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Thread: "Flashlight Etiquette" for Cyclists

  1. #121
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    Default Re: "Flashlight Etiquette" for Cyclists

    I mounted a 225 lumen Maglite Mini Pro (CREE XP-G) to my handlebars for night riding. It has a very floody beam and lights up the road well. I took it out for a spin on an unlit busy road with minimal shoulder room last night, along with my Planet Bike 3 flashing red taillight. Drivers were generally nice and gave me enough room. Earlier, when I had the light aimed higher, I got several high beam flashes. I don't think my light is any worse than the luxury vehicle headlights prevalent in my area. 200 lumens is actually the upper limit of what I would consider suitable for road use.

  2. #122

    Default Re: "Flashlight Etiquette" for Cyclists

    If you look at the new Lupine rear light coming out, it increases in intensity when it senses lights pointed at it to become more visible to drivers. There need to be more front headlights on the market that actually dim/reduce their brightness levels when they sense oncoming cars so we can run lights on high when it makes sense, but not blind people.

  3. #123
    Flashaholic* Derek Dean's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Flashlight Etiquette" for Cyclists

    Couloiman, it's NOT the intensity of the beam that blinds oncoming traffic, it's the shape of the beam. Floody lights send half their photons shooting off into the stratosphere, while a light with a shaped keeps all it's photons directed onto the roadway, where we need them.

    For instance, the 225 lumen Maglite Mini Pro refereed to in LanthanumK's post above is unsuitable for general street riding, because no matter how you try to aim it, a large portion of that beam is going directly into the eyes of oncoming traffic. This is compounded by the fact that an LED presents a very small and highly concentrated point source of super bright light which, especially with night adapted eyes, can literally sear the eyes of those coming towards you.

    On the other hand, if a designer takes the time to shape the beam so that all the light falls on the roadway, with a sharp horizontal cutoff not more than 3-4 feet high, then it's quite possible to have a 1200 lumen light going full blast and not cause any discomfort for oncoming traffic.

    Even better would be to equip modern bike lights with lowbeam/high beam selector switches, so we could have extra reach and height when we needed it, but could easily switch to low beam only when appropriate.

    Fortunately, there are some companies out there starting to produce these much needed bicycle specific head and tail lights. The future for bike lights does indeed look bright.

  4. #124

    Default Re: "Flashlight Etiquette" for Cyclists

    Quote Originally Posted by Derek Dean View Post
    On the other hand, if a designer takes the time to shape the beam so that all the light falls on the roadway, with a sharp horizontal cutoff not more than 3-4 feet high, then it's quite possible to have a 1200 lumen light going full blast and not cause any discomfort for oncoming traffic.
    In practice, the short wheelbase of a bicycle results in the beam being aimed above the horizon in many obvious scenarios. The pavement on my street has heaves big enough to send my fancy German-spec lights aiming high enough to hit street signs intermittently. Coming over a rise, or uphill to an intersection, are a couple other such scenarios. This affects all vehicles in the worst cases, but bicycles suffer more due to their short wheelbase and less effective suspension (if any at all). e.g. this intersection on my way home, where even well-aimed low-beam headlights will be staring me in the face as I come up the center-turn lane:



    In American city arterial use, I add an indiscriminate "spray light everywhere" light to my dyno-powered lights. It's difficult enough to show up as it is, this isn't the place for subtlety.



    Wishful thinking aside, there's no danger of "blinding" anyone with a mainstream bicycle headlight in this type of environment. If I pull up behind a car that sits low to the ground, I'll try not to blast my headlight straight through their rear window at a stoplight, but that's about as far as I'll worry about it.

    An MUP environment would be the opposite extreme. I'm on a near-collision course with people who have weak lights, or no lights at all, in much darker conditions. It's a no-win situation... with a properly-aimed dyno light, I may not see an unlighted pedestrian in dark clothing until I'm at point-blank range. And at a useful cruise speed, like 15-20mph, this is a serious problem. A light that will let me see them in time is going to disorient them. Forget it, this is why we have arterial streets

    In a dark secondary-highway environment, separate high and low beams can be useful, regardless of what you drive. The relatively friendly beam of a good dynamo light, combined with the deer-detection abilities of a high-powered battery light with a "shotgun" beam, make a good combination for me out on the highway. The high-beam light also makes a useful social "bargaining chip" to cue oncoming people to shut off *their* high-beams.
    Last edited by mechBgon; 09-20-2014 at 02:47 PM.

  5. #125
    Flashaholic* Derek Dean's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Flashlight Etiquette" for Cyclists

    mechBgon, my God, do you actually ride in that kind of traffic? I guess I'm riding in never-never land out here in Monterey. I'm on a partially lit bike trail coming home from work, where on a busy night I might pass 6-10 people coming the other way.

    I think if I were in your position, I'd have every light I own blazing away, and then some. Good luck .

  6. #126

    Default Re: "Flashlight Etiquette" for Cyclists

    Quote Originally Posted by Derek Dean View Post
    mechBgon, my God, do you actually ride in that kind of traffic? I guess I'm riding in never-never land out here in Monterey. I'm on a partially lit bike trail coming home from work, where on a busy night I might pass 6-10 people coming the other way.

    I think if I were in your position, I'd have every light I own blazing away, and then some. Good luck .
    Yes, I go both ways on that bridge every day. Our city has a river down the middle, and they don't have bike lanes on the bridges Thankfully, the speed limit is 30mph (although people routinely approach 35 on the bridge), so it's not like it's a 45mph zone or something.

    From a visibility perspective, the main hazard is traffic pulling out from the sides on the north end of the bridge. By the time I reach the intersection in the middle of the second photo, I'm up to 25-30mph in either direction. A collision would be very ugly. To make things extra fun, I commute in the winter and those side streets can be solid ice, so people may not be able to stop even if they want to. Anyway, I often use a strobing light in daytime to differentiate myself from the background (Cygolite Streak 280) in combination with a Cyo Premium T as the baseline. At night, a pulsing steady mode like Cygolite's SteadyPulse or DiNotte's pulsed modes can be a good compromise. Anyway, this is the type of environment where we all recognize the need to just do what it takes to be noticed, and there's so much background light that no one can get disoriented.

  7. #127

    Default Re: "Flashlight Etiquette" for Cyclists

    The only thing that stops a car driver here is a strong flashing front light. Politeness will get you killed crossing the street. I do not ride on the road 99 percent of the time, too dangerous. I have tried putting my hand over the strobe in the intersections & drivers pretend I'm not there. Yes, strobes can be seizure inducing....I want the car "seized" so I'm not run over. Other than that I do what I can to take it easy on others eyes. I am not bothered by others bright lights as I don't stare into them. I want to do what someone here mentioned & that is to angle the flashlight down on strobe.

  8. #128
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    Default Re: "Flashlight Etiquette" for Cyclists

    This is my personal view as a cyclist/commuter who also drives and has professional experience as a transport/highways engineer.

    A decent amount of white light on the front in a fairly wide beam (lets say 200-500 lumen) improves safety and makes the cyclist visible, especially e.g. to drivers pulling out of side roads at T- junctions. As a further example from my experience if I use just a 'normal' > 200 lumen light on a country road then over half motorists coming the other way don't don't dip their headlights, thus dazzling me - either they don't see me at all (very dangerous) or more likely it is seeing the bright light coming towards then that triggers the average driver to dip their headlights.

    Going beyond this to very intense lights, either through focussed beams or 1000+ lumens then rider has to be careful where they direct that light, shining bright light onto drivers eyes either through the windscreen or via their rear view mirror is simply hazardous, it does nobody any favors and is no better behavior than motorist dazzling cyclists with full beam headlights.

    I dislike all flashing lights, I think they are just distracting and annoying. 1 or 2 decent solid red LED lights, set to constant mode, on the back is enough to make the rider conspicuous IMHO. I understand people who think a blinky rear light helps them be seen, especially if it is not particularly powerful and is supplementing another constant rear light. However on a few occasions I've cycled behind bikes decked out with multiple very bright flashing LED's and I've found the experience frustrating, it also affected my vision to all the other hazards on the road that I need to pay attention to as a cyclist.

    As for flashing white lights on the front, (or I've even seen flashing red lights on the front) I really don't see the point and I just find these annoying and distracting. As a cyclist it is important to be seen, decent constant lights front&rear and reflective clothing do this. IMHO blinking lights at the rear and especially at the front don't add any value and actually increase hazards rather than reduce them.

  9. #129
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    Default Re: "Flashlight Etiquette" for Cyclists

    I agree with this chap:

    http://mccraw.co.uk/blinding-lights-reduce-road-safety/

    Shortened version; if your lights are obnoxious enough to distract and / or provoke a bad reaction, you're not helping.
    Cruzbike V2k, #itsnotarace

  10. #130

    Default Re: "Flashlight Etiquette" for Cyclists

    Quote Originally Posted by verytom View Post
    This is my personal view as a cyclist/commuter who also drives and has professional experience as a transport/highways engineer.

    A decent amount of white light on the front in a fairly wide beam (lets say 200-500 lumen) improves safety and makes the cyclist visible, especially e.g. to drivers pulling out of side roads at T- junctions. As a further example from my experience if I use just a 'normal' > 200 lumen light on a country road then over half motorists coming the other way don't don't dip their headlights, thus dazzling me - either they don't see me at all (very dangerous) or more likely it is seeing the bright light coming towards then that triggers the average driver to dip their headlights.

    Going beyond this to very intense lights, either through focussed beams or 1000+ lumens then rider has to be careful where they direct that light, shining bright light onto drivers eyes either through the windscreen or via their rear view mirror is simply hazardous, it does nobody any favors and is no better behavior than motorist dazzling cyclists with full beam headlights.

    I dislike all flashing lights, I think they are just distracting and annoying. 1 or 2 decent solid red LED lights, set to constant mode, on the back is enough to make the rider conspicuous IMHO. I understand people who think a blinky rear light helps them be seen, especially if it is not particularly powerful and is supplementing another constant rear light. However on a few occasions I've cycled behind bikes decked out with multiple very bright flashing LED's and I've found the experience frustrating, it also affected my vision to all the other hazards on the road that I need to pay attention to as a cyclist.

    As for flashing white lights on the front, (or I've even seen flashing red lights on the front) I really don't see the point and I just find these annoying and distracting. As a cyclist it is important to be seen, decent constant lights front&rear and reflective clothing do this. IMHO blinking lights at the rear and especially at the front don't add any value and actually increase hazards rather than reduce them.
    I agree.

    This is the main reason I despise LED bike lights, they are overcompensating for lack of light quality (even high cri LEDs are pathetic at showing the difference between oil and water etc.) by making LEDs brighter. (Generator run infinite runtime) incandescent lights and hid lights are much better around the 200 lumen level than LEDs.

    But etiquette for cycling lights on the road starts there, lumens. No matter where the light is pointed, lumens matter. Because of rain (reflection) and hills, even with all the light pointed on the road in front of you, more than 200 lumens maybe 300 is too bright. It appears six to ten times as bright as a car light when at the same lumen level because the source is tighter( generally a car with halogen will be 400 lumens each normal headlamp, so a 400 lumen flashlight will damage the eyes 6x as much.) So, using more than that has to be angled with optics not reflectors, and only when the time is right. Using flashing is much better than strobe. Slow flashing where the light never completely fades off is best, and not more than one flashing unless somehow synched, or if both are flashing at far apart frequencies.

    As a cyclist with years of expert experience headlamps are silly to wear. Never seen it save someone's life. Maybe a flashing light as headlamp on 50 lumens or less but never as your source of light.

    When stopped at a stoplight, turn off or cover flashing lights, but keep solids on. Don't track stop at night, and always keep headlight pointed straight and away from any mirrors.

    In tunnels, turn only solid on, as well as single-lane roads that are two way, so as to prevent the flashing from throwing off driver's vision and let it adapt to your light.

    Do not run flashing when in sidewalks, and in general, never ride on crosswalk-crossing sidewalks. Don't run flashing headlights on pedestrian trails either, mountain bikers should only run solid.

    IMO best frequency is between 2ps and 5ps. Lower than two can work but over 5 per second is too fast. Rear light should always be flashing as to not be confused with normally-moving cars. Rear light power should be unlimited, still, more power than a Surfas Thunderbolt is too much for city commute, and again, try to cover it while stopped.


    I've seen death and serious accidents. I know what cycling is in a medium sized city. Above is what I've learned to be polite and safe. Safety before politeness, it is safe to be polite though.
    Be the light.

  11. #131
    Flashaholic angerdan's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Flashlight Etiquette" for Cyclists

    Color rendering is key to separate oil from water. Average bike lights have CRI72. Some Models like Lupine with special order 4.900K or Magicshine MJ808 P7 have higher CRI.

    Etiquette is respect and key is not to blind others! It's everything about luminous intensity (measured in candela) and beam (alignment, cut-off beam shape).
    Good examples are lights with reflector like Specialiced Flux Expert Pro, Supernova M99 and Outbound Lighting Focal Series. It's even possible to use a CAD designed lens design like the Lupine SL A.

    Constant light is the safest solution to avoid disturbing other drivers/cyclists.
    Compromise can be pulse light, which slowly fades between low and medium brightness. Example are Cateye Rapid X3 and Knog Blinder MOB V Mr Chips COB Bike Light.

    Unlimited power for rearlights will be available if it's powered by an well sized capacity powerbank. Best example is the Orfos Flare Pro.

  12. #132

    Default Re: "Flashlight Etiquette" for Cyclists

    My main reason for joining cpf is to use the knowledge base here as I design my own lighting system for my personal use in cycling. I have a modest interest in flashlights but lighting for my recumbent tricycle is my primary interest.
    Toward that end, I appreciate that so many others have shared their opinions and their experiences, in this thread, with lights for cycling. One thing that is confirmed for me is my own belief that TWO headlights may be best. One with a tightly-shaped steady beam by which to navigate in the dark, and another with a broader flashing beam by which to be seen during daylight. As others have indicated, that be-seen headlight need not be immensely bright — bright enough to be conspicuous, but not so bright as to dazzle.
    Thanks again to those who have shared.

  13. #133
    Flashaholic angerdan's Avatar
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    Default Re: "Flashlight Etiquette" for Cyclists

    I gues you mean two headlights. Once i used four and went back to two.

    Why design a new light when there are so many high tech lights available?
    https://www.outboundlighting.com/
    https://www.kickstarter.com/projects...sting-bike-lig

    Flash/strobe modes aren't safe, they distranct the attention to much to the light (instead of all moving participants).
    Pulse Mode or steady+flash is better, because the flash would be only additional to the constant mode light.
    Cateye Rapid X3 can do this.

  14. #134

    Default Re: "Flashlight Etiquette" for Cyclists

    Quote Originally Posted by angerdan View Post
    I gues you mean two headlights.

    Right. That’s why I said
    ...my own belief that TWO headlights may be best.



    Why design a new light when there are so many high tech lights available?
    It may well be that a commercially available headlight (or taillight) may be part of my system. Note that I referred to designing “my own lighting system” and not to designing my own headlight or taillight elements.



    Flash/strobe modes aren't safe, they distranct the attention to much to the light (instead of all moving participants).
    Pulse Mode or steady+flash is better, because the flash would be only additional to the constant mode light.
    For nighttime operation, I agree that there should be a steady light on which other drivers & riders can focus, to aid in distance perception. During daytime use, however (which is when I referred to using a flashing light in the front), that is not a concern. Then, conspicuity is the goal, with normal daytime distance perception being possible without any additional light needed. During daytime, it just becomes an exercise in finding the flash duration and intensity that will attract attention without dazzling the observer.

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