mode at night. As for the tail light, it stays off during the daytime, and steady mode at night, since my rides are on slower speed city streets. I tend to rely on my SOLAS reflective material on my crank arms and pedals at night, and OSHA green Velcro ankle straps in place of a flashing taillight during the day.
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Old 07-06-20, 10:20 PM
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First off, thank you for the discussion and I have changed my behavior as a result.

I have examined the lights I use for DRL. Before COVID, when I was commuting, I only used some low-powered Cateye lights for DRL. With COVID, I rehabilitated some non-utility bikes and I only had mounts for higher-powered Cygolite lights. I have had one case where a pedestrian appeared to shield her eyes from the blinking Cygolite. I see her often and I have been covering the light when I’m near her.

The Cygolites have a mode where the light is on continuously with a bright pulse emitted about once a second. Based on the discussions here, I’m going to start using that mode for my Cygolite DRL. (I could look at the Cateyes all day long; they’re pretty low power.)

More and more, the lights I buy have these modulating modes like the Cygolite. I bought a Planet Bike rear red LED and it has 4 modes, from full on to only pulsing. In one of the intermediate modes there is a portion that ramps up and down on about a 6 second period. I think that is good variability for a driver that is coming up behind me as they have much more exposure than an impatient driver who is only going to glance before making a turn to/from a side street. Anyhow, the manufacturers appear to be adding flexibility in how their lights present and that helps.

Originally Posted by Pop N Wood View Post
...this article is very informative and well written...https://crosscut.com/2013/11/bicycle...linking-lights
I have read through this article and have several observations.

First of all, the article is addressing flashing lights at night. I agree that flashing lights at night should not be used.

There are two mentions of usage on roads. The need for a continuous light to judge distance is only a night issue. Then, there is where Eric discusses the “moth effect” which I suspect is also much stronger at niight. It seems unlikely to me that an oncoming motorist either in the opposite lane or making a left turn in front of me is going to be drawn to my DRL, either in solid or flashing mode. It seems much more likely that opposing traffic will continue. The primary benefit of a DRL, flashing or not, is increased visibility to turning vehicles, reducing the chance they will pull out because of SIDSY (sorry I didn’t see you).

Regarding seizures, the first mention is that some people felt "ill and disoriented" but the reference goes to dead links so I don't know the situation. They didn't say it caused a seizure. The mention in the article that blinking red taillights up close can cause a seizure is on full reference not as alarming as the sound bite:

Flashing bicycle lights “There have been cases where red flashing lights (red light emitting diodes) on the back of bicycles have triggered seizures in people with photosensitive epilepsy, when they have been close to the lights as they were setting them up. If you have photosensitive epilepsy you may wish to avoid being close to these types of lights.” Photosensitivity as a Seizure Trigger | Epilepsy Treatment | Intractable Childhood Epilepsy

Furthermore, I’m not finding any indication that the “non-flashing” regulations are due to seizures. The current German rules allow blinking lights that are not affixed to the bicycle. https://www.pd-f.de/2017/09/27/ein-l...euchtung_11822 using Google translation.

Unless I see something more convincing, I think the risk of me inducing seizures in bystanders with my DRL during the day is Powerball odds.

This did lead me to an interesting article, which again primarily addresses the clearly demonstrable problems with flashing lights at night. https://bikeshed.johnhoogstrate.nl/b...ight/blinking/ This is an article that uncategorically rejects flashing lights on the basis that there is no proof they help but are annoying. No distinction is made between daylight and night operation. The article contains an extensive excerpt from a 2008 TNO (Netherlands research institute) study that concluded “in most cases flicker [blinking] raises the conspicuity of front lights” but then later recommends they not be used. Unfortunately, the link to the study was broken for me. Based on the summary, it sounds like it was a careful and considered study and often the “sound bites” don’t represent the real results. It would be very interesting to see what that study showed for daylight operation. Anyone have this study? I couldn’t find it anywhere.

Originally Posted by Pop N Wood View Post
Many states have laws outlawing flashing headlights as well. this link is for Washington State RCW 46.37.280 ...There are too many laws in this country, but sometimes they enact them for good reason. This, in my opinion, is one of those times.
I looked at the law and it applies to highways. Does it apply to MUPs?

I found this website interesting: https://swhs.home.xs4all.nl/fiets/te.../index_en.html My (quick read) interpretation is that Germany’s regulations are very prescriptive. Sounds like the CPSC helmet regulations here in the US, where the rules tend to preserve in amber the technology in place at the time of adoption. This can have the unfortunate effect of increasing cost and/or making better technology unavailable. I have two early-generation Phillips Safelite headlights that they dumped on the US market for $80/each; the normal price I believe was $140. They have a great light pattern and I’m doing all I can to preserve them .. I really like them .. but .. a lot of our utility cyclists are poor; they are on a bicycle at night out of necessity, not choice. It’s very easy to get regulation wrong and end up putting more people at risk.

Originally Posted by Pop N Wood View Post
...Keep in mind the bicycle fatality rate in German is a fraction of what it is in the US...Germany vs US bike stats ...
Interesting. UK cyclist fatality rate is very comparable to Germany’s. Both are about half that of the US. Pretty unlikely that flashing LEDs have much explanatory power for any of that. Though the Europeans may be doing better, they are not necessarily infallible.

So where I’m at now is that that I don’t see the epileptic seizure as a valid reason for not using blinking DRL, both front and back. I keep seeing people cite this and it is a canard wrt DRL.

I know from my own experience that a flashing light shows up in my peripheral vision better. Much of my commute is on 40-45 mph posted roads, which is unavoidable, and my objective is that no one gets hurt on my trip. The specific target for my front flashing DRL is motor vehicles turning across or into my lane. (And the DRL is just one slice of my swiss cheese.. I'm watching for eyeballs and ready to make an emergency stop.. and I've got on a helmet.. more slices means less chance the holes line up...)

I’m not seeing that annoyance of some people as sufficient reason for a blanket condemnation of blinking DRL.

I appreciate the discussion and remain open to new information.

Last edited by flangehead; 07-06-20 at 10:32 PM. Reason: Canard
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Old 07-07-20, 05:29 AM
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I distinguish between strobing, which is fast rate, and blinking, which is slow. I don't know of studies on this in daylight road riding, but strobing in daylight on the paths makes it harder for the oncoming rider to judge your position. I know as a driver that at night, that's the same situation, I can't really tell where the strobing bicycle is. I'm skeptical that drl make any real difference in non-foggy conditions, but I do recall at least one situation as a driver where I had a hard time judging the actual position of a strobing bicycle in daytime--it was one of those absurdly high lumen light.

I guess I'd definitely question whether there is any advantage of strobing over blinking for peripheral notice , and there's no question in my mind that strobing really messes with people's ability to adjust to light changes. Your pupils just can't accommodate it. Keep in mind that it is impossible to strobe only for drivers at some distance, so you have to always keep in mind the effects of bright lights on drivers at close distance. Those are the ones most likely to kill you. It's not very useful to be visible a quarter mile away while disorienting drivers within a few feet.
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Old 07-07-20, 07:11 AM
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Originally Posted by flangehead View Post
I have had one case where a pedestrian appeared to shield her eyes from the blinking Cygolite. I see her often and I have been covering the light when I’m near her.
I do the same thing with my cygolite, try to shield it so it doesn't blind oncoming people. This is on the 350 lumen setting mind you. Just basic manners, don’t be a dick sort of thing. People with their 1000+ lumen headlights must be scorching retinas. Interestingly I run Planet Bike Grateful Red taillights. Love that name. Unlike other lights it has the legally required reflector area.

Automobile headlights have restrictions on beam patterns and luminosity. The US and Europe have different standards, supposedly illegal to use European lights in the US. Sounds to me like the Germans are trying to do something similar specifying patterns of bike headlights. They do this to not only ensure the road is well lit, but to keep from blinding oncoming traffic. But now bikes have headlights that are stronger than car high beams, but with zero regulations on where the light shines.

Only a matter of time until laws are created.

As for that Washington state statute, pretty sure that covers what can be put on the vehicle/bike. Other states probably have similar laws. I’m not a big rule follower, but the fact numerous agencies make strobing lights illegal ought to tell you something.

The thing that pisses me off with strobes is people who run them on the pitch black bike trails. I carry a spare cygolite and when some disco wannbe comes toward me I turn two lights on full strobe, aim them up and out, then announce “strobe off please” when I pass. The stereo effect really catches their attention. I’m adding an air zounder next.

That angst spills over into the daytime riders because they just look like total dorks. Can’t believe flashing lights are all that effective.
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Old 07-07-20, 07:42 AM
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cost benefit analysis matters
__________________
... and so it goes
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Old 07-07-20, 09:45 AM
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As a driver, I've never encountered bike lights that caused any problems. And I like bicyclists that use them as I often spot them from further away. I don't ride on paths and I don't understand why anyone would use lights on them during the day, but I haven't seen any issues with them on the road. I flash both front and rear during the day. The headlight stays on steady after dark. I ride mostly in rural areas and the one potential issue under those conditions are super bright rear flashers at night. But drivers have no problem with the low lumen rear flashers.
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Old 07-08-20, 03:10 PM
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I do not have photosensitive epilepsy. I do get splitting headaches from your strobe lights. If I fail to drop dead directly in front of you do I have any grounds for complaint?

This has been discussed with my neurologist. She tells me I am near the bottom of the spectrum and no one would ever diagnose me with epilepsy or treat me for epilepsy. But I am on the spectrum. She also tells me that strobing bike lights come up in her clinical practice every day. No deaths reported yet so bikeforums does not care.

The whole idea of a flashing light is to attract attention. It does attract attention. That is simply s physiological response and you can’t turn it off. It is not possible to disregard that flashing light. If it is a blinking light at reasonable power and not aimed directly in my eyes I do not care. High powered lights, strobing lights, strange patterned lights are all major distractions. They make it less possible for me to see what is going on up the road. Some part of my attention is forcibly taken by that strobe light and makes it less possible to ride safely. Now try it with three riders ahead, or six riders ahead, all with patterned and powerful lights. Or try to ride when the rider ahead has six flashing lights all on one bike. Maybe you can manage that, I can’t.

I will never again be able to participate in a group ride. No chance. Popular nearby cycling routes are all dicey, fewer and fewer safe places to ride. Ride at night? Forget it, can’t do that any more. You have taken all that away from me.

Flashing lights make us all less safe. The sort of ego that transforms these bludgeon lighting devices into “safety” is incomprehensible.
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Old 07-09-20, 04:46 AM
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Originally Posted by flangehead View Post
There was recently a post regarding daytime running lights which included objections to blinking lights. The OP of that thread was actually asking about motivation so I think it best to post this in a new, separate thread.

To make this useful, I'd suggest the scope be limited daylight operation on roads and streets.

I use blinking lights during the day on the road to increase my conspicuity to motor vehicles. However, there was a comment that it can trigger seizures. I don't want anyone to get hurt on my trip. Another comment was that flashing bicycle lights are not permitted in Germany..............................​​​​.............................So the research I've done so far has not dissuaded me from using flashing front and rear lights during the day to increase my conspicuity. However, I recognize that there are a lot of things I don't know so opening up this thread.
Thanks OP and I will continue to use the blinking lights Day and Night because my primary concern is for MYSELF AND MY SAFETY. Guess that's being a bit SELF ABSORBED and an ALL ABOUT ME but when I am driving I know my limitations and consciously avoid instances that will affect my safety and that of others.

Originally Posted by 63rickert View Post
.............................Ride at night? Forget it, can’t do that any more. You have taken all that away from me. Flashing lights make us all less safe. The sort of ego that transforms these bludgeon lighting devices into “safety” is incomprehensible.
Nobody took anything away from you. It is your choice to not ride at night as it is my choice TO CONTINUE to ride at night. I will be on the road tonight to begin my 70th birthday 141 mile Birthday Bicycle Ride. Since tomorrow's sunshine and humidity will bring up the overnight 80F temps up to an INDEX feeling of 105F+ the majority of my ride will be under the stars.

Last edited by OldTryGuy; 07-09-20 at 05:01 AM.
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Old 07-10-20, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by OldTryGuy View Post
Thanks OP and I will continue to use the blinking lights Day and Night because my primary concern is for MYSELF AND MY SAFETY. Guess that's being a bit SELF ABSORBED and an ALL ABOUT ME but when I am driving I know my limitations and consciously avoid instances that will affect my safety and that of others.



Nobody took anything away from you. It is your choice to not ride at night as it is my choice TO CONTINUE to ride at night. I will be on the road tonight to begin my 70th birthday 141 mile Birthday Bicycle Ride. Since tomorrow's sunshine and humidity will bring up the overnight 80F temps up to an INDEX feeling of 105F+ the majority of my ride will be under the stars.
Strobe/flashing lights at night are obnoxious and UNsafe, but you aren't going to change your mind.
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Old 07-13-20, 02:53 AM
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I sometimes use low power, steady (non flashing) front light during the day, I dont flash them because I think it can confuse motorists if they see flashing light on their rear view mirrors they're not used to seeing such thing and can steal their focus.

In fact, I never flash the front light day or night. Additionally, the front light is aimed 7 degrees down and slightly to the right (in a right side traffic) to avoid blinding the drivers on the opposite lane. Down pointed light also prevents blinding motorist in front of you via their rear view mirrors.

On the other hand, I flash my rear light at low frequency. The rear light is also at low power.
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Old 07-13-20, 06:43 AM
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A flashing headlight immediately identifies you as an inconsiderate person and an unskillful cyclist. Competent cyclists have been able to avoid crashing into things for decades without the assistance of strobe lights.
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Old 07-13-20, 09:33 AM
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On an overcast or rainy day a flashing/pulsing (NOT strobing) light can make you quite a bit more visible. The thing is, will a driver recognize that the light is on a bicycle?

If I was going to use a flashing light in daytime, I'd prefer it to be ab AMBER light as most every driver knows to avoid running into something that an amber light is warning against. The old Belt Beacon light was a fantastic light for that. It was big and was often mistaken by drivers, for a hazard light.

Cheers
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Old 07-13-20, 10:21 AM
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Color of flashing lights has specific meaning though in many states. Amber was reserved for utility vehicles, tow-trucks and such. Red for emergency vehicles like ambulances and fire trucks and blue for law enforcement. White was typically everyone else not already covered. There does seem to be a green flasher showing up for road repair crews now.

Side note: I like that here, law enforcement only uses blue. However surrounding states seem to have overthunk it and decided that law enforcement also respond to emergencies and therefore run both red and blue lights as well as white. I personally don't like that as it makes it difficult to plan whats ahead of you when you see every color light and it winds up only being a single cop car.
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Old 07-13-20, 10:39 AM
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Originally Posted by Iride01 View Post
Color of flashing lights has specific meaning though in many states. Amber was reserved for utility vehicles, tow-trucks and such. Red for emergency vehicles like ambulances and fire trucks and blue for law enforcement. White was typically everyone else not already covered. There does seem to be a green flasher showing up for road repair crews now.

Side note: I like that here, law enforcement only uses blue. However surrounding states seem to have overthunk it and decided that law enforcement also respond to emergencies and therefore run both red and blue lights as well as white. I personally don't like that as it makes it difficult to plan whats ahead of you when you see every color light and it winds up only being a single cop car.
It's my understanding that strobing lights on the highway are forbidden except for police, fire, and service vehicles (tow trucks, maintenance, etc.) That's the primary reason.

Studies show that flashing lights capture motorists attention, but make it difficult to judge distances at night. Here's your solution: use flashing lights during the day to call attention to your position when shade on the road might mask your presence. They don't have to be high powered because you'll use road position to stay visible to traffic in most situations. At night, use the always on setting or a slow blink at the rear, always on at the front and aim your headlight at the pavement 5-12 yards in front of your front wheel. Many of you are old enough to remember sealed beam headlamps you needed to aim on your cars, the concept is the same. Blinding other users will make it more difficult for them to execute their duty to operate safely, and you can't see the hazards in front of you.

Link to study in comments here.
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Old 07-13-20, 11:01 AM
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Iride01
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I don't know why nighttime keeps getting brought up. The OP ask about daytime running lights.

I am in complete agreement that strobes and flashing lights are annoying at night. And should not be used at night. Even when on the vehicles that they are approved for they are annoying.

However even the Federal Government's National Park Service adds some confusing advice that conflicts with other government guidelines

Bicyclists will frequently be riding in mixed sun and shade. Use a flashing white light on the back of your bike during the day.
Plan to be off of the Parkway between sundown and sunup.
Use a solid white light that is visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front.
Use a flashing red light that is visible from at least 200 feet to the rear.
https://www.nps.gov/natr/planyourvis...visibility.htm
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Old 07-13-20, 02:44 PM
  #20  
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The key to safety is visibility.......I run flashing white and flashing red in the daylight because I am more visible If you are not closed minded about this....you can observe for your self by comparing how well you can see bikes without out lights during the day and with lights. Even cars are more visible during the day if they have their headlights on. Road postion in traffic has nothing to do with it....bikes are simply more visible with flashing lights period. I have not yet seen anyplace a verified instance of a bicycle light causing an epileptic seizure. The only time you will get in trouble with a cop is for flashing blue lights......they care a lot about that
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Old 07-13-20, 03:47 PM
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Miele Man
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Originally Posted by squirtdad View Post
The key to safety is visibility.......I run flashing white and flashing red in the daylight because I am more visible If you are not closed minded about this....you can observe for your self by comparing how well you can see bikes without out lights during the day and with lights. Even cars are more visible during the day if they have their headlights on. Road postion in traffic has nothing to do with it....bikes are simply more visible with flashing lights period. I have not yet seen anyplace a verified instance of a bicycle light causing an epileptic seizure. The only time you will get in trouble with a cop is for flashing blue lights......they care a lot about that
I noticed many a bicyclist with a daytime flashing light on their bike. The thing is I noticed the light LONG after I noticed the bicyclist. The exception is when it's heavily overcast and the bicyclist is wearing dark colour clothing.

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Old 07-13-20, 03:52 PM
  #22  
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As with another poster above, I use reflective ankle bands. They're functionally as visible as any flashing or strobe lights, and they instantly identify me as a bike rider to any drivers in the vicinity. Far less annoying to drivers and other riders, too.
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Old 07-13-20, 06:32 PM
  #23  
livedarklions
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Originally Posted by squirtdad View Post
The key to safety is visibility.......I run flashing white and flashing red in the daylight because I am more visible If you are not closed minded about this....you can observe for your self by comparing how well you can see bikes without out lights during the day and with lights. Even cars are more visible during the day if they have their headlights on. Road postion in traffic has nothing to do with it....bikes are simply more visible with flashing lights period. I have not yet seen anyplace a verified instance of a bicycle light causing an epileptic seizure. The only time you will get in trouble with a cop is for flashing blue lights......they care a lot about that

I'm not closed minded, as a driver I just don't think it's true that the flashing white lights make the relevant bikes more visible. These are generally headlights. I've never noticed them on any bike in the daytime other than bikes going the other direction, well across the street from me. Those bicyclists are in no danger from cars across the street.

I don't recall ever noticing daytime lights on a bicycle crossing the road in front of me, or in my peripheral vision as I went through an intersection. I've never noticed any problems seeing bicyclists without lights during the day. Frankly, I think daylight lights in non-foggy conditions aren't worth anything.
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Old 07-13-20, 07:04 PM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by livedarklions View Post
I'm not closed minded, as a driver I just don't think it's true that the flashing white lights make the relevant bikes more visible. These are generally headlights. I've never noticed them on any bike in the daytime other than bikes going the other direction, well across the street from me. Those bicyclists are in no danger from cars across the street.
Well, they are worth their weight in lumens when they alert a driver exiting a commercial driveway or parking lot of your presence.
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Old 07-13-20, 11:57 PM
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holytrousers
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Originally Posted by bobwysiwyg View Post
Well, they are worth their weight in lumens when they alert a driver exiting a commercial driveway or parking lot of your presence.
It's not about being seen but rather about being noticed. We see many things but don't necessarily pay attention to them..
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