Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Microwave Jenny
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Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby Microwave Jenny » Tue Jul 22, 2014 7:56 pm

I had to create an account tonight after something pretty distressing happened. If you were on Miller Street (or have discussed this incident with a workmate, friend etc.) on Tuesday night and were involved in a near miss with a Mazda, read on:

Dear cyclist,

After I came within a metre of hitting you tonight, you turned around, looked me in the eye and shook your head. I was mortified. I want to say sorry. I want to give you my side of the story: my partner is a cyclist, I'm a huge advocate for commuter cyclists, I take proper care to make sure I check my blind spots and know where you are at all times.

I had just left the carpark of my office, I wasn't tired, I wasn't distracted, I wasn't checking my phone, I wasn't impaired in any way - I had both hands on the wheel. You pulled up behind me at a set of lights and your strobe lights were lighting my entire car up, right at eye level. I wondered to myself, "That's not just a flashing light, that's a strobe. Is that legal? What if there are people on the road who suffer seizures from strobe lights as bright as that one? I know if I put one on my dashboard I'd be arrested, I've never seen one that bright. MY EYES." I flipped my mirror up but the damage was done.

After the lights changed, I realised I couldn't see. I was temporarily blinded by your strobe. I implore you to stand in front of it one night and see how long you last. I blinked my eyes repeatedly and realised I needed to get off the road. I put my blinker on and pulled to the left - unfortunately, you chose that moment to overtake me on the left and I didn't see you - you had literally and physiologically created a blind spot in my vision and I repeat: I COULD NOT see you. Or anything else, for that matter. Your light had robbed me of the sense I need the most on the road.

I then saw you pull up behind another car and do the same thing to that driver. Your wheel was maybe 30cms from her number plate. I could see her roof lighting up like a disco. I then drove alongside you for a while on Miller Street until we approached a group of another dozen or so cyclists, and this is where things got interesting: not one of those other cyclists had their lights strobing. Some were flashing but not one of their lights was as bright as yours. Yet they were all completely visible to other road users. Yours appears to be a super light!

I pulled into a petrol station to pull myself together. "I could have killed someone. I could have taken a father from his children. I don't think I could have gone on knowing that I'd done that."

For the rest of the drive home I took careful note of the other cyclists I encountered. Again, 90% weren't strobing, and the ones who were, were significantly less bright than the light you've installed on your bike. Here is my question: motorcyclists don't have strobing lights, yet somehow we manage to see them on the road, so why do you feel the need to impair the vision of the very people you need to be able to see perfectly?

I'm not directing this to all cyclists, I live just off Lilyfield road (the cycling superhighway) and I've never seen anything LIKE the light you've got. Pretty much every cyclist on the road is more considerate than most drivers. I just read a study about it, science agrees with me. Cyclists are awesome.

What I would love for you to do is this: wait till it's dark, then get your bike and position it behind your car with your partner or your parent in the driver's seat. Turn that strobe light on for three minutes (roughly the length of a traffic light stop). Ask them then to try to read something off a page. They won't be able to do it. They won't even be able to see the page in front of them.

Most drivers are trying their best to try to keep everyone safe. What happened tonight could have resulted in a tragedy that I had no control over.

I am writing this tonight in the hope that a) I won't get flamed - because let's face it you've probably been in my position too at one stage or another and b) to prevent a serious accident caused by a too-intense strobe light. If I sound dramatic, that's completely my intention. No one needs to die, the road is there to share. If you, or anyone you know uses a strobe that you feel might be stronger than what should be legal, I urge you to show them this post.

I am happy to be contacted personally, by PM or whatever.

And if you are that cyclist, I assume we both work in North Sydney, so I'd like to buy you lunch one day and sincerely apologise in person.

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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby AUbicycles » Tue Jul 22, 2014 8:35 pm

Thank you for taking the step to post this.

As the admin for the site I am recommending mature discussion and will be quite strict in enforcing this. The poster has raised a valid point regarding the brightness of headlights and I also recommend sticking to this.

So lets be polite and solution orientated.
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Microwave Jenny
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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby Microwave Jenny » Tue Jul 22, 2014 8:53 pm

Thank you, AUbicycles, I sincerely appreciate this. I'm still feeling a bit raw because as I said I try really, really hard, and I would have died along with that rider tonight.

I'm not sure what the answer is but maybe it's as simple as just checking each other's lights out. I'm guessing there are always going to be places to buy non-legal lights online.

In the meantime I'll continue to advocate for cyclists. You can often find me in the comments section in the news telling anti-bike drivers to step off :)

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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby sogood » Tue Jul 22, 2014 8:57 pm

It's very good to see a motorist here to give a most reasonable account of an incident involving a cyclist. I too agree that cyclists need to be considerate in the use of high powered lights. A most timely reminder. Glad that no one was hurt. A big thank you to Jenny.
Last edited by sogood on Tue Jul 22, 2014 8:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby 39x25 » Tue Jul 22, 2014 8:59 pm

Let me add my two cents on lights... I don't get strobes at the front of your bike.. Back ones make more sense as a car with a high closure rate may need the small strobe on the back to see you. The strobe at the front just annoys and blinds ppl. Say on the bay run... At dusk when you ride towards strobes... You are blinded for some time after you pass them. Many point them to project the light as far as possible which in turn points it at oncoming travellers eye level.... Needless to say not cool.

OP won't comment on your rights or wrongs but cudos on your post on a sensitive topic.

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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby Microwave Jenny » Tue Jul 22, 2014 9:03 pm

I know what my wrongs were Sychen, I should NOT have attempted to leave my lane. I know this. I got home in tears. I was just terrified of hitting the car in front, or worse - a pedestrian. I've been beating myself up all night over it, it was survival instinct / preventative action taking over. Thank you for not beating up on me too :)

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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby sogood » Tue Jul 22, 2014 9:42 pm

Relax Jenny. Let a cyclist who has never done a wrong stand up. We all learn through our errors and that's what is most important.
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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby Microwave Jenny » Tue Jul 22, 2014 9:44 pm

Thanks Oxford, I once spent a morning in hospital waiting on x-rays when my partner came off his bike after a driver pulled out in front of him in Annandale without indicating. That driver turned herself into police immediately. There are some drivers who don't empathise or care, but a lot of us do.

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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby skull » Tue Jul 22, 2014 9:45 pm

Like.

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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby Microwave Jenny » Tue Jul 22, 2014 10:16 pm

You've probably all read this article: http://bicyclepaper.com/articles/415-Ca ... oo-Bright-" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

One thing I did notice when I finally got back to Lilyfield tonight was the two-light solution: first light flashing (not strobing), angled down; second light constant, facing forward. I saw this on at least half a dozen riders on Lilyfield rd tonight and they were easy to see and didn't blind me.

On further research, I am beginning to suspect the rider I encountered tonight was not a cyclist but rather a hobbyist/weekend warrior, in spite of his Lycra. A proper cyclist would have done the research I did tonight and would know more about lumens and strobing fans than I do!

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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby AUbicycles » Tue Jul 22, 2014 10:38 pm

Not necessarily. I understand the use of bright lights and there are two parts.

- Bright lights increase visibility allowing you to better see
- The theory is that bright lights allow others to better see you - and to protect yourself by being visible.

It is worthwhile differentiating between flashing lights and steady lights. The brightness of steady lights is probably the harder question. But for flashing lights, yes, when they are pointed straight ahead, there certainly is a point in which they can be too bright - brighter than they need to be.

I am guessing that the flashing mode also uses one of the brightest light settings, for my various lights the flashing mode is certainly not the dimmest light setting. It suggests that a solution coming from the manufacturers may be required. At night time, a mixed solution with a flashing and a steady has always been my preferred set-up. The the reality is that a dimmer flasher is then sufficient.

Returning to this particular scenario, a steady light would have also had a similar effect and this then comes down to the angle of the light. This is where some cyclist education will certainly help - but also some responsibility on manufacturers to support a setup for an automatically dimmed (angled down) light. Functionally, when the light is slightly pointed down, it provides better road visibility.
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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby trailgumby » Tue Jul 22, 2014 11:19 pm

Interesting article.

I'm one of those mountain bikers with a maximum lumens light that i often use during winter for commuting purposes. Since getting this light my attitude to the occasional complaint has softened considerably as this trail light is *very* powerful at full power and is close to what a car would put out on high beam. It is several times more powerful than my old lights set.

I ride thru where you were blinded by this guy. I'd say it is likely this rider was also a mountain biker as this is a popular activity in Sydney's north.

The reason I use this light is because it enables me to see where I'm going. My old lights are marginal for this purpose at road bike speeds. If I had one that had a cutoff beam to avoid blinding drivers I'd use that in preference. Because it doesn't have that type of beam, after blinding one driver and getting ( justifiably) yelled at, when stopped behind cars I am careful to point the bars to the left at least 45 degrees or cup the light with my hand to avoid causing a problem for the drivers night vision. It's not hard to do and is an easy way to be a good citizen on the road. I rarely use full power except on fast poorly lit descents.

Thanks for sharing. It's important to be considerate to other road users.

My light doesn't strobe but I can imagine it would be difficult to deal with at such high intensity

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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby queequeg » Tue Jul 22, 2014 11:47 pm

It's worth pointing out that in NSW, there are no specific rules around lighting equipment on bicycles, other than to say that if you want ride at night you must have a white light on the front and a red light on the back, both of which can be steady or flashing, and must be visible from 200m away.

Bicycled are otherwise exempt from the entire section dealing with lighting in the NSW Road Rules.

Perhaps the rules have not kept up to date. Before LEDs, bike lights were not very effective, or required heavy batteries. That has substantially changed with high intensity LEDs and there is an arms race with lights to see who can produce the brightest one. I have seen some insane configurations of lights, and free from any sort of regulation it has become somewhat ridiculous with what has appeared on the market. None of them are illegal as there are no applicable standards.

On the flip side, we ride with bright lights because we are otherwise invisible. I still get drivers claim they have not seen me when I have their entire car lit up, and I am wearing a flashing reflective vest. I work in Nth Sydney and usually ride up the Pacific Hwy from Miller St. I have rarely encountered a problem, but my lights are pointed down so they hit the road about 8 to 10m in front of me. If you are closer to me than this, the lights may be closer to your seated eye level. This would happen at traffic lights, and I will generally turn my bars so the the lights are not shining in the rear view mirror.

I doubt that cyclists are fully aware of how bright the lights are, especially when the primary concern is to not get hit by cars, or to be able to see where we're going on unlit motorways and backstreets (and you would be amazed how many there are).

As cyclists we should be aware of not dazzling other road users. Thankfully in this case it happened at low speed and nobody was hurt.

I am certainly going to looking into German B&M lights for my next set of lights, and I am guessing that as cycling becomes more popular we'll eventually see lighting standards for bicycles introduced.
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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby Microwave Jenny » Wed Jul 23, 2014 9:29 am

queequeg wrote:That has substantially changed with high intensity LEDs and there is an arms race with lights to see who can produce the brightest one.
I laughed up a lung at "arms race".

After sleeping on it I've decided on a course of action until standards apply: if I encounter a strobing (and let me be clear on this, I'm not referring to flashing lights at all, just the seizure inducing strobes) light, I'm going keep my wheels facing forward and treat it as though I'm driving in fog or heavy rain, just slow right down until my eyes recover and let the cyclist do their thing.

I'm also going to keep spreading that safe driving message throughout the community, because I completely agree with the posters who have written that lights are the only thing keeping cyclists safe.

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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby silentC » Wed Jul 23, 2014 9:33 am

So is the issue the strobing, or the brightness, or both?

My light has several modes, one is a steady beam with a flickering pulse every second which I use when it is dark. It allows you to see where you are going and also helps make you stand out to motorists. I've even had them dip their lights for me, which is a novel experience. Another mode is full on strobe, which you cannot look directly at. On the box it says 'CAUTION: For daytime use only'. I generally don't use it and I can't see how you'd be able to ride with it in the dark anyway, it would make everything look like a very low frame rate movie. If someone is riding around at night with that going, then they're asking for trouble.

I have to say there are some very bright car headlights out there these days too. I've had my eyeballs fried a number of times of late by cars coming up behind me when I'm driving and if they go through a dip or something which makes the line of their low beam raise to eye level in your mirror, you see stars for a few seconds. So I know how you feel. I copped an eye full of one of those lightbars the other night coming home from a gig. It was on the front of a truck and he didn't dip his lights. It was like a small sun. Much worse than driving lights.

The technology is amazing but there is a responsibility to use it considerately which is unfortunately not always being followed through on by many road users.
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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby queequeg » Wed Jul 23, 2014 10:04 am

Microwave Jenny wrote:
queequeg wrote:That has substantially changed with high intensity LEDs and there is an arms race with lights to see who can produce the brightest one.
I laughed up a lung at "arms race".

After sleeping on it I've decided on a course of action until standards apply: if I encounter a strobing (and let me be clear on this, I'm not referring to flashing lights at all, just the seizure inducing strobes) light, I'm going keep my wheels facing forward and treat it as though I'm driving in fog or heavy rain, just slow right down until my eyes recover and let the cyclist do their thing.

I'm also going to keep spreading that safe driving message throughout the community, because I completely agree with the posters who have written that lights are the only thing keeping cyclists safe.
That does sound like the most reasons me thing to do. When I drive in those conditions I slow down and follow the left road shoulder line (if there is one) until I can see properly.

I have no idea how long it will be until there are standards for lights. The most obvious thing would be to just adopt the European standard, but you would also need to update the road rules. Even if that is all that happened, it would be years away.

I only use flash mode on lights during the day. My lights stay on steady mode when commuting, and from a distance I look much like a motorbike. Most of my close encounters with cars happen when cars leave side streets and simply don't look, like the lady last week that was so oblivious to my presence that after I swerved wide to avoid her, I ended up cycling next to her driver side window. She still didn't see or acknowledge me, but thankfully she went straight ahead at the next intersection and I turned right.

I am waiting for my new Halo Belt safety vests to arrive. They should make me more visible without resorting to 1,000,000 lumens day makers! My new vest is blue and red, so it will be interesting to see how drivers treat me.
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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby Bartek » Wed Jul 23, 2014 12:16 pm

http://www.ccwlawyers.com/blog/2011/09/ ... nger.shtml" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I have my lights on constant, never on flash the "moth effect" attracts the very drivers you want to avoid the distracted ones!
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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby nescius » Wed Jul 23, 2014 12:29 pm

Microwave Jenny wrote:...motorcyclists don't have strobing lights, yet somehow we manage to see them on the road...
Bahahahaha, as a motorcyclist I find this statement hilarious.

Otherwise I agree with your post, some cyclists have ridiculously bright lights that will temporarily blind you, I think they just don't think about how bright they are or they think it's better for being noticed. If you get the opportunity to tell them then it's worth letting them know, they might take it on board.
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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby grimbo » Wed Jul 23, 2014 12:51 pm

I have my light on strobe (to be seen), but angled down (so I don't blind the very people I'm alerting, and get hit as a consequence).

What I wonder, though, is do I have it angled down "just right". I have thought about running some tests with a buddy in a car, but it always felt a bit overboard.
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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby Microwave Jenny » Wed Jul 23, 2014 1:17 pm

Oxford wrote:
nescius wrote:
Microwave Jenny wrote:...motorcyclists don't have strobing lights, yet somehow we manage to see them on the road...
Bahahahaha, as a motorcyclist I find this statement hilarious.

....
So do I, how many times drivers have right/left crossed me on the moto with blazing bright white solid front light and often in flouro vest. Or better, look at you and just merge into the lane on top of you.
Yeah, ok, point taken. Pretty much every motorcyclist I know has come off second best when "coming together" with a car (to use one of my favourite F1 terms).

Off topic a bit: do you think motorists are more careful or less careful now that lane splitting is a thing? I know I definitely slow down more around motorbikes for this reason.

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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby WarbyD » Wed Jul 23, 2014 1:36 pm

silentC wrote:My light has several modes, one is a steady beam with a flickering pulse every second which I use when it is dark. It allows you to see where you are going and also helps make you stand out to motorists.

Off-topic (Sorry Jenny! Good post BTW!) but which light is this? I have seen riders with this a couple of times on my commute and am very keen to get the same..

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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby silentC » Wed Jul 23, 2014 1:54 pm

Mine's one of these: http://www.cygolite.com/products/streak280.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;. Should be about $60 online.
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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby bychosis » Wed Jul 23, 2014 2:03 pm

My cheap Solarsorm lights provide a flash mode that, if I use, gives me vision issues from the reflective street signs etc up ahead. It is an example of a strobe that is too bright (and flashes too fast). I hate to think what it does to oncoming vehicles. Consequently I very rarely use the flash mode, instead relying on the steady beam pointed low-ish so as not to dazzle oncomers. The light generally is used on low power, except for fast riding in the dark or off in the scrub.
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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby WarbyD » Wed Jul 23, 2014 2:16 pm

silentC wrote:Mine's one of these: http://www.cygolite.com/products/streak280.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;. Should be about $60 online.
Legend. Cheers!

Edit - checked LBS here in the city, $80 .. checked Velogear.com.au, $59.99 with free shipping - Score! Ordered :)
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Re: Open apology to a North Sydney cyclist

Postby jules21 » Thu Jul 24, 2014 12:18 pm

hi Jenny, thanks for posting. a good point you raise.

1. there is a problem with bike lights. car lights have reflectors in them to restrict the projection of the beam - away from other road users' eyes. due to the more compact and simple nature of bike lights, they don't have that - they just shine straight at you. i am conscious of my light sometimes 'blinding' people and i am regularly blinded by other oncoming cyclists' lights (on paths, more than roads).

to mitigate that, i've stopped using my helmet light, and now only use my handlebar light. it's still bright, but it's not positioned right up at the eye level of other road users. i also turn down the intensity (i have options for that on my light) - but i still get feedback that it's "very bright".

2. somewhat counter-intuitively and frequently overlooked - it is the behaviour of the person facing the light which has a major influence on their vision. the natural tendency when faced with a glaring light source is - you guessed it - to look straight at it. try looking away from it. you'll be surprised at how well that works in reducing the disabling effect of its glare.

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