Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

Equipment and On Road Behaviour, Laws and Rules. Cycling Promotion and Advocacy

Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

Postby Aushiker » Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:09 am

argues Dave McCraw in his latest blog post. Dave opens his discussion of the topic with the following comments which I I must admit I hadn't consider in regards to this issue.

First, forgive me – put your driving hat on! Do you think the safety of your car could be improved if you drove around town at night with your high beam headlights?

Probably you’d agree that this would be counterproductive (and nobody does it).

So let’s think about the back of your car. Would you drive around town at night with your rear foglight on because you felt it made you safer? No (and again, nobody does this).

What about traffic lights? Making them twice, five times or ten times brighter than they are? (Maybe we could recycle the bulbs from car foglights when they’re scrapped to make traffic lights really hard to miss?)

News flash, people who shoot red lights already know they’re red…

You’ve probably figured out that I’m asking why we don’t seem to apply the same logic to the back of our bikes. There, “the brighter the better” seems to be the rule of the day, and it’s interesting to wonder why.



Personally I run two Radbot 1000 1w lights on my commuter (my tourer but has a Busch & Mueller dynamo rear light). Slightly in my defence I do mount my Radbot 1000s down low on my rear chain stays (DF) and low down on the seat stays (Bacchetta Giro) to try to minimise the negative aspects of using such bright lights.

On a positive note, I have had one motorist stop ahead of me to ask me about the lights as he found me very easy to see and was impressed by them. A second motorist has also commented positively at a set of traffic lights. I don't know if they have upset other riders or drivers so I don't have balanced feedback but :(.

I will be converting the Bacchetta Giro over to dynamo power before winter in 2014 (Australia here) and will then go with a Busch & Mueller tail light (probably the brake light type). I will be interested in how that works out; hopefully favourably as being hit from behind is a <a href="http://cyclepolice.com/profiling-cyclists-injured-in-crashes/">significant cause</a> of crashes involving cyclists here in Australia.

Has Dave got a point? What do you use and where do you mount them?

Regards
Andrew
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by BNA » Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:26 am

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Re: Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

Postby clackers » Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:26 am

I think you should do anything you can to be seen, Andrew. At times during a wet, dark, winter with multiple lights and reflective surfaces I must look to cars like a moving Christmas tree, but if they're laughing ... I've got their attention.

I'll settle for that. :)
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Re: Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

Postby Blakeylonger » Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:43 am

None of this is new news.

Start here:
http://search.bikelist.org/getmsg.asp?F ... 2.0764.eml

Don't use douchebag hi power unshaped beam lights in areas where you will encounter oncoming people, head or tail. Especially fyxo 'king bright / deal extreme, or lights designed for MTBing.

Use shaped beam headlights (edelux, cyo, luxos, saferide etc) that put the light on the road where it's needed and a solid rear light to allow distance judgement, the seculite is too dim though, the B&M toplight / Philips saferide lumiring with fresnel lens and the upcoming B&M secula are much better and also have retroreflectors built in.

Spread your lumens over a larger area, don't have ever brighter point sources.

Moving reflectors are more visible to cars than tail lights too, be it pedal/shoe/crank/rim, get some SOLAS tape and put 4 pieces on each rim, bits on your heels/pedals etc.
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Re: Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

Postby BastardSheep » Tue Oct 22, 2013 12:57 pm

A cyclist for the most part doesn't have a shiny surface, so unlike the body of a car, the body of a cyclist is harder to see. If a cyclist has dim lights on, they're very difficult to see. Quite often both riding and driving I've not realised a cyclist was there at first despite having a dull rear light, and myself having pretty good vision to the point I don't require glasses at all.

There's a few cyclists around that I see regularly who have quite bright lights, they're unmissable and unmistakable. One in particular has a single front light that is on full time and also flashes every second or two, he is unmissable while at the same time his light is less blinding and more obvious at the same time than many smaller lights on other cyclists. I wish I saw this person at times other than when I was in the car because I want to know what brand/model it is to get one for myself.

My point, ultimately, is that it's better to be too bright than not bright enough, especially when your body in general doesn't shine back light from headlights as much as other vehicles (even motorbikes) tend to.

I've noticed I definitely have been given more passing distance by drivers since I started running dual Radbot 1000's. I was pondering dropping back to 500's, but now I won't.

Blakeylonger wrote:Spread your lumens over a larger area, don't have ever brighter point sources.


This is very true. I've noticed especially for motorbikes the trend at the moment is for tiny little rear lights and turn lights. It's getting hard to tell if a motorbike is braking and you have to look carefully to see if they're signalling most of the time. The larger surface area at the source lights are definitely better if the aim is for the lights to be seen by others, and that will definitely be guiding my future purchases.
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Re: Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

Postby find_bruce » Tue Oct 22, 2013 1:11 pm

What Mr McCraw is apparently unaware of is that over the years the brightness of car headlights, car tail lights and traffic lights have all increased significantly over the last 20-30 years. The issue is not how bright it is, but as others have noted, where it is directed & the size of the light source.

Similarly a brighter light can be seen more effectively during the day
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Re: Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

Postby simonn » Tue Oct 22, 2013 1:25 pm

...and he is pulling it out of wherever.

In summary: I think bright rear lights are bad and might cause problems. The end.

Personally, I'd like to see some evidence to back that up. I've done 1000kms of audax riding too and I like bright lights (to a point... determined mostly by battery life, because I haven't got around to getting a dynamo yet).

I was driving through Edinburgh recently at dusk when a rider joined the road up ahead. I was some way off, so he was perfectly safe jumping on, and he proceeded at a reasonable pace. Maybe it’s just been a while since last winter, but I found his rear light to be ferociously bright – just painful to drive behind.

Rather than wait behind as we came up towards a pinch point for a railway bridge, I found myself dropping a gear and accelerating hard to get past.


Oh, you "found yourself" overtaking where you shouldn't have did you? Riiiigghht. Tells me pretty much everything I need to know.
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Re: Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

Postby biker jk » Tue Oct 22, 2013 1:34 pm

find_bruce wrote:What Mr McCraw is apparently unaware of is that over the years the brightness of car headlights, car tail lights and traffic lights have all increased significantly over the last 20-30 years. The issue is not how bright it is, but as others have noted, where it is directed & the size of the light source.

Similarly a brighter light can be seen more effectively during the day


That's correct. While a halogen car headlight might produce 1,400 lumens HID lights can output 3,000 lumens. Many rear bike lights would be lucky to produce 50 lumens.
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Re: Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

Postby RonK » Tue Oct 22, 2013 2:09 pm

There must be a point where a brighter light does not add to visibilty, and becomes instead a nusiance if it is aimed poorly. I think lights with mutliple LED's and flashing paterns rather than extremely bright lights are more effective. Nothing catches the eye better than movement.
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Re: Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

Postby Mulger bill » Tue Oct 22, 2013 2:27 pm

Radbot 1000 low on the RH stay, 500 slightly higher on the LH and an original Redzone 4 angled down to cast a huge red pool around the rear of the bike off the post. Two LED red Kathmandu blinky on the RH side of the lid.
Gen 2 AyUps (medium) on the bars aimed to centre on the road at ~4 and 7m and another set of mediums on the lid. Two LED white Kathmandu blinky on the RH fork leg.
4x reflex tape on each rim, 2x Radbot reflectors to rear, Crumpler Ankle Thing with salvaged silver Reflexite tape from a Rail industry HiViz vest stitched around it on RH ankle, Deuter ankle band with standard reflective trim on LH ankle. Native HiViz trim on shoes, clothing and backpack.

Compliments to date: 3-Two of the "Good to see a bike rider before I'm on top of him" variety, one "Showtime, you're fredding bright, goodonyer!" from a P plated tradie ute.
Complaints to date: 1.5-Two blokes doing silly things on a shared path, both running one LED blinkies to the front after I shone the lid mounts full on them from a way back so as to calculate probable avoidance maneuvres and one taxi driver who gave his passenger a rough ride over the top of a roundabout-passing me in the middle of it-so as to arive at his drop off point a whole seven seconds before I passed. He got the full force of the lid mounts from about 30-40 cms away when I poked me head in his window and told him I had a way to help him see better...

An opinion piece from a bloke who admits to driving dangerously around cyclists isn't likely to change that.


NB- I still have some of that salvaged Reflexite tape left if anybody wants some...
...whatever the road rules, self-preservation is the absolute priority for a cyclist when mixing it with motorised traffic.
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Re: Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

Postby Aushiker » Tue Oct 22, 2013 2:47 pm

Mulger bill wrote:An opinion piece from a bloke who admits to driving dangerously around cyclists isn't likely to change that.


I think you are being harsh there ... he was honest, he also works hard locally advocating for cyclists.

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Re: Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

Postby g-boaf » Tue Oct 22, 2013 9:44 pm

Aushiker wrote:
Mulger bill wrote:An opinion piece from a bloke who admits to driving dangerously around cyclists isn't likely to change that.


I think you are being harsh there ... he was honest, he also works hard locally advocating for cyclists.

Andrew



MB is being honest as well.

As for car headlights being bright, yes, they are. But a lot of them auto-dim as well when they detect oncoming vehicles (eg, previous model E-Class).
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Re: Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

Postby zero » Thu Oct 24, 2013 1:59 pm

My tail light has to be visible past an oncoming pair of 45w hids that have 2 damn driving lights below the bumper, and it also has to be immediately visible and warning when I'm obscured by one overtaking car (from the point of view of the motorist behind that overtaking car). It also has to be visible past the idiots that drive landcruisers in the city that have headlights 5 feet off the ground.

ie some blog whinger can either go and fix all the over intense car lights, all the overheight headlights, and ban all the tailgaters from driving, or he can go stick his head back up where the sun don't shine from whence it came.
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Re: Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

Postby GAV!N » Wed Oct 30, 2013 6:24 pm

zero wrote:My tail light has to be visible past an oncoming pair of 45w hids that have 2 damn driving lights below the bumper, and it also has to be immediately visible and warning when I'm obscured by one overtaking car (from the point of view of the motorist behind that overtaking car). It also has to be visible past the idiots that drive landcruisers in the city that have headlights 5 feet off the ground.

ie some blog whinger can either go and fix all the over intense car lights, all the overheight headlights, and ban all the tailgaters from driving, or he can go stick his head back up where the sun don't shine from whence it came.


Can't agree more. I was just thinking the guy that wrote this blog is probably one of the every 2nd idiots driving around with their driving/fog lights on ALL THE TIME. :roll:
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Re: Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

Postby il padrone » Wed Oct 30, 2013 6:44 pm

Aushiker wrote:I will be converting the Bacchetta Giro over to dynamo power before winter in 2014 (Australia here) and will then go with a Busch & Mueller tail light (probably the brake light type). I will be interested in how that works out; hopefully favourably as being hit from behind is a <a href="http://cyclepolice.com/profiling-cyclists-injured-in-crashes/">significant cause</a> of crashes involving cyclists here in Australia.

A little off the topic, however it is woth noting that the fear of the rear-ender is rather misplaced. Even in your linked study it is apparent that it is a lesser risk.

•Close to 40 per cent of all crashes in the study involved an oncoming vehicle turning right across the path of a cyclist who was continuing straight.
◦In more than 60 per cent of these cases the vehicle driver was crossing two or more traffic lanes while undertaking the right turn manoeuvre.
◦The cyclist either struck the passenger side of the turning vehicle or the cyclist was struck on the right side.
◦In more than half of all turning vehicles the driver was intending to turn into a side street, frequently occurring at a T-junction, while 25 per cent of cases involved a vehicle that was turning right at a signalised cross-intersection.


Issues that arise in discussions within the cycling community and the general community such as close passing, an issue that the WA Police will not enforce and an issue that the RAC of WA will not support stronger legislation on was a cause in 11% of cases.



Rear-end collisions are very dangerous, most often fatal. But they are not the most common type of cyclist collision in urban areas (they are the most common, and severe, on rural roads though). Collisions at intersections are far more frequent, and as the data indicates, most often the driver was at fault. So be safe and ride wide on the road, use good lights especially headlights and establish a presence when riding through intersections. Minimising the number of intersections crossed is also a good idea, often best done by riding main roads in my opinion.
Riding bikes in traffic - what seems dangerous is usually safe; what seems safe is often more dangerous.
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Re: Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

Postby RobertFrith » Wed Oct 30, 2013 11:49 pm

As BastardSheep and Blakeylonger have mentioned both the scale of light source and scale of vehicle are significant. Most cars have taillights equivalent in area to a family pizza. And they have two lights at both front and back providing visual distance cues.

Weight and aerodynamic penalties, let alone the mounting dramas make this type of lighting impractical for cyclists and the solution most of us have bought into is brightness and winkiness. As a motorist I reckon it works.

McCraw "found" himself dropping a gear and accelerating hard to pass. Really is priceless, as if he awoke from a dream. Only to be caught up to at the red light. He could have simply backed off... who knows, perhaps he had a potentially explosive bowel threatening emergency or something.
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Re: Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

Postby InTheWoods » Thu Oct 31, 2013 12:16 pm

+1 to what Il Padrone said.

The outcome of being hit from the rear is usually more serious, but its a less likely type of collision. I suspect (this is not based on research) that in most fatal or serious being hit from the rear collisions, the driver also saw the cyclist but did not leave a safe distance (excluding people who ride at night with no or inadequate lights). The fear of being hit from the rear probably stems from the fact they are more often fatal and get more news coverage, I guess. I'm afraid of being hit from the rear - but by a driver who has seen me but just doesn't care enough to leave enough space.
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Re: Cyclists: blinding tail lights make you less safe

Postby casual_cyclist » Thu Oct 31, 2013 1:48 pm

Aushiker wrote:Personally I run two Radbot 1000 1w lights on my commuter (my tourer but has a Busch & Mueller dynamo rear light). Slightly in my defence I do mount my Radbot 1000s down low on my rear chain stays (DF) and low down on the seat stays (Bacchetta Giro) to try to minimise the negative aspects of using such bright lights.

Having spent quite a few hours following those Radbot's, I think I am qualified to comment that they are fine.
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