Flashing! Aaaargghh!

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Bendo
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Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby Bendo » Mon Aug 20, 2018 12:33 pm

LEDs are one of the best things to happen to night-time riding in forever, but...

can we all just stop flashing?

As a cyclist I try to avoid roads with too many cars and trucks. But at night I also try and avoid roads and paths with too many cyclists.

Here's a list of my least favourite flashing moments en route:

1) strobing/fluttering (excuse me while I vomit/have a migraine/start fitting)
2) bright, slow flash coming towards me (can't see coz it's too bright, can't see coz it's too dark, now it's bright, now it's dark...)
3) helmet-mounted (No!! Don't look at me!!)
4) the super bright tail-light (who knew red light could be so painful)
5) bright, slow flash right behind me at the lights (I can see auras...)
6) any flashing at all when on a bike path with only other bikes

I often politely ask people to refrain from flashing when we're all waiting at lights, or to angle their lights down out of my face. But I feel like the guy who starts a conversation in a lift; like I've crossed a social taboo line. Weirdo bike light dude.

The fact is many commuters feel unsafe on the roads at night. So they go for max visibility. To a lot of people this means flashing. What they don't seem to realise it that this arm-race of lighting technology makes us all less safe. Flashing/poorly angled/too bright lights blind drivers (and other riders) and can actually attract impaired drivers. In the same way as drivers feeling unsafe on the roads has led to an arms race of heavier and taller cars (4WDs, SUVs) with the commensurate lack of visibility they give road users (can't see past them) making us all less safe.

We're still at the stage where bike lights are marketed as the more lumens the better (Knog Blinder anyone?). In the forest and on single-track at night, maybe. Not in cities on roads with street lights.

When are we going to get laws like Europe on bicycle lighting? I'll say that when we do it will be a sign that we have a mature cycle commuting culture in this country.

Am I irrational? Does anyone else feel this way? Does anyone want to defend flashers? I'm guessing that most people who frequent this forum have been commuting for long enough to think about lighting in a serious way. b

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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby Runjikol » Mon Aug 20, 2018 2:16 pm

Not irrational. It peeves me when a strobe-blinder equipped bike ninja (they are ninjas because I can't see them) leaves me seeing photon-echoes and struggling to maintain a line. However some of the Euro sports sedans have those blue-white HID headlights and they do the same thing.
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Thoglette
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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby Thoglette » Mon Aug 20, 2018 2:36 pm

Bendo wrote:Am I irrational? Does anyone else feel this way? Does anyone want to defend flashers? I'm guessing that most people who frequent this forum have been commuting for long enough to think about lighting in a serious way.

This was debated a few months back in some other thread. Too lazy to find it today.

Nutshell of summary: there's no justification for flashing-arc-lights on shared paths.

For roads the jury remains out, mostly due to insufficient and conflicting evidence. On one hand a Swedish study demonstrated that no amount of hi-viz will be spotted by those who simply aren't looking. On the other hand, a flashing red light should arguably awake the "lizard" brain of the otherwise asleep-at-the-wheel motorist. Now flashing blue would be much better, at least in the short term.
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cyclotaur
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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby cyclotaur » Mon Aug 20, 2018 3:50 pm

There is a general rule of thumb with lights and road riding that strobing lights are okay riding solo but a big no-no in bunches or groups.

How this might apply to commuting seems pretty simple:

1/ If you are riding on the road in traffic then strobing is fine to make you more visible to the inattentive drivers out there. Personal safety comes first on the road. You are using the light to improve your visibility.

2/ If you are riding on a commuter trail along with lots of other cyclists then probably not a good idea. On shared paths, you are mostly using lights to see where you are going, so permanent ON state makes sense. Consideration for fellow cyclists (and other path users) should also come first on trails.
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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby bychosis » Mon Aug 20, 2018 6:47 pm

If a bright blinky comes toward me on a path I typically put my hand up to shield the my eyes and call ‘too bright’ as they pass. No reason to be rude, they probably don’t see it from the other side.

I know my good lights are too bright so I point them low. The also blink too fast and I won’t use it because of the reflection off reflective signs is too much for me.
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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby g-boaf » Mon Aug 20, 2018 8:57 pm

cyclotaur wrote:There is a general rule of thumb with lights and road riding that strobing lights are okay riding solo but a big no-no in bunches or groups.

How this might apply to commuting seems pretty simple:

1/ If you are riding on the road in traffic then strobing is fine to make you more visible to the inattentive drivers out there. Personal safety comes first on the road. You are using the light to improve your visibility.

2/ If you are riding on a commuter trail along with lots of other cyclists then probably not a good idea. On shared paths, you are mostly using lights to see where you are going, so permanent ON state makes sense. Consideration for fellow cyclists (and other path users) should also come first on trails.



If I'm in a bunch riding at night, I don't put my rear light on unless I'm at the back of the bunch. And at night, I leave the front light on permanently so I can see where I'm going. If the path is very well lit at night, I will put the light on low brightness and flashing, or just low and permanently on. I'd sometimes leave the front light off on a well lit cycleway, but sometimes the cycleway lights are dead in places so you can't depend on them.

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DavidS
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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby DavidS » Mon Aug 20, 2018 9:17 pm

I like flashing rear lights, I hope they attract more attention, that is the point after all. On the front I always run a steady beam, just don't see as much logic for a front light. Also, a flashing light says "bicycle" and most motorists grossly underestimate the speed of a bicycle. Hence I want idiots behind me thinking I am slower than my actual speed, and idiots in front of me thinking I might not be a bicycle so I might be faster than my actual speed.

I commute alone and probably half/half bike path and road.

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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby caneye » Tue Aug 21, 2018 8:54 am

DavidS wrote:I like flashing rear lights, I hope they attract more attention, that is the point after all. On the front I always run a steady beam, just don't see as much logic for a front light. Also, a flashing light says "bicycle" and most motorists grossly underestimate the speed of a bicycle. Hence I want idiots behind me thinking I am slower than my actual speed, and idiots in front of me thinking I might not be a bicycle so I might be faster than my actual speed.

I commute alone and probably half/half bike path and road.

DS


+1
Reflects my commuting experience to the dot.

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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby Cyclophiliac » Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:06 am

DavidS wrote:I like flashing rear lights, I hope they attract more attention, that is the point after all. On the front I always run a steady beam, just don't see as much logic for a front light. Also, a flashing light says "bicycle" and most motorists grossly underestimate the speed of a bicycle. Hence I want idiots behind me thinking I am slower than my actual speed, and idiots in front of me thinking I might not be a bicycle so I might be faster than my actual speed.

I commute alone and probably half/half bike path and road.

DS

... so they end up left-hooking you when you least expect/want it?

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P!N20
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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby P!N20 » Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:11 am

DavidS wrote:I like flashing rear lights, I hope they attract more attention, that is the point after all.


That's debatable, but we do know it's harder for people to judge distances of flashing lights.

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Bendo
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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby Bendo » Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:38 am

cyclotaur wrote:...1/ If you are riding on the road in traffic then strobing is fine to make you more visible to the inattentive drivers out there. Personal safety comes first on the road. You are using the light to improve your visibility...


So here's where I differ. I think strobing at anytime is not OK because it harms all road users' ability to see (both car drivers and other solo cyclists). Yes it gets their attention, but depending on how bright/angled/intense your strobing is, it will also blind them and piss them off. The more cycle commuters we have, the more strobing there is, the worse the effect. We have everyone looking out for themselves and no-one looking at the overall effect. That's why I say when we have laws against it that will be a sign we finally have a mature cycle commuting culture, because we will have reached the stage where all road users recognise that cycle commuters are here in numbers and they are here to stay.

Personal safety comes first, absolutely agree. But I disagree that this is the way to ensure it. It doesn't make the road a more friendly place for cyclists. It just continues the arms race IMHO. b

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Bendo
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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby Bendo » Tue Aug 21, 2018 9:46 am

g-boaf wrote:... If I'm in a bunch riding at night, I don't put my rear light on unless I'm at the back of the bunch. And at night, I leave the front light on permanently so I can see where I'm going...


This is considerate. It reminds me of how Japanese drivers routinely switch their headlights off when stopped at traffic lights, to spare the person in front. Or how cyclotourists used to put a mudflap on their rear mudguard, purely to protect the person behind them from spray.

This kind of thinking is so important right now. b

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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby Bunged Knee » Tue Aug 21, 2018 10:40 am

Thoglette wrote:This was debated a few months back in some other thread. Too lazy to find it today.


Here it is.
http://www.bicycles.net.au/forums/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=98265
ID please? What ID? My seat tube ID is 27.2mm or 31.6mm depending on what bikes I ride today.thanks...

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Bendo
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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby Bendo » Tue Aug 21, 2018 2:49 pm

Bunged Knee wrote:
Thoglette wrote:This was debated a few months back in some other thread. Too lazy to find it today.


Here it is.
http://www.bicycles.net.au/forums/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=98265


Thanks.

The person near the end of the thread who said they have part of their commute riding fast downhill so they "set their lights to stun" to wake up the drowsy SUV drivers backing out of their driveways... well. Understandable, but I'd say they are tempting fate, and putting a little too much faith in the power of their flashing light to prevent accidents. Also, it's impinging on the vision of all the other road users who aren't backing out of their driveways. IOW it's arms-race thinking (analogous to "if I drive a huge care I'll be safer in the event of a crash").

I'm guilty of this kind of thinking as well. It stems from our (Australian) view of 'fault' in an accident: if we are in the right then the other person's insurance company has to pay. Only that doesn't work if one of you is a cyclist. They might be in the wrong but that's no help when you're in hospital or dead. So wouldn't it be better not to go head-to-head with motor vehicle traffic? Let's face it, roads are not made for bikes. Maybe one day they will be...

I'm surprised only a few people in the original discussion mentioned reflective wear as a method of visibility. Reflective bands/clothing are crucial for side-on visibility. Unless of course you like to run those awful, puncture-resistant commuter tyres, they're pretty bright...

I know the situation the poster I just mentioned is facing: how do you alert someone ahead who is about to enter your lane that you are coming? Well of course you need a good front light because reflective wear is not going to show up yet. But I would say that if you need to blind them in advance then you're not "riding to the conditions" as another poster said, and you are indeed tempting fate. b

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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby opik_bidin » Tue Aug 21, 2018 3:01 pm

The way to solve the problem is, having lights on your feet, unless it's view is obstructed by panniers.

The movement of the feet while pedalling creates a pattern that is recognizable.

ofc, I would like to have lights that have patterns instead of flashing

Having a light circle on my helmet which traces the circle is a dream for now.

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Bendo
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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby Bendo » Tue Aug 21, 2018 3:31 pm

opik_bidin wrote:The way to solve the problem is, having lights on your feet, unless it's view is obstructed by panniers.

The movement of the feet while pedalling creates a pattern that is recognizable.

ofc, I would like to have lights that have patterns instead of flashing

Having a light circle on my helmet which traces the circle is a dream for now.


You've reminded me that I've seen some helmet lights recently that aren't projecting beams of light as in a head-light, but are bright bands or rectangles of light, like a shop sign. They don't dazzle and they're high up, so they both say "cyclist" and can be seen over traffic. Will do a search... b

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Bendo
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For when you decide to declare total war in the commuter-light arms race

Postby Bendo » Tue Aug 21, 2018 3:35 pm

Image

Not helpful. Couldn't resist. b

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Bendo
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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby Bendo » Tue Aug 21, 2018 3:42 pm

Not what I was looking for either, but these look cool:

https://www.flectr.bike/collections

And a shout to these guys who posted on the Audax forum and are local:

https://www.monkeysee.net.au/collection ... llow-audax

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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby Mububban » Wed Aug 22, 2018 1:37 pm

FWIW, flashing lights on an irregular flash pattern are apparently the most effective. Next best is steady flash, worst is steady beam.




If it's dark ie early morning group ride or dark commute, I use steady beam on the front. Then switch to bright flashing as the sun rises.

Rear is always the brightest flashing mode possible, day or night.

My commute is 50/50 road and shared path. In winter, bulky gloves don't allow me to change my pattern so I just ride with steady beam on. In summer it's bright enough even at 6am to go for bright flash all the time. I angle the light down on the PSP, and up on the road.

Having been on the receiving end of a few dazzlingly bright lights, it's never been a problem for more than a few seconds while approaching on the shared path and I just turn my head slightly or shield my eyes. I actually don't mind, knowing that that cyclist is safer and more visible once they hit the roads.
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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby Thoglette » Wed Aug 22, 2018 7:14 pm

Mububban wrote: I actually don't mind, knowing that that cyclist is safer and more visible once they hit the roads.


I do, as they are creating a safety hazard.

As to some journo/racer/industry wonk on youtube, we'll they're the same deluded mob who are trying to convince me that my bike can't possibly exist (it has tyres wider than 25mm and no discs).
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DavidS
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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby DavidS » Wed Aug 22, 2018 9:47 pm

Bendo wrote:So wouldn't it be better not to go head-to-head with motor vehicle traffic? Let's face it, roads are not made for bikes. Maybe one day they will be...



Have to disagree: roads are made for road vehicles, bicycles are road vehicles. I am not going to concede this to the motorists, they are our roads as much as they are their roads.

I ride on roads, I ride on bike paths, I'm not going to change my route to avoid riding on the road.

Back on topic: I have also worried about side visibility so I have reflectors on 6 spokes on each wheel, they just clamp around each spoke and, since they are moving, they are noticeable which is what I want.

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Bendo
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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby Bendo » Wed Aug 22, 2018 10:55 pm

DavidS wrote:
Bendo wrote:So wouldn't it be better not to go head-to-head with motor vehicle traffic? Let's face it, roads are not made for bikes. Maybe one day they will be...



Have to disagree: roads are made for road vehicles, bicycles are road vehicles. I am not going to concede this to the motorists, they are our roads as much as they are their roads.

I ride on roads, I ride on bike paths, I'm not going to change my route to avoid riding on the road.

Back on topic: I have also worried about side visibility so I have reflectors on 6 spokes on each wheel, they just clamp around each spoke and, since they are moving, they are noticeable which is what I want.

DS


1st, spoke reflectors. Love them, great idea.

2nd, I didn't make myself totally well understood on the previous point. I'm totally with you on taking up our rightful space on the road and forcing cars to notice and accommodate. And the law recognises us as vehicles as fully as motor vehicles.

When I say 'head-to-head' I mean riding aggressively and expecting or relying on car drivers to get out of the way. "I've got my 5000 lumens Blinder on kill and I'm comin' through!!"

Riding on the road is a delicate balancing act of sometimes taking the lane and holding your line, and sometimes conceding space and getting the hell out when you sense that conditions or situations are no longer friendly.

And TBH I'm not interested in getting into a pissing contest with motorists. Busy roads are awful places to be. I much prefer nature and clean air and being alive. b

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DavidS
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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby DavidS » Thu Aug 23, 2018 8:48 pm

Yeah, I'd agree with all of that, I'm assertive not aggressive. There are some points on my commute where I take the lane and prevent cars from overtaking me, but once there is space, I'm out of their way - but I decide when there is enough space.

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TheWall
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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby TheWall » Thu Aug 23, 2018 9:39 pm

Back to the topic ha ha. The pre dawn 'Flasher' is a pet dislike of mine. Part of the 'I am the most important' syndrome which seems to be taking over the world. I happily call them out on it too. Just rude in my opinion.

My small group rides are interesting with everyone owning different strength front lights with the shadowing caused by the watt bazookas bringing real 'seeing' problems to those on the front needing to guide the way. Those with the higher powered lights always drop them to the low-mid settings and also point them down to make it safer for all.

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Re: Flashing! Aaaargghh!

Postby kb » Fri Aug 24, 2018 5:15 pm

TheWall wrote:Back to the topic ha ha. The pre dawn 'Flasher' is a pet dislike of mine. Part of the 'I am the most important' syndrome which seems to be taking over the world. I happily call them out on it too. Just rude in my opinion.

My small group rides are interesting with everyone owning different strength front lights with the shadowing caused by the watt bazookas bringing real 'seeing' problems to those on the front needing to guide the way. Those with the higher powered lights always drop them to the low-mid settings and also point them down to make it safer for all.

Don't point them down, mount them low :-)
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