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Lights vs "visibility" - my wife's input

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Lights vs "visibility" - my wife's input

Old 10-30-13, 10:29 AM
  #1  
Creakyknees
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Lights vs "visibility" - my wife's input

Each autumn as I obsess over this year's crop of LED's in preparation for night rides on busy streets, I do several things that you might want to consider:

1 - I put as much reflecto-tape as possible all over me and the bike. Example: squares of reflecto tape on the rims between the spokes. A single square on the hubs (so it "flashes" as the wheel rotates). Strips on the crankarms and seatstays and forks. I buy construction safety vests, de-stitch the reflective fabric and have a seamstress apply it to my winter vests and jackets, along the rear bottom hem and in a 'safety triangle' pattern. I add strips to the backs and fronts of my legwarmers. And my arms. And my helmet.

2 - I spend way too much money on lights and blinkies. Front and back of helmet. A couple on the bike. A backup / spare or 3. I even have a bright mini-light dangling from my helmet strap, shining downward illuminating my chest and the bike from the top. Makes it easier to see my gears and speedo, and, illuminates my chest, giving me a larger shape for motorists to see.

3 - Here's the key part: I get all geared up and have my wife follow me around in the family minivan, which has about the crappiest headlights of any vehicle on the roads these days (96 Chrysler). She gives me great feedback, such as: this little ankle strap doohickey is by far more visible than anything else on me (even though I have 3 rear blinkies, reflecto-tape etc: https://tinyurl.com/krr78zp

We've been doing this for several years now and her observations along with mine from seeing lots of cyclists at night has led me to point out a few things that I think a lot of people are missing, to the detriment of their safety:

1 - a single red rear blinky, no matter how bright, is not enough. In any kind of urban / suburban environment, with any amount of nearby traffic, it gets lost in the background noise. You need a LOT MORE SURFACE AREA to be visible from the rear
2 - a super bright front white light (pointed forward) is actually also good for rear visibility, since it lights up reflective road signs etc, and the ground patch is visible as well from behind
3- total lighted or reflective surface area is the key. Cover as much of your body as you can in reflecto-tape, head to to, to make a larger apparent size from a distance.

To the industry: a tiny little reflective accent on the sleeve of a jersey is useless. Don't waste our time. If you're going to sell night-safety bike gear, max out the reflectivity, head to toe.

Hoping this helps.

Last edited by Creakyknees; 10-30-13 at 11:06 AM.
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Old 10-30-13, 10:42 AM
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.. have the car following you take some pictures of you in the road in front of them.


Of course where you live rural to dense Urban .. matters.

I can't compare Texas drivers to Oregon ones..


my choice: Wired LED head and taillights , to a hub dynamo .

+ same safety gear as the road side workers .

Last edited by fietsbob; 10-30-13 at 10:47 AM.
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Old 10-30-13, 10:51 AM
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A super bright white light facing the rear is not legal. It could also cause visibiltiy issues as drivers may not be able to see what is in front of the light. Retro-reflective material and flashing lights (amber to red in the rear) are your best freind. The human eye was not designed to see at night. Also, take a look at this and it may help.

https://www.visualexpert.com/Resources/pedestrian.html
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Old 10-30-13, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Mvcrash View Post
A super bright white light facing the rear is not legal. It could also cause visibiltiy issues as drivers may not be able to see what is in front of the light. Retro-reflective material and flashing lights (amber to red in the rear) are your best freind. The human eye was not designed to see at night. Also, take a look at this and it may help.

https://www.visualexpert.com/Resources/pedestrian.html
Please re-read my post. I didn't say to point the white backwards. I said, a super bright front light can also help enhance visibility from the rear, due to reflected light and the beam spread on the street. Thanks for the link.
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Old 10-30-13, 11:09 AM
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Originally Posted by Creakyknees View Post
this little ankle strap doohickey is by far more visible than anything else on me
I think largely because your feet are moving. The same strap on your arm would not have that effect. Unfortunately I haven't found a good reflective ankle band that stays on without using velcro. The Rok-klimer has great reflectivity but the ends curl up after a few uses.

Totally agree with the importance of large surface area being illuminated/reflective. The reflective stripes on some people's clothing are not very effective for this reason.
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Old 10-30-13, 11:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Creakyknees View Post
...To the industry: a tiny little reflective accent on the sleeve of a jersey is useless. Don't waste our time....
Manufacturers make and sell what people buy. Convince the consumer they need much greater conspicuity and manufacturers will be happy to to sell it to them.
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Old 10-30-13, 12:35 PM
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Originally Posted by Creakyknees View Post
Please re-read my post. I didn't say to point the white backwards. I said, a super bright front light can also help enhance visibility from the rear, due to reflected light and the beam spread on the street. Thanks for the link.
I miss understood. I agree, the forward facing light can help get you noticed which is the entire point.
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Old 10-30-13, 12:47 PM
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Good post. I would add a few observations from my own extensive commuting in the dark.
- Hi-viz (neon yellow) gear really works. I can spot joggers and bikers wearing neon yellow at least 1/2 mile a way, and it works in daylight, dusk or dark. There is a reason why most highway crews wear it these days.
- Reflective ankle straps are great. The movement catches people's eyes, and they are visible from the side as well as front/rear.
- Reflective bits don't do a bit of good if drivers don't have their headlights on, and a lot of drivers forget to turn on their lights when it's dark or think they are saving gas or something by not running their lights. This is another strong argument for wearing hi-viz clothes and using powerful lights.
- Strobe lights give me epileptic seizures and probably do the same for many drivers. I hate them and rarely ever use for that reason.
- Helmet lights are incredible and are probably the best tool for preventing drivers from pulling out or turning in front of you. All you have to do is look at a car and you get their attention. The light doesn't even have to be that powerful.
- Redundancy is your friend. Always have backup head and taillights in case batteries go dead, you forget to recharge them, a bulb burns out, etc.
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Old 10-30-13, 12:51 PM
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Originally Posted by vol View Post
I think largely because your feet are moving. The same strap on your arm would not have that effect.
Ankle straps (and pedal reflectors) are also low to the ground so they pick up reflections from low beams earlier. I put a reflector on my rear mud flap for that reason.

Originally Posted by vol View Post
Unfortunately I haven't found a good reflective ankle band that stays on without using velcro.
I use Vedante super reflective pop bands. No velcro, easy on/off, and hold up well.
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Old 10-30-13, 01:05 PM
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Originally Posted by Looigi View Post
Manufacturers make and sell what people buy. Convince the consumer they need much greater conspicuity and manufacturers will be happy to to sell it to them.
OTOH, you can't buy what they don't make. If you can't convince some manufacturer to try something new, it'll never hit the market.
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Old 10-30-13, 01:13 PM
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I taped my cranks...

A lot of moving surface area.
Down side I taped all three sides red. Do over again and one would be white other red.

I used my helmet mounted light to bounce off reflecting surfaces on curves especially when I'm on the inside of the curve.
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Old 10-30-13, 01:38 PM
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Questions about the reflective tape (not really electronics or lighting per say but you did mention it here) -

1) what kind(s) of tape do you use? Was trying to figure out what is best
2) Do you add and remove the tape every year or leave it on permanently?
3) Does the reflective tape last well and does it damage the pain, etc?
4) Does reflective tape stick well on other gear - clothes, arm warmers jackets, backpacks, panniers, shoes, etc? If so how long does it usually stick on? (I agree the small reflective bits are a joke)
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Old 10-30-13, 01:43 PM
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I can't say that I've seen one since but I bought a jacket for night riding that's made out of a fabric called "illuminite" and it lights up like a big white billboard when light hits it (it's a bright yellow color by day)

I have to agree with the "more is better" approach too - I always notice cyclists with multiple rear blinkies before single lights and additionally, some separation between lights seems to be particularly helpful (like a helmet light for forward and rearward lighting)
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Old 10-30-13, 06:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Manster View Post
I use Vedante super reflective pop bands. No velcro, easy on/off, and hold up well.
This one? I wonder if it's similar to the one I have (rok-klimer), as the latter doesn't hold well.
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Old 10-30-13, 06:30 PM
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Originally Posted by mstraus View Post
Questions about the reflective tape (not really electronics or lighting per say but you did mention it here) -

1) what kind(s) of tape do you use? Was trying to figure out what is best
2) Do you add and remove the tape every year or leave it on permanently?
3) Does the reflective tape last well and does it damage the pain, etc?
4) Does reflective tape stick well on other gear - clothes, arm warmers jackets, backpacks, panniers, shoes, etc? If so how long does it usually stick on? (I agree the small reflective bits are a joke)
Have you checked out this thread in Commuting yet? Pretty good read on reflectives by someone who I consider an "artist" when it comes to that stuff.https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...wn-the-road...
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Old 10-30-13, 09:28 PM
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I've had good luck with visibility, so far. I agree with Creaky

Cygolite Hotshot on seat post
PlanetBike Superflash on left seat stay
PlanetBike Superflash on back of seat wedge bag
Foxfire 5-led horizontal light high up on right seat stay above brake bridge

MagicShine 900 lumen on bar
Cygolite Expilion 250 on helmet

Reflective ankle bands
Class 2 Level 2 Hi-Viz yellow safety vest with silver reflective bars.

Last year, I chased and caught up with a local cop who passed me on the road at night. I was concerned about the visibility of the light on the seat post just under the tool bag. He said he could see that light, and he commented that the safety vest really showed well.

A few of my co-workers who have seen me riding at night said my bike looked like an ambulance going down the road. I'll take it. So far, so good.
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Old 10-31-13, 07:25 AM
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Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
OTOH, you can't buy what they don't make. If you can't convince some manufacturer to try something new, it'll never hit the market.
You think that's the case here, there is a big unmet demand for high conspicuous cycling apparel?
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Old 10-31-13, 11:08 AM
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there is just enough conspicuity wear to meet the need and not a lot more. As far as cycling-specific clothing goes, there is some available because it's required in France among other places. Mavic makes a nice vest, and the O2 vest is good too. Just don't wash it.
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Old 10-31-13, 11:20 AM
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I did a bit of googling yesterday. It turns out there are a few small boutique-type makers of hip / fashionable streetwear that's also reflective and bike-oriented. So even the C&V crew can look good while being safe.

https://tinyurl.com/n876quw


There's also the illuminite brand of clothing, if you search for that you'll find stuff.

And, you could always do what I did, chop up a safety vest and have the local seamstress/tailor add reflecto tape to your favorite jersey / jacket / legwarmers.
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Old 10-31-13, 11:39 AM
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Originally Posted by mstraus View Post
Questions about the reflective tape (not really electronics or lighting per say but you did mention it here) -

1) what kind(s) of tape do you use? Was trying to figure out what is best -
- here's the red: https://tinyurl.com/lz8z9j7
- here's the white (looks gray/silver in normal light) - https://tinyurl.com/l6wfop9

2) Do you add and remove the tape every year or leave it on permanently?
- leave it, even though it's a paper backing it holds up pretty well

3) Does the reflective tape last well and does it damage the pain, etc?
- yep but I'm a racer / roadie not an all weather commuter so ymmv

4) Does reflective tape stick well on other gear - clothes, arm warmers jackets, backpacks, panniers, shoes, etc? If so how long does it usually stick on? (I agree the small reflective bits are a joke)
- I made a safety triangle of red and white tape on the back of a plain cheap cloth "string backpack" like you see for giveaway's. It held up for about a year of use before cracking and peeling. 10 minutes to replace it, looks great again.
- I also added tape to my winter shoe covers, it was difficult with all the odd curves and the covers being put on / taken off frequently, but it lasted a winter ok and anyway, tape is cheap. Experiment.
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Old 10-31-13, 02:00 PM
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Re: the ankle light or straps. I've wondered how useful those are when used with panniers? I'm curious if, or how much, of the vertical oscillation is visible for motorists looking under my pannier.
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Old 10-31-13, 03:58 PM
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Originally Posted by pdlamb View Post
Re: the ankle light or straps. I've wondered how useful those are when used with panniers? I'm curious if, or how much, of the vertical oscillation is visible for motorists looking under my pannier.
Good question. I guess it could block visibility pretty well if looking directly behind the bike, but a driver of a car is likely looking on an angle from your left side (in the US at least) so it might still be visible.
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Old 10-31-13, 06:43 PM
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Creaky is absolutely right, both with regard to reflective material and lighting. I find that reflective material is both cheaper and gives you visibility from more angles, as cars coming from the side light up my reflective gear without needing to be on axis for my lights. If you worry about appearance, you can get tape that matches your bike's color in the daytime but is highly reflective at night.
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Old 10-31-13, 11:25 PM
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Here's my thinking on reflectors, and maybe I'm just totally off base here. I consider reflectors as basically worthless, especially side facing reflectors.

If a car spots me by shining its headlights on a side reflector, that means I am DIRECTLY IN FRONT of the car. This is not a good thing, as the next thing that happens is likely the car running over me.

Personally, I want a bright enough spot on the road that the car can see me before I'm in the headlights. That means I need wide-angle active lights, preferably ones that can throw a decent spot on the road and curb.
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Old 11-01-13, 12:04 AM
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Originally Posted by gsa103 View Post
If a car spots me by shining its headlights on a side reflector, that means I am DIRECTLY IN FRONT of the car. This is not a good thing, as the next thing that happens is likely the car running over me.

Personally, I want a bright enough spot on the road that the car can see me before I'm in the headlights. That means I need wide-angle active lights, preferably ones that can throw a decent spot on the road and curb.
Not really... reflectors can be visible quite a ways away and the ones on your wheels or pedals are particularly noticeable because they move. I see them frequently while driving and have yet to run over a cyclist.

Obviously augmenting them with lights would be great/essential. Reflectors are cheap, work well and never need charging... it's hard to fault them.
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