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Amber lighting?

Old 05-11-12, 05:31 PM
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Amber lighting?

This topic could just as easily go in Electronics, General, and possibly A&S, but Commuting is the primary reason for riding a bike. Move if desired.

I read somewhere last night that the reason why B&M tail lights don't have a blink mode is that the German government won't permit it, since flashing is for emergency service vehicles only. And that makes sense to me to a point. Then for some strange reason, I wondered why we aren't we using amber lights for flash duty?

Automobiles use amber lights for both turn signals and as hazard lights. You see a car with their hazards on, stationary or not, most of us have been conditioned to slow down. Slower moving vehicles are required to run their blinkers if they aren't able to travel at least as fast as the posted speed limit... and most of us can't incapable of riding 35 (or even 20 or 25, for that matter) for any reasonable amount of time/distance.
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Old 05-11-12, 07:17 PM
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Dinotte makes an amber daytime running headlight. I have one on the front of my bike and it's very visible in bright sunlight, and very effective. Never thought about running it in back (because Red is OK around here), but no reason it would not be just as effective.
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Old 05-11-12, 07:56 PM
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Much of my night riding has included a blinking amber light. Amber really is better for being seen and distinguished from car running lights.

Blue works best for keeping the jerks off your ass.

Sadly most bicycle rear lights are made to be red, so now I either use both a red and amber OR a red and blue lights. It is a good idea to have two rear lights going at night just in case one dies.
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Old 05-11-12, 08:17 PM
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Originally Posted by CB HI View Post
Much of my night riding has included a blinking amber light. Amber really is better for being seen and distinguished from car running lights.

Blue works best for keeping the jerks off your ass.

Sadly most bicycle rear lights are made to be red, so now I either use both a red and amber OR a red and blue lights. It is a good idea to have two rear lights going at night just in case one dies.
1. So amber lighting is as effective in my mind as you've found to work in real life. Which brings me back to my original question- why isn't amber light more prevalent in cycling applications?

2. I wouldn't dare use blue- especially in flash mode- around here. The cops tend to frown on anyone who even remotely impersonates one of them. Cops and I think ambulances are the only vehicles that I know of that use blue flashing/strobing lights.
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Old 05-12-12, 12:02 AM
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Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
1. So amber lighting is as effective in my mind as you've found to work in real life. Which brings me back to my original question- why isn't amber light more prevalent in cycling applications?
My best guess is that manufacturers just followed the CPSC color of red for the rear reflector, which most states wrote red into their cycling laws.

Originally Posted by no1mad View Post
2. I wouldn't dare use blue- especially in flash mode- around here. The cops tend to frown on anyone who even remotely impersonates one of them. Cops and I think ambulances are the only vehicles that I know of that use blue flashing/strobing lights.
A federal court in the south established case law that a citizen may use a blue blinky for safety purposes. The cops here have just ignored me.
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Old 05-12-12, 12:59 AM
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Originally Posted by CB HI View Post
A federal court in the south established case law that a citizen may use a blue blinky for safety purposes. The cops here have just ignored me.
Do you have a reference and indication as to how broadly this case applies? California Vehicle Code explicitly prohibits civilian use of blue lights on bicycles:

"21201.3. ... (b) No person shall display a steady or flashing blue warning light on a bicycle or motorized bicycle except as authorized under subdivision (a)." [i.e. police use]

I expect most police here would also ignore violations unless they had some other reason to want to stop someone - but I'm interested in the legality of blue lights.
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Old 05-12-12, 05:30 AM
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Amber lights, flashing or not, in addition to white front/red rear lights, should be fine. I would never use red in the front or white in the rear, and I would never use blue at all. No reason to.
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Old 05-12-12, 11:32 AM
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So far I've determined that Dinotte has an amber light, Lightman strobes has amber Xenon and LEDs, and Sunlite has one that looks like a reflector w/5 amber LEDs (which is kinda hard to find online). Anyone know of any other brands/sources?
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Old 05-12-12, 11:54 AM
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An LBS can order the Sunlite one for you, it's J&B part #95589: https://www.jbimporters.com/web/check...t_number=95589 It's actually more of a yellow than a true amber. The diffuser looks like a reflector, but it isn't.

My overall thoughts on the subject:

1. in the prevailing automotive-centric culture of the United States, amber is mainly for directional indicators when flashing (turn signals), and secondarily as a steady side-marker light sending the message "steady amber means you're looking at the side of the vehicle, not the front or rear." I have a couple of the aforementioned Sunlite lights, which I either clip to the side pockets of my panniers or to zipties I ran through the side walls of my trunk bag, but they face sideways, which helps me show up from the sides in city scenarios.

2. if you want to be seen and noticed, I think the motorsports catchphrase "there's no substitute for cubic inches" could be adapted to "there's no substitute for lumens and a potent flash pattern." You won't see one of these Sunlite lights from any decent range in daylight. A properly-aimed Cygolite Hotshot, on the other hand... It might not be amber, but it has a LOT of red to throw around and you can dial up a heck of a flash rate to hammer your point across, too. So I'd advise spending your dollars on your "big gun" taillight first.


Anyway, from extensive riding on the highways (e.g. an average of 69 miles a day since May 1st), I'm not finding any problem being noticed with red taillights (Hotshot, RedZone 4, or both at once) that would motivate me to go hunting for solutions in the form of a different color of taillight. On the divided highway, even when I hug the right edge of a 10-foot-wide shoulder, people are STILL diverting from the right lane to the left to get even further away from... whatever-it-is that's got the red strobe lights visible from a couple minutes back. I feel borderline guilty at causing pro truckers move over, it's got to be a hassle arranging lane changes with a loaded double-trailer semi. But I suppose they'd rather do that, than have to make a snap decision with just a few seconds to plan. Also, the longer I'm "on the radar," the longer they've got to assess that OK, this guy is riding a rock-solid, predictable line, he's not all over the place... those other cars passed him without causing any swerving from their draft... looks safe to stay in my lane if I'm boxed in, I'll still be 8 feet clear of him.

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Old 05-12-12, 12:17 PM
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Originally Posted by prathmann View Post
Do you have a reference and indication as to how broadly this case applies? California Vehicle Code explicitly prohibits civilian use of blue lights on bicycles:

"21201.3. ... (b) No person shall display a steady or flashing blue warning light on a bicycle or motorized bicycle except as authorized under subdivision (a)." [i.e. police use]

I expect most police here would also ignore violations unless they had some other reason to want to stop someone - but I'm interested in the legality of blue lights.
Technically the ruling would only be case law in the federal region the case was in, but case law has been used across regions before.

Hawaii also specifically prohibits the use of blue lights and the cops will nail car drivers on that, but leave me alone.

I have asked anyone that might have law library knowledge located in the south to look up the case and post cite. No one has yet. I read about the case in a news article many years ago. About a motorist that broke down, used blue light for safety, cops arrested him and he was convicted. Case got overturned on constitutional grounds that we have a right to take measures that insure our safety, as long as the purpose was not to impersonate police.

It will likely take legal cases to force states to fix these laws constitutional wise.
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Old 05-12-12, 02:13 PM
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In the US, flashing amber lights used to be reserved for marking stationary road hazards. In the last few years the auto turn (and some 4 way) signals have changed to amber. The same logic applies, a steady red light indicates a vehicle moving the same direction, whereas a flashing amber is an attention getter, indicating a stationary hazard or a vehicle that you should treat as a stationary hazard.

Years ago I used an amber strobe for my tail-light, and every once in a while be stopped by a cop, who'd explain that that wasn't legal as a bicycle taillight (in New York), and flashing amber was only for holes in the ground. I'd tell him that I knew the law, but considering the reality, I wanted oncoming motorists to treat me like a hole in the ground, since they give those more respect than they do bicyclists. Over many years, I've never had a cop argue with my logic.

Now, I've moved on to a blue strobe, which has far more visibility than amber or red. I've had cops stop me and say that blue strobes were for police only. I tell them that I want them to think of me as a cop when they first approach, and they can correct their impression later on as they pass. Again, the cops see my logic, and let me go, though one told me that I shouldn't depend on it too much, he was hit from behind in his car with the roof bar strobing blue and white, and his 4 ways on too.
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Old 05-12-12, 02:41 PM
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Wow, amber eh. I used to use amber all the time. I made up an aluminum plate to hang from the back of my Brooks saddle for three amber "Belt Beacon" lights in a triangle arrangement with each one flashing randomly. I kept the batteries in each individual unit, but wired them together to one switch.

I used this setup for several years and only replaced it back in about 2000 or so with a general lighting upgrade to a Nite Rider system which is also supplemented with some little blinkies. Recently I have been thinking of adding one amber blinkie to the whole thing... sort of completes the "lit up like Xmas" situation I am trying to maintain.

The way I look at it, anything unusual is the best way to go... anything that attracts attention is what you really want.
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Old 05-12-12, 08:47 PM
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My first blinky (in the '70's), a Belt Beacon, was amber, if I remember right. https://www.cyclelicio.us/2011/belt-b...bicycle-light/

Indiana law specifies that bicycle taillights be red.
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Old 05-13-12, 05:52 AM
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Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
In the US, flashing amber lights used to be reserved for marking stationary road hazards. In the last few years the auto turn (and some 4 way) signals have changed to amber. The same logic applies, a steady red light indicates a vehicle moving the same direction, whereas a flashing amber is an attention getter, indicating a stationary hazard or a vehicle that you should treat as a stationary hazard.

Years ago I used an amber strobe for my tail-light, and every once in a while be stopped by a cop, who'd explain that that wasn't legal as a bicycle taillight (in New York), and flashing amber was only for holes in the ground. I'd tell him that I knew the law, but considering the reality, I wanted oncoming motorists to treat me like a hole in the ground, since they give those more respect than they do bicyclists. Over many years, I've never had a cop argue with my logic.

Now, I've moved on to a blue strobe, which has far more visibility than amber or red. I've had cops stop me and say that blue strobes were for police only. I tell them that I want them to think of me as a cop when they first approach, and they can correct their impression later on as they pass. Again, the cops see my logic, and let me go, though one told me that I shouldn't depend on it too much, he was hit from behind in his car with the roof bar strobing blue and white, and his 4 ways on too.
Amber lights are used by slow moving vehicles, in particular construction vehicles, non-emergency official vehicles (i.e.park rangers, road inspectors) and service vehicles (tow trucks, street cleaners) not just stationary objects. Also, your approach to the blue lights won't work with most cops in NYS, you were just lucky, they didn't want to bother with you, since you openly admitted your intentions at impersonating a police vehicle.
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Old 05-13-12, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by AdamDZ View Post
Also, your approach to the blue lights won't work with most cops in NYS, you were just lucky, they didn't want to bother with you, since you openly admitted your intentions at impersonating a police vehicle.
I've been using the blue strobe for two years here in NYS, ridden past plenty of police cars, never been pulled over, but had two casual conversations when both the officer and I were stopped at the same light. Both commented that it was illegal, but both accepted my logic, and agreed that it beat having to write op an accident report for car hits bike.

As for the issue of impersonating a police officer, it's a non-issue. I don't interact with anyone so while the light might give someone the impression that it's a police vehicle as they approach from a distance, they're disabused of that idea as they get close and pass. But they do slow down and give me a more generous clearance as they go by.

Riding at night during the northeast winter at rush hour, it's almost impossible stay truly safe. Add the distraction of texting on cell phones, and I want the maximum possible sight distance and reaction time before cars pass. If it were possible to tow a small trailer behind me on a 50' rope, with one of those flashing arrows like at construction sites I would, but I have to settle for the blue strobe. If it ever comes to it, I'd rather take my chances with a town court judge than with a paramedic.
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Old 05-13-12, 11:26 AM
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Cops in NYC have a very bad attitude towards cyclists, I wouldn't do that. I noticed that cops in upstate NY are more like normal people, so I guess you're lucky.
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Old 05-13-12, 11:44 AM
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Originally Posted by AdamDZ View Post
Cops in NYC have a very bad attitude towards cyclists, ...
NYC cops often have bad attitude about everything. I think it has something to do with dealing with the public in big cities. But a big part why I have few problems may be my age (well over 1/2 century) which doesn't inspire testosterone surges, and my attitude to cops when stopped. Over decades of dealing with cops on highway stops (auto) I've learned that honest dialog, rather than feigned innocense, can go a long way to preventing citations or arrests. I've talked my way out of a number of speeding tickets, and have a decent batting average.

Cops are lied to all day every day, so I never argue with them. I do well starting with "you're right, but please hear me out", and they usually (but not always) do. When they won't I take my chances in court, rather than argue in the street.

BTW- when I lived in Manhattan, lighting was less of an issue, since there was so much ambient light, and other visual distractions that it didn't make as much difference as it dies in the burbs. Also vehicle speeds are lower, and drivers more alert, than they are where traffic is lighter.
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Old 05-13-12, 11:48 AM
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I don't like the notion of everybody using a different lighting scheme, based on what makes sense to them. I think we're all safer if cyclists and motorists all know which kind of light means what. If I'm in a car overtaking an amber blinkie, I will either not have a clue what it is, or, if there are other cars ahead with red tail lights, I might assume the amber blinkie is from one of the cars signalling a right turn. So if I'm about to turn right, for example in an optional go straight or right turn lane, I might accidentally rear end or right hook a bike, by assuming he is in a car turning right also. Here, blue is for emergency vehicles and snowplows.

So if bikes need a better lighting scheme for safety, I think it would make most sense for cycling lobby groups and traffic engineers to get together and develop a new standard we all can adopt.

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Old 05-13-12, 12:14 PM
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Some kind of standard would be nice, and what probably would make the most sense given the large disparity in speed, is a blinking amber, which is for stationary and slow moving hazards. That's from a traffic safety standpoint.

Bikes are not part of the laminar flow of traffic, have very little protection (zero), and are limited in the amount of candlepower we can support, so the issue is how to get the greatest amount of attention at the greatest distance. After many years as a full time bike commuter, I've made the decision that I'd rather take my chances with a judge, than a distracted motorist. I'll do whatever I can to make a driver react earlier and either slow down or move left slightly.

I'm not advocating that everyone follow my lead, but suggesting that they use whatever makes sense for them in their areas. One thing I do suggest is that they place their bike on the side of the road, and go back 100' and sit in a car and see how visible it is (or isn't). They should repeat this experiment in various conditions, including twilight, and facing a setting (or rising) sun.
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Old 05-13-12, 12:35 PM
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Red is the standard color for tail lights, and most people use their blinkies as tail lights. I suppose if one really felt it was worth their while to get you in trouble they could make case if somebody was running amber lights without also running a red tail light or reflector though.

I would think that in some conditions blue lights may actually be harder to see than red or amber lights.
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Old 05-14-12, 02:50 AM
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Originally Posted by cooker View Post
I don't like the notion of everybody using a different lighting scheme, based on what makes sense to them. I think we're all safer if cyclists and motorists all know which kind of light means what. If I'm in a car overtaking an amber blinkie, I will either not have a clue what it is, or, if there are other cars ahead with red tail lights, I might assume the amber blinkie is from one of the cars signalling a right turn. So if I'm about to turn right, for example in an optional go straight or right turn lane, I might accidentally rear end or right hook a bike, by assuming he is in a car turning right also. Here, blue is for emergency vehicles and snowplows.

So if bikes need a better lighting scheme for safety, I think it would make most sense for cycling lobby groups and traffic engineers to get together and develop a new standard we all can adopt.
Some cars have red turn signals and some cars have amber. Some states use red for cops and some use blue. Ambulance use red and white. Fire trucks use red and sometimes white. Snow plows use yellow in most states but use green in some states.

Seems that is where you should start your conformity lobby before hitting up cyclist on our choices.
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Old 05-14-12, 02:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Mos6502 View Post
I would think that in some conditions blue lights may actually be harder to see than red or amber lights.
Most police departments switched to blue because it is the most visible color light in most conditions (especially fog and snow).
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Old 05-14-12, 04:37 AM
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Originally Posted by CB HI View Post
Some cars have red turn signals and some cars have amber. Some states use red for cops and some use blue. Ambulance use red and white. Fire trucks use red and sometimes white. Snow plows use yellow in most states but use green in some states.

Seems that is where you should start your conformity lobby before hitting up cyclist on our choices.
While the full red section can be employed on one side for a turn signal, ambers make more sense as the red elements are also being used as brake lamps and as a result they burn out faster. Many drivers seen unaware that those lamps have TWO elements to acheive the brightness needed for brake lighting and when you tell them it's bad they look at you like you're stupid and see the other one on and they don't get it unless their shop or a cop tell them.

I still have no problems as I have reds and motorcycle signals and even Federal-Mogul Signal-Stats like you use on top of a truck. Sure I can retrofit LEDs easily. I hate little blinky things, too many bars.
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Old 05-14-12, 11:48 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by CB HI View Post
Some cars have red turn signals and some cars have amber. Some states use red for cops and some use blue. Ambulance use red and white. Fire trucks use red and sometimes white. Snow plows use yellow in most states but use green in some states.

Seems that is where you should start your conformity lobby before hitting up cyclist on our choices.
I agree there's a lot of visual noise out there, but I don't think cyclists should be adding to the confusion by each of us designing our own lighting system.
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Old 05-14-12, 12:13 PM
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Originally Posted by cooker View Post
I agree there's a lot of visual noise out there, but I don't think cyclists should be adding to the confusion by each of us designing our own lighting system.
It's good to have standards and follow the law. But when it comes to bicycle lighting there are two laws at play. There's the black letter law of the various highway codes, and there's the law of survival.

The main purpose of rear lighting for slow or stationary vehicles is to get the attention of the driver. It's not a question of showing intent, just being seen so the driver can and will make an adjustment.

Getting attention is more difficult today than it was a few years ago because drivers are more distracted. So it's important to have the longest possible time interval between the time the driver first notices something and reacts, to the time he actually passes you. Just being seen isn't the only issue, you must cause a reaction during what's usually a very small time window.

The legally required steady red rear, even if it were bright enough isn't enough to cause a reaction, because the driver can (and will) assume you're moving at the same speed as he is, and there's no urgency. Flashing red, flashing amber, or flashing blue carry more import than steady red and a driver is much more likely to raise his level of attention and react in time.

Considering the alternatives - a possible fine, or getting nailed from behind, I don't have any problem deciding which is the better risk.
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