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what to do for visibility to the sides?

Old 01-17-09, 12:49 PM
  #1  
Commuter_Dan
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what to do for visibility to the sides?

What do you do to ensure maximum visibility to motorists encountering you from the sides?

Reflective tape works pretty well when the car's lights are shining directly at the bike, but not as well when a car is at more oblique angles to the bike. For example, a driver at a stop sign almost turned into me when she stopped with her car turned about halfway through her right turn onto the road was riding on. In this case her lights were pointed well away from me, and if she didn't see my front lights she would have proceeded to turn right into me. I use a pair of bright flashlights as front lights, but they have a pretty tight beam so she probably didn't see them very well (until I turned a bit to point them at her). I'd like to avoid situations like this in the future.

My thoughts so far are;
1) absolutely cover the bike with reflective tape (so much for aesthetics, oh well)
2) use very bright front lights with lots of side-spill

I'm curious if anyone has encountered side-facing lights, and whether these would be a good idea.
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Old 01-17-09, 01:05 PM
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I like the hard-for-me-to-find Scotchlite silver that is a thin film -- it goes by many names, but it is not the typical stuff bearing that name. The trait I like about this one specific product is that the film is very thin, very flexible, and can therefore be attached to curved surfaces like fenders, frame tubes, stays, crank arms, even rims and hubs.

I have bought a lot of products with the 3M Scotchlite High-Intensity logo that do not have these traits, but recently I found some marketed under the name I-Shots and manufactured in the UK. They are definitely the hard-to-find thin film stuff. The only other time I got similar stuff it was marketed by Jannd but was also Scotchlite High-Intenstity.

I choose the silver color as it is inconspicuous during the day, but is probably one of the better-working colors in the same product line. By placing judiciously some of these high-quality shapes here and there, I think I have helped make me more visible from the side (especially on *moving* parts and on parts that might increase my side visibility). I even put some on the *inside* of the crank arms because, from the side view, they are at times obstructed during the pedal revolution: from the side it will appear sort of as a flashing, partial circular arc to the side viewer.

Be creative, then test it out using a flash camera to measure your progress towards being visible from the side. Better still, get a pal to point their headlights at you while you ride around a bit. In other words, test your work before trusting your safety to it ;-)

I got hit the other day anyway, despite all those efforts, as I got hit in the day ;-)

Last edited by breadgeek; 01-17-09 at 01:10 PM.
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Old 01-17-09, 01:09 PM
  #3  
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Get those colored reflective tapes so you can camoflauge it to your bike color during the day.

Raiyn used to always talk about it... wonder what happened to him?
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Old 01-17-09, 01:21 PM
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I've always wondered about the usefulness of any side lighting. It seems that by the time a cager saw your side lights, you'd either be dead or safely out if his/her way.

Anyhoo.... This is probably an unpopular answer, but I've noticed that the spoke-mounted reflectors supplied by the manufacturer show up pretty well. Bar end lights are popular now. Some shine to the side as well as the rear. I don't know how effective they are.
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Old 01-17-09, 01:57 PM
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My planet bike superflash is visible in an arc greater than 180 degrees, so I'm covered there. As mentioned though, I don't see side lighting as being that useful
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Old 01-17-09, 01:59 PM
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A proper set of super bright bicycle headlights is all you should need. I use night sun xc's- blindingly bright on hi beam,(think stadium lighting) and plenty bright on low beam. If you are approaching a sketchy intersection, flash your brights a few times.
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Old 01-17-09, 02:57 PM
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A good helmet light works because it shines wherever you look. I find I tend to look at cars approaching from the side.
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Old 01-17-09, 03:13 PM
  #8  
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My rack connections to the seat stay provide a thin metal strip that a Blackburn Mars 3 light slips right onto very securely. So I have a Mars 3 blinking away to each side, a Dinotte and a Superflash in the back, A mars 3 on the back of the helmet, and a Tri-newt up front.

Thats a lot of light, but I figure a side impact will come from a driveway or sidestreet that I cross in front of, so the car that gets me will not have the opportunity to notice my lights from a mile away. However, the driver will know that what appeared in front of him just before running me over was some sort of blinking flashing thingy.
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Old 01-17-09, 04:16 PM
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What Maximus said -- glass 'em with your helmet light.

It gets attention, and you can point it anywhere you can see.
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Old 01-17-09, 04:17 PM
  #10  
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Originally Posted by Roody View Post
I've always wondered about the usefulness of any side lighting. It seems that by the time a cager saw your side lights, you'd either be dead or safely out if his/her way.
That's always been my thought.
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Old 01-17-09, 05:06 PM
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The Down Low Glow lighting system seems like it may be a good solution.

https://tinyurl.com/a5shko

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Old 01-17-09, 09:59 PM
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The Down Low Glow is an excellent solution, although it isn't exactly cheap. I have the 2-tube system and find that it gives me excellent side visibility. Further, because they're not very common, you get the uniqueness factor working for you.
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Old 01-17-09, 10:02 PM
  #13  
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Adding reflectors or lights to the side of your bicycle will help. I know there have been comments questioning how useful this would be in those "last few moments before collision" but the idea here is to help that driver see you long before you're that close to a car.

I have a couple of tiny (but very bright) Planet Bike LED lights that slip into the open mesh side pockets of my Topeak EXP bag on the rear rack of my bike. I believe they are a big help for side visibility improvement and also help some with drivers approaching from in front or behind me (due to the pavement picking up the light pattern on either side of me).

Bottom Line - use lights. I am frankly flabbergasted at the number of cyclists I see on urban roads without lights. They also seem to be the same folks wearing dark colors.

Hmmm...dumb or maybe bike ninjas being stealthy?
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Old 01-17-09, 10:23 PM
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i have a lightman amber xenon strobe clipped to each side of my backpack. i can
see light from them reflecting back from stuff way off to the sides in the dark of early
morning. since i started using them, the early-morning kamikaze newspaper delivery
maniacs that have been trying to kill me(despite a headlite and multiple rear blinkies)
have started avoiding me. daytime traffic gives me more space too, maybe they think im a snowplow
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Old 01-18-09, 07:08 AM
  #15  
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I put on tires with reflective sidewalls.

Those things pop out when you beam them with a headlight (or even a flashlight).

The ones I have are Panaracer T-servs, but a few other makers have reflective-sidewall tires, too.
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Old 01-18-09, 07:43 AM
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Here's a link to A POST THAT SHOWS SOME REFLECTIVE TIRES.
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Old 01-18-09, 08:23 AM
  #17  
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I use this on every tube of my frame, fork, rack, etc. https://www.streetglo.net/reflective....frame.kit.html
Now my bike is black so it really doesn't detract from the look during the day, not that I really care about looks on my commuter. My tires are Schwalbe Big Apples with reflective sidewalls. Those help a lot too. I will try to get some pics to show my set up.
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Old 01-18-09, 08:49 AM
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I'm a big fan of reflecive tape

That being said, I also use a Planet Bike Blinkie7 in addition to my PBSF's because it throws more light out to the side than the SF's.

By the way, I'm also in Hamden. We should ride together, so long as we avoid the racetrack known as Whitney Ave. I hate riding Whitney.
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Old 01-18-09, 09:20 AM
  #19  
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I use these:
I also attach two bright blinkies to the side of my backpack, which I wear when commuting. This is all in addition to the standard white on front, red on rear on my bike.
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Old 01-18-09, 10:13 AM
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+1 for the Spokelits, I've found them for as cheap as $5 each, I think they make a big difference. My wife has commented how easier it's for her to see cyclists that have them while she's driving.

I also have a Mars 3.0 on my backpack, which has some side leds. I don't have a lot of reflective tape...
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Old 01-18-09, 11:02 AM
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Originally Posted by SlimAgainSoon View Post
I put on tires with reflective sidewalls.

Those things pop out when you beam them with a headlight (or even a flashlight).
Yep.
Schwalbe and Michelin TransWorld Cities for me.
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Old 01-18-09, 02:14 PM
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visibility isn't the only thing impacting accident rate, I've hit plenty of things I've seen because they failed to act in a predictable manor (Squirrels, I'm looking at you). They run across the street, see you coming and stop, before bolting off in one direction or the other. Until they move, you have no idea what those furry little buggers are going to do, and sometimes it's impossible to avoid them.

Predictability is as important as visibility (is my vehicular cyclist showing?)
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Old 01-18-09, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by BA Commuter View Post
The Down Low Glow lighting system seems like it may be a good solution.

https://tinyurl.com/a5shko

$115. That's what I spent on my headlight. I think I'll figure out a way to affix a super flash under my downtube, it's brighter anyway.
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Old 01-18-09, 02:29 PM
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Couple of bucks a pop.
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Old 01-18-09, 04:32 PM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by fuzz2050 View Post
visibility isn't the only thing impacting accident rate, I've hit plenty of things I've seen because they failed to act in a predictable manor (Squirrels, I'm looking at you). They run across the street, see you coming and stop, before bolting off in one direction or the other. Until they move, you have no idea what those furry little buggers are going to do, and sometimes it's impossible to avoid them.

Predictability is as important as visibility (is my vehicular cyclist showing
?)
The whole squirrely thing works better with hawks than it does with bicycles.
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