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Lights & Reflectors: How much is enough?

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View Poll Results: Lights & Reflectors: How much is enough?
Reflectors only (yikes!)
1
0.40%
Rear light only
2
0.80%
Front & rear blinking lights
26
10.36%
Front headlamps and rear blinker
85
33.86%
Multiple headlamps and taillights
56
22.31%
All of the above
25
9.96%
All of the above and more
56
22.31%
Voters: 251. You may not vote on this poll

Lights & Reflectors: How much is enough?

Old 11-16-08, 01:57 PM
  #1  
Barrettscv 
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Lights & Reflectors: How much is enough?

Most cyclest have very modest gear to help them be seen at night. Do you have;

Reflectors only (yikes!)
Rear light only

Front & rear blinking lights

Front headlamps and rear blinker

Multiple headlamps or taillights

All of the above

All of the above and more
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Old 11-16-08, 02:00 PM
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I removed both reflectors. In the front I run a P7. In the back I run a Superflash.
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Old 11-16-08, 02:51 PM
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Uke-I don't understand why you would remove both reflectors.

I have added reflective tape all over my bike. I run a crap-ass but sufficient to be seen, 3LED front light.
I am actually ordering a P7 today to use up front.

In the back, I have two PB superflashes, and a PB bilkie7, along with a reflector, and reflective tape.
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Old 11-16-08, 02:58 PM
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Oops, I said "multiple headlights and taillights" but realized I meant "all of the above." I think reflectors, when they work, are the best; a 2 inch strip of 3M high intensity in the beam of a headlight will kick back more light than all but the most insane of active lights, and have the advantage of being physically larger than a light. But active lighting is necessary too. On the back I insist on multiple lights since I wouldn't know if one went out; I've gotten to work and found my battery dead before, and that makes me nervous. I run one steady, one blinking. On the front I only run one light at a time, but I have another mounted as backup. Since I'll know immediately if one dies, I can just flip the other one on.
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Old 11-16-08, 03:08 PM
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Reflective tape on your 'diamond', rear blinky, front headlight, pedal reflectors and either clothing with reflective tape, or a reflective vest. That's what I recommend for night time riding.
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Old 11-16-08, 03:28 PM
  #6  
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Too much is never enough!
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Old 11-16-08, 03:30 PM
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Originally Posted by rugerben View Post
Uke-I don't understand why you would remove both reflectors.
I already run both lights day and night, except in the daytime on campus or on the MUP.
If I need the reflectors to be seen, that's a sign that my lights aren't bright enough.
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Old 11-16-08, 03:39 PM
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Originally Posted by uke View Post
I already run both lights day and night, except in the daytime on campus or on the MUP.
If I need the reflectors to be seen, that's a sign that my lights aren't bright enough.
I kinda get it, but still....no. first off, your lights are throwing most of their light to the front and back of the bike. From the side, you are still fairly ninja. Reflectors in your spokes are one of the best ways to light up your bike from the side.

My way of thinking is as follows: You already have the lights. So why NOT have the reflectors? Why would you possibly limit your visibility? What if a light breaks? Or batteries die because you needed to go on an unexpected longer trip?
What if reflectors only increases your visibility by 1%? You want to lose that 1% for what gain?

I'm not criticizing your choice to remove the reflectors. I'm just trying to grasp why someone would go through the effort to make a bike visible, but remove the extra visibility material that was already supplied with the bike.
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Old 11-16-08, 03:41 PM
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^ Because I find the gains from the lights supersede the gains from the reflectors by such a degree that the losses from the reflectors (weight, stability, bar space) outweigh benefits of keeping them on the bike.
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Old 11-16-08, 03:44 PM
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ah...ok then.
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Old 11-16-08, 03:55 PM
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Depends on the specific bike but typically...head light with standlight or auxiliary LED marker, rear steady on taillight and PB Superflash. Plus whatever reflectors came on the bike. I also typically wear an ANSI Class 2 reflective vest or jacket. Somewhere along the way you are going to hit the point of diminishing returns or get run over by someone that is so distracted they wouldn't notice a nuclear explosion if it occurred in the lane next to them.

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Old 11-16-08, 04:15 PM
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Depending on what bike I use and it's intended purpose determines how much lighting and reflectivity I want to do to it. My winter commuter definitely fits the "all the above and more" catagory whereas my one summertime road bike is stripped bare for use on sunny day excursions and fits the "reflectors only" catagory only because it came with reflective decorative tape on it's wheels.
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Old 11-16-08, 04:17 PM
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Some folks get a little overexcited by lights, IMO. I have one LED headlight in front and 2 PBSFs on the rear. I have a little reflective tape on my bacpack. Enough already!
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Old 11-16-08, 04:17 PM
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Originally Posted by rugerben View Post
I kinda get it, but still....no. first off, your lights are throwing most of their light to the front and back of the bike. From the side, you are still fairly ninja. Reflectors in your spokes are one of the best ways to light up your bike from the side.
Then again, if you're going sideways in front of a car, you're either far enough away that your existence isn't an issue, or you're about to get hit anyway.

Nothing wrong with reflectors at all, IMO, but from that kind of angle, I don't think anything makes much of a difference.

If I were to live with a minimum of visibility, it would be a headlight, even in the daytime. There are more risks where I'm going than where I've been. But, I run with at least a headlight and taillight, and just live with whatever reflectors came on the bike. I might add some reflective tape to cranks and wheel rims, though, with the intent of being more visible from the rear.
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Old 11-16-08, 04:48 PM
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I have a front headlight (Fenix L2D) that can be either flashing or steady, which I set to one or the other depending on lighting and one or two SuperFlashes on back, again depending on lighting. I removed the reflectors on the bike too, but I wear reflective anklebands after sunset (largely to comply with the law).

Why remove the reflectors? Well, the front and rear because they were right where I was going to put my front and rear lights, and cause I know that they're useless unless something's shining on them. I figure that so long as my lights are working, they're doing a better job than the reflectors ever could, and I carry both extra lights and extra batteries, just in case (or for when it's really inky black).

The removal of the spoke reflectors is much harder to justify. I admit it. I just wanted my bike to look cleaner. I do, however, doubt the effectiveness of them in the first place, as they're only lit when (a) someone's shining a light on them to begin with, and (2) when that person is shining the light on my side. That means that they're really only working at night when I'm passing someone with headlights on a road perpendicular to the one that I'm on. If that's the case, they should have already seen my headlight (usually flashing) and they should still be able to see my ankle reflectors.

In other words, I'm somewhere between two of the options presented.
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Old 11-16-08, 05:09 PM
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Originally Posted by BarracksSi View Post
Then again, if you're going sideways in front of a car, you're either far enough away that your existence isn't an issue, or you're about to get hit anyway.
I can think of some instances where side reflectivity is beneficial. Here are a few, just thinking of my daily commute here:

1) I head west down 2nd Ave. on my way home. It takes some jogs to go around a supermarket while simultaneously morphing from a WOL to a NOL. Overtaking traffic and traffic coming in from my right at the first jog both get a partial side view. Given that the road narrows, they need to merge left instead of staying in my lane.

2) when I'm stopped in an intersection waiting for an opportunity to turn left, it's good to be visible from the side. With reflective sidewalls, I can also prop my front wheel sideways so oncoming traffic can see it. My reflective vest and jacket also contribute. In this situation, my eGear Guardians on my fork blades also provide a little active side visibility.

3) when I turn onto Highway 195, a 4-lane divided highway, side visibility helps me show up to oncoming traffic from both sides. Since I often have to stop in the median before crossing the second half of the highway, I'm a sitting duck when people coming down the second half of the highway dive into the turn lane to turn across the median. Side reflectivity and active lighting are both possible defenses (turn bars and helmet light towards the traffic).

4) when I turn off of Highway 195 onto Hatch Road, side visibility helps me show to the oncoming traffic coming down 195, some of which will also turn onto Hatch Road. Given that the first 1/2 mile of Hatch has bottlenecks, it's helpful for them to know in advance that there's a cyclist just ahead of them somewhere. Those reflective sidewalls, rim tape and fenders that went swooping across their path are hard to mistake for anything else. Also, the people trying to turn left from Hatch onto 195 are about 70 feet to my left when they launch, far enough for side reflectivity to help them see me before they broadside me.


As a side note, a red rear reflector visible for 600 feet in low-beam headlights is a legal requirement in my state. My taillights might be far superior in many situations to my reflectors, but if someone hits me, I want to have everything I was legally required to have, in case it ends in court. I don't want to be paying hospital bills AND repairs to the front end of someone's BMW.

Anyway, my commuting bikes fit the "all of the above, and more" category. I could get by with less, but hey

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Old 11-16-08, 05:21 PM
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don't forget X-mas tree lights. wrap that around your frame, over the reflective tape(has to cover entire frame, no need for paint). and don't forget refelctive bar tape, with red led bar ends.


is there a good way to light up the side. i feel ok front and back, but the side is lacking lights. i know plantebike has some week 3/5led amber lights, but that seems like a hassle carrying two of those around. i thought about ripping the parking lights off of my car(its illegal to drive with parking lights anytime of the day/night), but i'm wondering how do i set up a battery sorce. i wish i wasn't an electronics noob.

is it just me or does relfective tape seem more effective that reflectors themselves?
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Old 11-16-08, 05:26 PM
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side visibility

My route crosses many short sidestreets, and nearly all my close-calls (even in daylight) have involved inattentive drivers crossing my path. Now that it's dark for the ride home, I've put little red valve-cap lights on my tires. Viewed from the side, they look like two circles of red. Following a suggestion here, I also put Christmas lights the length of my frame; looks goofy and fun, besides adding visibility.
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Old 11-16-08, 05:34 PM
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Originally Posted by weavers View Post
is it just me or does relfective tape seem more effective that reflectors themselves?
Plastic cube-corner reflectors don't reflect well when the light is entering them from a sharp angle. The reflective tape I've used will reflect from very sharp entry angles. In the photo below, my bike was illuminated from a sharp angle with a flashlight. You can see that the reflective tapes are working well, even at the most severe entry angles, while the plastic DOT reflectors are not.


If you're curious why prismatic plastic reflectors have this problem, while prismatic reflective tape and enclosed-lens (glass-bead) reflective tape don't, read here.

Also, the typical bicycle reflector is a CPSC wide-angle reflector, where only the center portion reflects to the rear. And they're not very big to start with. If you just want maximum reflection to the direct rear (like when riding on a highway), then the DOT reflectors are better, because they're large and all of their reflector prisms are aimed to the rear.


is there a good way to light up the side. i feel ok front and back, but the side is lacking lights.
I've considered getting an amber LED light strip from a motorcycle shop, and mounting it under my downtube, something like this one:



For the moment, I have some active side visibility from the edges of my Seca 700's lens and my multiple taillights (which show from the side), and one of these zip-tied to each fork blade:


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Old 11-16-08, 06:36 PM
  #20  
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Arguments for reflectors, IN ADDITION TO lights:

Reflectors work, ALWAYS. Their batteries do not go dead and their circuitry does not fail. They are visible from a much wider range of angles than almost any lights. They can describe a physically large area rather than coming from a single point, thus they can be more noticeable even if they are not really brighter. They can outline the shape of the bike and therefore let people know that it is a bicycle, which helps them to know how to deal with it - IE if they're coming from behind, the tell-tale motion of pedal reflectors or leg band reflectors says "bike" - and the driver can know that they're coming up FAST on a 15 MPH vehicle, rather than coming up much slower on a moped or motorcycle.
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Old 11-16-08, 06:41 PM
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Not me but if you cannot see this from the side...you are blind. If I saw a huge white spot in the road moving...I would assume something is behind it....Side visibility is nowhere as big of an issue as frontal and rear visibility.

EDIT: by the way these are the P7s, which I will be purchasing soon enough.



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Old 11-16-08, 06:46 PM
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Originally Posted by Szczuldo View Post
Not me but if you cannot see this from the side...you are blind. If I saw a huge white spot in the road moving...I would assume something is behind it
In some conditions, that works. On snow, it's especially awesome. But try wet pavement, as the opposite extreme. We have some freshly-laid asphalt on my route, and it's like trying to illuminate a black hole even when it's dry.
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Old 11-16-08, 06:48 PM
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Originally Posted by mechBgon View Post
In some conditions, that works. On snow, it's especially awesome. But try wet pavement, as the opposite extreme.
No one sees anyone on wet, and besides I've got a car for rainy weather so in the end it's a non issue for me. I'd rather be comfortable on my commute by bike.
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Old 11-16-08, 07:10 PM
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Originally Posted by Szczuldo View Post
No one sees anyone on wet, and besides I've got a car for rainy weather so in the end it's a non issue for me. I'd rather be comfortable on my commute by bike.
Exactly. I'm not out to prepare for every eventuality on the bike; if I don't feel safe enough to ride, I drive.
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Old 11-16-08, 07:48 PM
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Originally Posted by Szczuldo View Post
No one sees anyone on wet
Oh, I think they see me

and besides I've got a car for rainy weather so in the end it's a non issue for me. I'd rather be comfortable on my commute by bike.
I have a car too, but it doesn't fit into my pannier very well so if it rains on the way home, then I'll be riding in rain. And it takes a lot more than rain to keep me from commuting by bike. Torrential downpour with frequent lightning strikes... mmm... maybe I'll take the short route home.

The main point, at any rate, is that a headlight's bright spot on the pavement will not always look that way to people around you, so just be aware. You might still benefit from some additional side visibility enhancements.
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