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Wide Load to Establish Road Presence?

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Wide Load to Establish Road Presence?

Old 01-21-18, 10:27 PM
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raywood
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Wide Load to Establish Road Presence?

Like many bicyclists, I have been hit by vehicles. The last one, an intentional hit, spooked me. I have had a hard time getting back on the road. I have done so; I've just been skittish, and I have ridden less as a result.

I am now considering my first long ride in some years. This brings the safety issue back to mind.

In particular, I see that some advise "riding big" in the middle of the lane, so as to push drivers out into the other lane to pass, and to discourage them from lane sharing. I don't believe I will have the nerve to do that. Even if I did, I think that, at least in this part of the country, that would invite retaliation. I think both law and custom here expect the bicyclist to travel as near as practicable to the right edge.

As an alternative, I have wondered whether it would help to present a more bulky rear profile. As a tall, skinny rider sitting high on a hybrid with flat handlebars, I think my normal profile may convey the impression that my bike and I are slender and easy to slide past.

So I am visualizing a wide cargo area, on the back of the bike, for a couple of reasons. One is that, actually, the result will not be much wider than the bike's present handlebars (which I will not be changing, at least not on this warmup trip of 300-400 miles). I don't want people failing to consider that their passenger-side rearview mirrors are dangerously close to my handlebars. It also seems that a driver is more likely to notice and avoid a square black plastic crate near face level than, say, a single-wheel trailer at hamster height.

I speculate, further, that the wide cargo area will give me more of the psychological road credibility of a buggy or other slow-moving vehicle: it may seem reasonable that a vehicle of this width would be riding several feet out from the right edge of the lane. Daytime flashing lights on both the right and left edges of the rear crates may enhance the impression that this is an actual vehicle, and not just some goof-off who shouldn't be out playing in serious traffic.

My question is, does this reasoning make sense? I am not asking whether the crates will offer undesirable wind resistance, cross-wind problems from nature or from passing vehicles, or potential balance difficulties. I'm sure they will. I'm also not asking about the engineering aspects of getting the crates to stay on, remain stable, survive crashes, squeeze through gateways, and so forth.

I mean, if you have compelling firsthand experience indicating that such problems will be severe and insuperable, I wouldn't mind hearing specifics (not mere opinion) on that. I have limited experience that says they won't, but I could be wrong. But in any case, that's not the point here.

What I'm asking here is, will this sort of arrangement increase or decrease my odds of getting accidentally rear-ended, intentionally swerved into, verbally abused, or otherwise being treated as unwelcome by my good friends behind the wheel? At the end of the day, will this arrangement be conducive to a reduced level of road terror, as I see that drivers are swinging out further to avoid me, and that I seem to be getting less harassment from horn or holler?

Here's a sketch to convey the idea: two milk crates, side by side, with (let's assume) adequate steel support from below, as a substitute for trailer or panniers. I'm no artist -- the estimated 27" total width of the two crates is exaggerated here -- but you get the idea.
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Old 01-21-18, 10:47 PM
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prathmann
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Originally Posted by raywood View Post
Here's a sketch to convey the idea: two milk crates, side by side, with (let's assume) adequate steel support from below, as a substitute for trailer or panniers. I'm no artist -- the estimated 27" width is exaggerated here -- but you get the idea.
Don't see the sketch, but this doesn't sound as if it would be much different in width than a typical pair of touring panniers on a rear rack. The width is frequently even a bit larger if a tent and/or other bag is strapped sideways across the top of the rack. The latter arrangement could also have the advantage that if the edge of such a bag is hit be a passing car it could be fastened so that it swings out of the way and would be much less likely to make the cyclist lose control compared to a rigid container firmly attached to the rack or bike frame.

I do feel that I have fewer close passes when carrying my rear panniers that increase the apparent width of my bike.
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Old 01-22-18, 01:17 AM
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CliffordK
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I hope you're ok, and were able to identify and prosecute the offending driver.

I tow a trailer behind my bike quite a bit. I do think that most drivers give a little wider berth to the bike with the trailer than without, perhaps not immediately realizing that there aren't kid's aboard, although it should be obvious. But, not necessarily all drivers move over. So, there are those drivers that don't move over an inch... and so the question is what the trailer would do if it was snagged by a passing car.

Of course with the trailer, I have to also move to the left a foot or so for the trailer tires to be on the road. Your boxes would allow you to stay right on the pavement, except for perhaps snagging mailboxes, posts, or bridge pylons. Bollards? If there are a lot of mailboxes, either stay left, or follow a questionable serpentine course.

I haven't ever thought someone was trying to hit me, although last Friday, a SUV slowed down, yelled something, and some trash sailed out the window just in front of me before it sped off... first time that has happened

I found this sign at a thrift store a while ago. I thought it was cute, so it went on my trailer.

Yep, the Burley trailer was abused before I got it, but it has served me well so far, and a little more abused now.

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Old 01-22-18, 01:39 AM
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Decades ago I read about a Swedish-made reflector stick (~2' long) that was attached to left side of bike & supposedly caused motorists to steer wider from bikes. OTOH I'm not sure how helpful it would be to do the milk crate thing, could possibly irritate some motorists. I love my EVT Safe-Zone helmet mirror which makes it effortless to track overtaking motorists.
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Old 01-22-18, 01:48 AM
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Originally Posted by DropBarFan View Post
Decades ago I read about a Swedish-made reflector stick (~2' long) that was attached to left side of bike & supposedly caused motorists to steer wider from bikes. OTOH I'm not sure how helpful it would be to do the milk crate thing, could possibly irritate some motorists. I love my EVT Safe-Zone helmet mirror which makes it effortless to track overtaking motorists.
The milk crate thing is no different from a cargo bike or panniers. And, could be useful for bike shopping. I'd take care to tie them down though. I've seen handlebars that were close to that wide, but not as visually imposing.

There were people that advocated attaching a pool noodle to indicate personal space. Not my thing, but a similar concept to the above, and generally woudn't hurt much if it was bumped. Again, one doesn't necessarily want to look too odd, or irritate motorists too much.

There are also laser taillights that one can buy that draw "path lanes" behind a bicycle. All similar concepts.
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Old 01-22-18, 06:34 AM
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Originally Posted by raywood View Post
Like many bicyclists, I have been hit by vehicles. The last one, an intentional hit, spooked me. I have had a hard time getting back on the road. I have done so; I've just been skittish, and I have ridden less as a result.

I am now considering my first long ride in some years. This brings the safety issue back to mind.

In particular, I see that some advise "riding big" in the middle of the lane, so as to push drivers out into the other lane to pass, and to discourage them from lane sharing. I don't believe I will have the nerve to do that. Even if I did, I think that, at least in this part of the country, that would invite retaliation. I think both law and custom here expect the bicyclist to travel as near as practicable to the right edge.

As an alternative, I have wondered whether it would help to present a more bulky rear profile. As a tall, skinny rider sitting high on a hybrid with flat handlebars, I think my normal profile may convey the impression that my bike and I are slender and easy to slide past.

So I am visualizing a wide cargo area, on the back of the bike, for a couple of reasons. One is that, actually, the result will not be much wider than the bike's present handlebars (which I will not be changing, at least not on this warmup trip of 300-400 miles). I don't want people failing to consider that their passenger-side rearview mirrors are dangerously close to my handlebars. It also seems that a driver is more likely to notice and avoid a square black plastic crate near face level than, say, a single-wheel trailer at hamster height.

I speculate, further, that the wide cargo area will give me more of the psychological road credibility of a buggy or other slow-moving vehicle: it may seem reasonable that a vehicle of this width would be riding several feet out from the right edge of the lane. Daytime flashing lights on both the right and left edges of the rear crates may enhance the impression that this is an actual vehicle, and not just some goof-off who shouldn't be out playing in serious traffic.

My question is, does this reasoning make sense? I am not asking whether the crates will offer undesirable wind resistance, cross-wind problems from nature or from passing vehicles, or potential balance difficulties. I'm sure they will. I'm also not asking about the engineering aspects of getting the crates to stay on, remain stable, survive crashes, squeeze through gateways, and so forth.

I mean, if you have compelling firsthand experience indicating that such problems will be severe and insuperable, I wouldn't mind hearing specifics (not mere opinion) on that. I have limited experience that says they won't, but I could be wrong. But in any case, that's not the point here.

What I'm asking here is, will this sort of arrangement increase or decrease my odds of getting accidentally rear-ended, intentionally swerved into, verbally abused, or otherwise being treated as unwelcome by my good friends behind the wheel? At the end of the day, will this arrangement be conducive to a reduced level of road terror, as I see that drivers are swinging out further to avoid me, and that I seem to be getting less harassment from horn or holler?

Here's a sketch to convey the idea: two milk crates, side by side, with (let's assume) adequate steel support from below, as a substitute for trailer or panniers. I'm no artist -- the estimated 27" total width of the two crates is exaggerated here -- but you get the idea.
I like this idea. Being the type of person who always over-engineers everything, I'd go that one step further to actually build a porteur-type rack in that width for the rear. Placing a warning triangle similar to the one @CliffordK has, would be great, along with a red led flasher. I'm thinking that you could modify the Surly Porteur rack to fit on the rear, and actually use it to attach panniers. That raised-rail top would make a very nice platform for anything you decide to carry back there, and the wideness of it - along with the triangle, etc - would lend itself to a bigger road presence.
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Old 01-22-18, 06:43 AM
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The problem with your idea is that it IS as wide as it seems, which means you'll go down if it's hit.

It must be a flexible thing, that won't bring you out of balance when hit. There exists a stick on a hinge, that just flexes if hit. See below. You could attach a blinking light to it as well.

I always keep an eye on traffic from behind in my rearview mirror and prepare to evade.

I will always drive a bit out in the lane, as this gives me some space for evasive manoeuvres and I also wobble a bit on purpose, as this normally makes cardrivers go wider when passing me.

Afstandsrefleks "Slikkepind" Cyklistbutikken 1905

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Old 01-22-18, 06:55 AM
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A warmshowers host I stayed with brought up an interesting theory. He asked me if I'd had any conflicts with motorists on my way to his house just off a busy Ohio highway. I'd had none, and every one of his many guests said the same. He cycles for pleasure often in the area and constantly has conflicts. His theory is that motorists will respect a cyclist who looks like he or she is going to work, or using the bike as needed transportation, vs a cyclist out for fun (say decked out in Lycra on an overly expensive machine).

I thought his theory made some sense. I have little personal data to the contrary, since I virtually always have at least one pannier on a rear rack and never dress like a sport cyclist. (And I just stay out of the way as much as possible.) I believe that any pack added to the bike puts the cyclist in the "going to work" category and may get a little more respect.
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Old 01-22-18, 06:59 AM
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I've seen similar set ups with flashing LED bars across the back. They were definitely quite visible.
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Old 01-22-18, 07:19 AM
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raywood, This topic can cause spirited debate. In Texas a bicycle is subject to the same rules as a motorized vehicle. The entire lane is legal, but bicycles should ride as close as practical to the curb or edge of the road to not impede traffic flow.

I find a blinking red rear light the best, so far, to be as visible as possible day or night.

Brad
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Old 01-22-18, 08:13 AM
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Originally Posted by raywood View Post
....
In particular, I see that some advise "riding big" in the middle of the lane, so as to push drivers out into the other lane to pass, and to discourage them from lane sharing. I don't believe I will have the nerve to do that. Even if I did, I think that, at least in this part of the country, that would invite retaliation. .....
As a driver I have to say I really hate that, I still remember about a year ago in my truck sitting behind two slow cyclists riding side by side on a curvy road, too curvy for me to be able to pass them safely. I was stuck behind them for about 5 minutes. They had a nice shoulder they could have ridden on, but they instead chose to ride in the middle of the lane. People that do that really encourage road rage. And that behavior makes drivers more angry at all riders.


Originally Posted by pbekkerh View Post
I have seen these, I think I even have one in a box in the basement. If I recall it has a hinge so it can fold forward to make your bike narrow for parking in bike racks, etc.

On a different thread recently, someone had a red blinking taillight installed on a bracket that stuck out about 4 inches to the left of his handlebar, similar concept. I have been considering installing a light like that.
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Old 01-22-18, 08:15 AM
  #12  
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Originally Posted by raywood View Post
Like many bicyclists, I have been hit by vehicles. The last one, an intentional hit, spooked me. I have had a hard time getting back on the road. I have done so; I've just been skittish, and I have ridden less as a result.

I am now considering my first long ride in some years. This brings the safety issue back to mind.

First of all, I'd like to congratulate you on getting back out on your bike. I'd also like to suggest a completely different approach as a possible aid to your fears based on my own personal experience.

Following a dramatic event in my life I found myself reacting in a totally exaggerated and frantic way to simple, everyday situations. I was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). At first, I thought I was being led down the garden path as I thought such a diagnosis would only apply to soldiers in the battlefield etc.
However, 2 sessions and my reactions were back to normal.
It was simply a case of filing the "bad memory" in my brain in the correct place so that it didn't pop up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We all know that cycling can be dangerous and we all know how vulnerable we are. I suppose the trick is to keep the reality in balance.

As for road positioning and being nervous to take the "correct" position, it may be worthwhile to see of there are any courses available in your area, or online. Then practise! And practise some more!
I also always try to make eye-contact with drivers, smile as much as possible at them and salute/acknowledge them.

Originally Posted by DropBarFan View Post
Decades ago I read about a Swedish-made reflector stick (~2' long) that was attached to left side of bike & supposedly caused motorists to steer wider from bikes. OTOH I'm not sure how helpful it would be to do the milk crate thing, could possibly irritate some motorists. I love my EVT Safe-Zone helmet mirror which makes it effortless to track overtaking motorists.
This is a Spanish version.

Bicyline Spacer for bikes - - Your safety, our goal

I've had one attached to my bike for the past year. It extends to 1,5 meters, is light, very robust and has the huge advantage that it can be deployed at will while pedalling. It's actually quite genius.

I live in the Netherlands, so most cycling is on dedicated bike paths. Ironically, I find I use it more to protect me from other cyclists. The racing types who zip by silently, with no warning brushing elbows are the worst! I did use it in Switzerland when some cycling was on roads in appalling weather and was glad to have the extra visibility.

I suppose there's always the possibility that some drivers will view it as a target, rather than something to avoid, but I'd rather they hit it than me. (It's flexible and will not damage me or the vehicle.)

Originally Posted by andrewclaus View Post
His theory is that motorists will respect a cyclist who looks like he or she is going to work, or using the bike as needed transportation, vs a cyclist out for fun (say decked out in Lycra on an overly expensive machine).
That's a very interesting theory.
From my own experience, though, I find myself feeling more "conflict" on my daily 40km commute than touring. My frame of mind is totally different when touring where speed and destination are far less in focus than when commuting.

In any case, the very best of luck in your touring!

Frank
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Old 01-22-18, 08:58 AM
  #13  
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
...........
I have seen these, I think I even have one in a box in the basement. If I recall it has a hinge so it can fold forward to make your bike narrow for parking in bike racks, etc.........
Yes , but the hinge is mostly so you don't get pushed of the road, if a car hits it.
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Old 01-22-18, 08:59 AM
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I am considering trying something like this.

https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/...d=438996&v=1Wn
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Old 01-22-18, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by mm718 View Post
I am considering trying something like this.

https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/...d=438996&v=1Wn
I'll bet that it would be pretty easy to fashion one of these for yourself. How many crusty old fishing poles have youe seen just lying about in the trash? Maybe dirt cheap at flea markets or yard sales? Take a section of an old fishing pole, spray it international orange and fix a reflector to it. Rig it on your rear rack with some bungee and done!
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Old 01-22-18, 01:40 PM
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Many cool responses. Thank you, all! It seems I am not alone in this concern, and that staking out a bit of space, by whatever means, does at least reduce the risk of impact from a well-intentioned motorist.

Prathmann -- The sketch wasn't originally visible because the forum wouldn't allow me to edit. True, the crates would be only a few inches wider than my handlebars, or my previous panniers. Impact with the crates would almost guarantee impact with my handlebars anyway. I’d rather have them hit the crates. When the bus driver hit my handlebar, the cop (protecting the city) claimed that I had just lost my balance. Bus paint on a rear crate would have helped.

CliffordK -- thanks. I don't have enough reputation to post links yet; but when the forum allows, I’ll try to remember to come back and add a link to the story of that impact. But no, the cop lied on behalf of the bus driver, and nothing came of it. Welcome to Indiana University and Bloomington, IN. Anyway, I’m hoping the crates will appear to fill the rightmost 1-2’ of roadway, so that I do appear to have a reason to be a bit further out to the left -- partly to avoid nails and broken glass at the edge, and partly to discourage lane-sharing (i.e., to push drivers out to the other lane, so as to do a proper pass rather than try to squeeze past in the same lane). Your trailer and sign are an interesting alternative. I hadn’t seen a bike trailer with that high rear handle. I guess that’s an older model Burley? I hadn’t previously heard of the laser “bike lane” lights. Looked them up. Interesting invention!

Pool noodles (cut to the appropriate length), reflector sticks, Bicyline Spacer, Distanciador, Slikkepind, handlebar extension flasher -- all good possibilities. The key difference is that these are soft and/or flexible, so that the rider doesn't get knocked down if the driver hits it (unless the driver comes close enough to hit handlebars or panniers), whereas a crate bolted onto the bike is rigid and, in the worst case, impact with the crates and/or the wrong kind of fall could even damage the bike frame.

On the other hand, I think the relatively rigid crates are more noticeable than some of those options. Like, in the photo of the Distanciador, I had to look hard to see the reflecting device. I also wonder whether a driver would be more hesitant to hit something that might look like it could scratch his/her vehicle. A big truck or a pickup with a heavy front bumper? Probably not. And big trucks have come very close on a couple of occasions. Even there, though, they didn't actually hit me. Would they have cut it a bit less close if they’d had to calculate a squeeze past the crates rather than the handlebars?

DropBarFan & pbekkerh -- I have a mirror on my glasses. It may not be as good as what you’re using. But it doesn't really help me -- I’m usually just watching where I’m going as they pass. I don't generally have a good fix on precisely where the vehicle is, as it comes up from behind. Deliberate wobbling -- yes. In fact, I wonder if it would help to mount a rear light on a wobbling base, so as to enhance the sense of unpredictability. Call it a Trump light. (I think he’d probably like it.)

NoControl -- we are of similar minds. For structural aspects, see my separate post here on BikeForums, “Thru Axle for Heavy Cargo Rear Rack?”

CliffordK, jon c., bradtx -- flashing LED bar and/or orange warning triangle. I had not thought of either. I recently discovered the practical suggestion of daylight use of flashing lights; I have not been doing that. (All three of the times cars have hit me were in daylight.)

Bradtx -- actually, bike riders in Texas do not have the rights of other vehicle operators. In particular, unlike other vehicles, they are required, as you say, to ride near the curb; they are not entitled to claim a lane to themselves. Fortunately, there is an exception where the traffic lane is too narrow (i.e., less than 14 feet wide) and there is no bike lane. That’s pretty wide. The problem is that drivers don't care what the law is, if it’s not enforced. Except maybe in Austin, not many Texas drivers get pulled over for trying to share a <14’ lane with a bicyclist. So the question here is more in terms of the unwritten law, i.e., driver psychology. Like, what do I have to do to persuade them to just pass at a safe distance and leave me alone?

Tourist in MSN -- I hear you. As a driver, I have been irked by the rare bicyclist who has claimed a lane. I remember somebody doing that on a mountain road near Boulder. Even as a fellow bicyclist behind the wheel, my unfamiliarity with mountain roads left me lacking in empathy for his concern that, otherwise, cars would try to pass too close. Absent good driver education, good cameras, and stiff penalties for drivers who hit bicyclists, I suppose this tension will continue. Of course, that’s not the situation you describe, where there was a shoulder. On that, we see no justice: those riders carry on, while good bikers, following the rules, get hit.

HobbesOnTour -- great name; frightful thought. Seriously, thanks. A guy’s got to get back in the saddle. Re PTSD, the therapy recommendation is not a bad one. It requires health insurance. As for the suggestion of making eye contact, I agree, but it’s not really an option for drivers coming up from behind, not unless I want to add to the residue of asphalt embedded in my right knee. I mean, a person may want to watch where he’s going. Re practicing: not sure what I’d practice. Protection from racing cyclists: sad to hear there’s the insertion of unnecessary risk, even in the bike nirvana of Holland.

Andrewclaus & HobbesOnTour -- I was wondering whether the scruffy nature of the milk crates might be more psychologically effective than a sleek BOB trailer, or a nice set of bike packs. Now I’m wondering whether maybe I should swap that big American flag concept for a Budweiser banner.

Cheers!
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Old 01-22-18, 02:00 PM
  #17  
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
As a driver I have to say I really hate that, I still remember about a year ago in my truck sitting behind two slow cyclists riding side by side on a curvy road, too curvy for me to be able to pass them safely. I was stuck behind them for about 5 minutes. They had a nice shoulder they could have ridden on, but they instead chose to ride in the middle of the lane. People that do that really encourage road rage. And that behavior makes drivers more angry at all riders.




I have seen these, I think I even have one in a box in the basement. If I recall it has a hinge so it can fold forward to make your bike narrow for parking in bike racks, etc.

On a different thread recently, someone had a red blinking taillight installed on a bracket that stuck out about 4 inches to the left of his handlebar, similar concept. I have been considering installing a light like that.
Hmmm, trouble sharing the road? MA has a same road, same rules thing.
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Old 01-22-18, 02:01 PM
  #18  
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Raywood, using a mirror and lots of daytime lights?
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Old 01-22-18, 06:07 PM
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Originally Posted by NoControl View Post
I'll bet that it would be pretty easy to fashion one of these for yourself. How many crusty old fishing poles have youe seen just lying about in the trash? Maybe dirt cheap at flea markets or yard sales? Take a section of an old fishing pole, spray it international orange and fix a reflector to it. Rig it on your rear rack with some bungee and done!
Yes, people do this with coat hangers and safety tape. I'd be a little worried that it might get snagged on a passing car. The device above breaks away or slides away or something... See link below...

Bicyline
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Old 01-22-18, 07:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Leebo View Post
Hmmm, trouble sharing the road? MA has a same road, same rules thing.
When I was a kid growing up in Maine, I remember when the police would come to our class and teach bicycle rules and road safety. I don't think they do that anymore.
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Old 01-22-18, 07:11 PM
  #21  
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Originally Posted by bradtx View Post
raywood, This topic can cause spirited debate. In Texas a bicycle is subject to the same rules as a motorized vehicle. The entire lane is legal, but bicycles should ride as close as practical to the curb or edge of the road to not impede traffic flow.

I find a blinking red rear light the best, so far, to be as visible as possible day or night.

Brad
I also believe a blinking red rear light works well alerting drivers, and drivers seem to give me more clearance when my light is on.
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Old 01-22-18, 07:19 PM
  #22  
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Originally Posted by Leebo View Post
Hmmm, trouble sharing the road? MA has a same road, same rules thing.
I have no trouble sharing the road at all, I am happy to share. But I do have trouble with those that that monopolize the road instead of sharing it.
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Old 01-22-18, 09:26 PM
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Raywood,

Have you've seen homemade "kitty litter" panniers? I find cars do give me a wider birth when I'm riding with mine rather than my standard panniers. It may be due to a less trusting attiutde towards the mindset and attitude of a cyclist who would use such a system They do appear to stick out from the bicycle further than panniers do even though they really don't. I plastered my buckets with reflective stickers that really show up when they are hit by headlights.
https://photos.app.goo.gl/828zUXZImnO6KPLl2


A bunch of high lumen rear tailghts would really show up on the back of the buckets.

Last edited by mtnbud; 01-22-18 at 09:38 PM.
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Old 01-22-18, 10:24 PM
  #24  
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Try and be as visible as possible day and night. Lots of lights at night and there are a thousand possibilities. The bike has to be manageable and safe, a sidewind can push you off the road as easily as a nitwit driver. Use a camera to record everything front and back. Learn the exact laws where you ride and ride legally. There are times you will feel uncomfortable, ride safe, ride reasonable and you will be fine.
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Old 01-22-18, 10:51 PM
  #25  
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I like the idea of a light bar, hi viz & width w/o weight & mounting difficulties of the double milk crate system. In my area the drivers usually give good clearance anyway so it's hard to tell if panniers etc helps. Good test site would be Miami where the Lambos & Ferraris can pass closely.

Locally we now have road laws mandating that highway drivers move out of right lane for stopped emergency vehicles on the shoulder. Motorists , other than truckers, aren't esp good at doing that & even worse for general stopped trucks/cars.

You must try the EVT Safe Zone mirror, largest helmet mirror & the only mirror I've tried that allows seeing road ahead & traffic behind at the same time.
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