Is one rear blinky enough? Are more lights too much?

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Ohiojeff
Participant
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Last night, I saw a cyclist downtown who had one rear blinky on his bike. It was kind of hard to see with headlights, street lights, store lights etc. competing as well. His or her clothing was dark. It got me thinking about whether my own rear blinky (cateye, 3 LEDs-seat post mount) is enough when there is a lot of traffic and ambient light.

And then this morning I was a bit behind someone on the jail trail who had it goin’ on as far as rear lighting goes. I thought it was a police car at first, white and red strobes, visible for a LONG way. But I wondered whether it would be too much in slow moving traffic. Seems like it could be nearly blinding up close, but maybe I shouldn’t worry about the car driver as long as I KNOW for a fact they see me. And they will see this bike, the lighting was impressive.


netviln
Participant
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I use a niterider cherrybomb. It uses a 1/2 watt main led and 2 side leds and is very bright. I think one light is enough, if its a good light with good batteries. I have been behind some riders that I could barely see their rear blinky even on a dark street. I think most of that is due to batteries.

As for bright lights bugging the person behind me, whiel I understand the possible annoyance, I dont look directly into the brake lights of cars so I would hope people dont look directly into my light either. I would rather be visible and annoy someone that not be visible. At least they know im there.


sloaps
Participant
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I would err on the side of annoyance. You got their attention: mission accomplished.

I have a three LED cateye on the bike and one on my bag. I don’t think they’re terribly bright, but whatever.

Once one or both die somehow, I’ll probably get the plant bike superflash. It’s wicked bright and has an awkward pattern to the lights that attracts attention.

@ Jeff: It may have been the light you saw on the jail trail.


brian j
Participant
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I tend to run my rear lights in steady mode because riding for any distance behind someone with a blinky is enough to make you go crazy (I believe the Randonneurs USA have a rule that rear lights must be steady…Dan?).

I use one steady rear light, plus ample reflectors on my mudguards and panniers.


Lyle
Participant
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^that.

I find it disconcerting and difficult to locate a cyclist who keeps going bright and dark, and as people age (hello, Pittsburgh) their eyes lose the ability to rapidly adjust.

attention isn’t the only mission, you want them to be able to keep seeing you as they get close. If they have to avert their eyes to avoid being dazzled, and something keeps flashing in their peripheral vision, dragging their eyes back, they can’t navigate well — at precisely the point you want them to be in top form. The brighter the light, the more I hate the flashing.

I’m a big fan of rear reflectors and front lights. The blinky is just backup for the guy who doesn’t have his lights on, or for dusk and dawn.

You don’t need to be seen from a mile away — you only need to be seen soon enough for the motorist to make plans to avoid you.

The flashing mode is a way to conserve batteries, but I think that safety is more important.


erok
Keymaster
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you don’t have to be seen from a mile away, but there is something comforting about being able to be spotted from a few blocks away. i feel the blink mode helps make you stand out among all the other visual stimuli in the city


BradQ
Participant
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I use blink, and try to have at least two rear blinkies on me. Good for depth perception n’at.

Brian, you are correct about those randoneuring folks requiring steady rear lights. That’s one reason why so many european made lights have a steady on function… From what I understand it is even required by certain european countries for some reason or another.


Ohiojeff
Participant
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I tend to run my rear lights in steady mode

That’s another thing I’ve been wondering about. I think I just assume that the flashing mode is more noticeable–esp. the weird pattern ones. Is steady mode as visible or more so? I recently started using my headlight in steady mode. I’ve noticed that oncoming bikes with always on headlight present better than ones with the flashing white LEDs. I’ve been toying with the idea of building up a front wheel around a generator hub, does anyone know if one hub will power both front and rear lights?

@sloaps. It’s possible, but there about 4 or 5 lights on the back of the bike. Just before 7AM the “white” flashers were as bright as camera strobes, and the red ones very bright. It really did remind me of the new low profile light bars on a Pittsburgh police cars (though it wasn’t really that bright–those things are blinding if you look straight at them). Whatever it was, it was eye-catching.

@netviln–I thought about that after I posted. Batteries aren’t forever, esp. rechargable ones. I noticed this morning my headlight needs new ones.


Ohiojeff
Participant
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I understand it is even required by certain european countries for some reason or another.

Yeah, I ride with a guy from Germany who told me that is the case there.


rsprake
Participant
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If I am on a trail or riding with other cyclists I keep my rear lights on steady but if I am riding on the road by myself they both go to blink.


dmtroyer
Participant
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If I am on a trail or riding with other cyclists I keep my rear lights on steady but if I am riding on the road by myself they both go to blink.

+1


brian j
Participant
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@jeff: Most hubs will power a 6 volt system, which means a 2.4 watt headlight and a .6 watt tail light, or a single 3 watt headlight.

Peter White has everything you need to know about generator lighting.


netviln
Participant
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I try to remember to keep my headlight steady if im on the trail and blink when im in a place that I think cars should notice me more. Sometimes I forget to change it is its not dark out because I dont notice that its still on blink. My back is almost always blink mostly because i cant quite reach the button while riding.


caitlin
Participant
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I use multiple rear lights! I use one on the bag or under my seat, and one on my helmet. I think helmet lights are the best because drivers can see them easier–they are up high!


joeframbach
Participant
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I’ve had a lot of positive comments from drivers about my helmet light. At least 5 times in the past 6 months (when I started riding with a helmet light) a driver would tell me at an intersection that they like the helmet light.


rsprake
Participant
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I want to get One of these


Chris Mayhew
Participant
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I have one of those lights. I like them. They are definitely a “be seen” and not a “see” light. Also, they are not quite “be seen” enough for me. I rode home with one last night and it wasn’t the attention catcher I was hoping it would be. Good, but not great. Certainly better than nothing.

And really, that’s where your focus should be the front light. From behind you’re bathed in the light from a car. From the front you’re out of range of the headlights. People turning left in front of you account for the biggest source of traffic deaths for adults. Get a big big front light, preferably on your helmet (so you can shine it on people pulling out from side streets and turning left in front of you)


rsprake
Participant
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mayhew, how would it be on a short stretch of dark trail? I ride through a small and flat stretch of Frick Park every night and it’s getting to the point where I need to be able to see dogs and people where I point my head and not my handlebars.


Mick
Participant
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I have a dislike for riders who have blinking BRIGHT! front lights that they point into people’s eyes. Same with bright helmet lights in traffic.

I tried to stop some guy who was weaving down a crowded sidewalk with a trails quality bright light blinking at pedestrians’s eyes.

I use a 3-led blinky fastened to the back of my rack. Seat-post lights get blocked when I have a load. I tend to have my front on blink.

I’m rethinking this, though. Blinking is better for getting attention, but steady is much better for them to see where you are and how you are moving.

The too-bright front blinking light pointing towards the viewers eyes thing is likely counter-productive – forcing drivers to look away from you.

Rite Aid used to sell “finger lights,” minature LED flashights you could put on your finger, bright enough to see without being obnoxious.

Good turn signals. If you pointed at a Pgh-lefter and shook it side to side, he knew you meant no. If you waved someone though a 4-way stop they would go in a timely fashion. You could point at a driver with out lifing your hand from the handlebars.

Im thinking of getting a triangle reflector for my rear.

Mick


netviln
Participant
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I agree with controlling where your light is pointed. If my front is in blink, I actually point it down a bit for that reason, Dont want to give anyone fits.


Chris Mayhew
Participant
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@rsprake Dunno. I will definitely test that out though and get back with you.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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I have two red Planet Bike blinkies on my helmet, but only use one. The other is there for backup. I stop every half hour or so when riding at night to be sure it’s still working. The bike itself does not even have a reflector.

Front, I have a 3-LED Planet Bike light on the handlebar, which tends to go through AAs far too fast. I just picked up a strap-on light at Home Depot for $5, but haven’t figured out where to put it yet. The helmet would be an obvious choice, but the strap doesn’t play nicely with the helmet design, so it’s kinda useless.

A couple of weeks ago coming down Perrysville Ave at sunrise, someone pulled out in front of me, not seeing me because my light wasn’t bright enough (nice enough fella to tell me at the next traffic light). He sounded really concerned. Hence the cheapy $5 add-on.

This thread is really, really helpful. Keep it going!


brian j
Participant
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Important safety tip–DO NOT USE A WHITE BLINKY ON THE BACK OF YOUR BIKE. Last winter, someone in front of me on Negley did this, and it completely freaked me out because I thought another cyclist was coming right at me.

I’m going to be moving to a dual light setup up front to get through the darkest part of the winter:

* NiteRider LED mounted to handlebar

* Cateye 1 watt LED mounted somewhere on the fork

The NiteRider can function more as more of a “be seen” light, while the Cateye to help me see. And two lights will make me more visible than one.


brian j
Participant
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And if you have bottomless pockets, or find $100 bills in your couch cushions, you could get one of these.


J Z
Participant
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I like the PB Superflash + a small Cateye. Some dude near Hot Metal, last night, had a blinking front that was straight up the Death Star. Took out my night vision. Impressive light, though.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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Wonder where you can get these lights.

Fricking awesome.


netviln
Participant
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I have a couple bike-blocks and lock-blocks by twofish, good for mounting a flashlight wherever you need

http://www.twofish.biz/bike.html


reddan
Keymaster
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@stu: If you go dynamo-powered, similar things are pretty easy.

If you go battery-powered, it’s a bit harder, as you’ll need a driver board (this, for example) but well understood.

CandlePowerForums has a pretty cool bicycle lighting section, for the serious fiat lux types.


ieverhart
Participant
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I bought the Cateye combo pack of a 3-LED white front light and a 3-LED red back light. I generally use them both on flash mode, but after reading this thread, I’ll probably switch at least my red one to steady on trails. I definitely believe that blinking rather than steady is better at attracting attention.

I also have a Planet Bike Spok LED set on my helmet. The rear red Spok I leave blinking, but especially if I’m using the front Cateye in continuous “see” mode, I’ll set the front Spok to flash, “be seen” mode. And for good measure, I’ve taken lately to wrapping a headlamp around my right wrist, which is more lumens for me, a backup in case something happens to the other lights, especially helpful in no-streetlights areas, and finally, a turn signal replicator if I signal right and flick my wrist up/back in rhythm.

Important safety tip–DO NOT USE A WHITE BLINKY ON THE BACK OF YOUR BIKE.

I read online (a long time ago) that there are international treaties requiring this, that white lights be on the front of vehicles, red lights on the rear and never the other way around. (You’ll notice the next time a car goes into reverse mode, white lights generally light up on the back.) I don’t know what the relationship is of those treaties to U.S. or Pennsylvania law, but if we follow this advice (and it seems bikers mostly do) it can avoid any situations like bjanaszek mentions.

I understand it is even required by certain european countries for some reason or another.

Yeah, I ride with a guy from Germany who told me that is the case there.

I think I read online somewhere that at least in Germany, flashing/blinking lights (maybe just certain colors like white) are reserved for police and emergency services.


nick
Participant
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i use a reflector instead of a blinky light, plus a little reflective tape on my milk crate. it works fine, i have no complaints so far.

i used to put my front headlight on blink thinking it would attract more attention. maybe it does, but the blinking started giving me a headache so i stopped. the steady function is also more useful on dark unlit sections of bike trail.


Mick
Participant
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do you think it’s a conspiracy that lots of bike articles are always in the saturday paper?

Mini- civics lesson. If I understand this correctly (flip a coin):

For the US to sign a treaty, the Senate has to approve it. The US courts will then honor it.

I don’t know what will happen if there is some conflict between the treaty and existing regulations (State, Federal, Constitutional, etc).

Mick


jkoutrouba
Participant
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I find that when driving, I am able to identify bicycles more easily when they are equipped with blinky lights. It could be that the only vehicles on the road with blinky lights are bikes, so it makes them easy to pick out. For that reason, I use them. I also have a steady rear light (well, a steady array of rear lights — 3 X 1.5 watt red LED) and I am working to add a steady front white light. I also keep my front blinky, which is very bright, pointed down, but will not hesitate to swivel it up if someone is acting like they don’t see me. It worked like a charm as I was hauling down Grafton the other night, and someone was threatening to back out of a side street in front of me.


ccrider
Participant
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I see so many ineffective blinkies when I drive/ride that I definitely say that its better to be “too much” than “too little”. So frequently people’s blinkies aren’t bright enough (those cheap $8 jobs) or are poorly placed (e.g. clipped to your messenger bag and pointing straight down to the ground). Spouse and I tend to use either the cat eye brand super duper LED blinkies (multiple LEDs that flash, hold, or pattern) or more recently some of the planet bike models (super flashy bright LED, strobe like blinking pattern). They’re pricey (like $30-ish for just one rear light) but worth it. They’re not as compact as some of those tiny single LED units I’m seeing lately, but I like bright as all get out when I ride in traffic. The wife is rocking two rear blinkies right now, one permanently affixed to her rear rack, and the other she clips to her bag as added an precaution.

I think the blinkie award goes to a gent I saw riding up smallman from downtown and then taking his route over to butler. I could see him for a good 1/4 mile on smallman and when I caught up with him chatted him up a bit. He had multiple, bright, LED blinkies on his seat post and back pack….probably about 4-5 total. No way you could miss that, even from orbit.

Some LED/Blinkies are rather unidirectional so it pays to prop your bike up and stand about 10-20 car lengths behind it to make sure your blinkie is really visible to others. Many times I’ve had to adjust the angle etc based on this little test I occasionaly do. Testing the efficacy of your blinkies is useful for front blinkies too.


StuInMcCandless
Participant
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I’ve ridden behind any number of cyclists who have one or more blinkies, but which are either pointed in an ineffective direction, or obscured to some extent by a piece of fabric or something.

For you to not get killed, IMHO they have to be both functioning and visible from 250 feet back, to be seen by the inebriated 19-year-old behind the wheel of his father’s Hummer, doing 15 over the posted speed limit coming up behind you.


Chris Mayhew
Participant
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@rsprake I haven’t ridden with mine yet but I did just walk around my backyard with it. It is really bright. Easily good enough to walk around with on a cloudy night on a relatively unlit street even on the low setting. I bet the high setting is enough to ride Frick with. I just got done with a night ride (and was comparing two lights) so I feel pretty comfortable with that assessment.


ieverhart
Participant
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On the topic of blinking lights annoying people, I’d rather have an annoyed driver avoid hitting me than an unannoyed driver crash into me.


dbacklover
Participant
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I was going to start a new thread but I actually tried the search function and found this one. I found a link to this on Make:magazine and really like what I saw.

Bright Bike V2.0

A super reflective tape you can put on bikes to make them visible.

and (sqee!!) it comes in orange


bd
Participant
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I’ve been wondering about the reflective clear coats with the glass beads in them myself

http://www.kpg-industrial.com/products/reflectalite_spray_paint/


ejwme
Participant
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awe, no purple or pink. I finally managed to put some strips of 3M silver on mine. But I’m going to dazzle it for christmas.


Lyle
Participant
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I can’t understand the thought patterns of someone who will spend time and money taping useless stripes on his frame and won’t use a GD!@#$%^ headlight.

Or, to put it another way, if he HAD used a proper headlight and taillight in his video, you would be able to see how pointless these are.

I’ve got a roll of this tape, if I can get some assistance making that video…

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