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Front lights - confusing other road users

slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,481
edited March 2019 in Commuting chat
Interesting one for me the other evening....

I go and pick up little slowbike from his grandparents, they're next to a busy road with a shared foot/cyclepath alongside it. No great issue most of the time.
I park parallel to the road - drivers door on the pavement/road side - so little slowbike can get in without having to open doors onto traffic.

Anyway - at this time of year it's generally dark - and a bit damp too - pop little slowbike in - walk around to my side - checking for traffic, but only casual checking....
Get in, do seatbelts, start engine, get distracted saying goodbye to grandparents, check traffic forward - clear - check traffic behind - one bright light - looks like it's a long way down the straight - can't see anything else - enough time for me to get across the otherside of the road clearly then.... just pulling away, realised the light has got a lot closer - woah - it's a bike on the cyclepath... stop! No harm - I shout an apology which I hope he hears - then think, this isn't the first time I've mistaken a bike light for a far off vehicle.

Fortunately most of my night riding is done away from traffic, so less of an issue for me - but got me thinking - with the bright lights most of us have on our bikes, we can easily be mistaken for a distant car (lights are small but bright) - should we distinguish ourselves by having a flash on - either as a steady flash in one light or a flasher that's at least as bright as the steady next to the steady light - at least that way we stand a better chance of being correctly identified ... ?

Posts

  • timothywtimothyw Posts: 2,482
    This is a large part of the reason I wear a light on my helmet - it doesn't get lost in the clutter of other headlights, and makes me look more like a cyclist.

    Yes, before the torch police come for me, it is set on the lowest setting and aimed so it is directed at the ground.

    If however I fear someone on a side road hasn't seen me I can tip my head back and give them a quick dazzle with the light to ensure that they have seen me.

    More generally, dipped/shaped beams help with this as they make it easier for people to see what is around the light, rather than just being dazzled.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,481
    timothyw wrote:
    This is a large part of the reason I wear a light on my helmet - it doesn't get lost in the clutter of other headlights, and makes me look more like a cyclist.
    Ah - as a driver I HATE seeing the usually MTBikers with bright helmet mounted lights - and nothing (of note) on their bars - as that's confusing too! Perhaps I'm just easily confused and shouldn't drive ;) - although I will be mounting a bright light on my lid when I go MTBing in the dark ... but I'll turn it on for the off-road stuff ...
  • tgotbtgotb Posts: 4,714
    Have you seen one of the electric scooters at night yet? I don't know what they look like from the front, but at the rear there's just a small red light about 2 inches from the tarmac.
    Pannier, 120rpm.
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,481
    tgotb wrote:
    Have you seen one of the electric scooters at night yet? I don't know what they look like from the front, but at the rear there's just a small red light about 2 inches from the tarmac.

    Fortunately not ... they won't make it out onto the roads where I travel ... too many potholes! :)
  • Some interesting comments on "your rants here" in commuting chat section.

    When it's dark (i.e. no street light), I put two front lights: one constant at 450lumens, another on flash at 100lumens or so. By having one constant and one flashing, I'm hoping that the drivers can clearly recognise me from the front and judge the distance.

    I never misjudge the distance of oncoming fellow cyclists or approaching another cyclist from behind, but that's when I'm cycling (anything up to 30mph, most frequently at around 20mph). At car speed of anything between 20-50mph, yes, much less time to 1) see the light, 2) cognitively recognise the light as a cyclist, 3) make judgement of its speed, and 4) the decreasing distance between the cyclist and the car.
  • slowbike wrote:
    - then think, this isn't the first time I've mistaken a bike light for a far off vehicle.
    Hmm, I have the opposite problem: someone coming towards me with a really bright light looks really close, but they could be half a mile away.
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    timothyw wrote:
    This is a large part of the reason I wear a light on my helmet - it doesn't get lost in the clutter of other headlights, and makes me look more like a cyclist.

    Yes, before the torch police come for me, it is set on the lowest setting and aimed so it is directed at the ground.

    If however I fear someone on a side road hasn't seen me I can tip my head back and give them a quick dazzle with the light to ensure that they have seen me.

    More generally, dipped/shaped beams help with this as they make it easier for people to see what is around the light, rather than just being dazzled.

    I don't like the cyclists with just a helmet light. It's high up so looks as if the bike is further away. Not a problem with a bar light too.
  • redveeredvee Posts: 11,932
    This was an issue I had when I had to do 8-4 in Ocotber. I was commuting out of Bristol on a SUP with road traffic coming towards me on the otherside of the road but also cyclist coming towards me on the SUP and in the five days I did 8-4 I had a close encounter every day cause of losing the lights amongst headlights.
    I've added a signature to prove it is still possible.
  • timothywtimothyw Posts: 2,482
    cougie wrote:
    timothyw wrote:
    This is a large part of the reason I wear a light on my helmet - it doesn't get lost in the clutter of other headlights, and makes me look more like a cyclist.

    Yes, before the torch police come for me, it is set on the lowest setting and aimed so it is directed at the ground.

    If however I fear someone on a side road hasn't seen me I can tip my head back and give them a quick dazzle with the light to ensure that they have seen me.

    More generally, dipped/shaped beams help with this as they make it easier for people to see what is around the light, rather than just being dazzled.

    I don't like the cyclists with just a helmet light. It's high up so looks as if the bike is further away. Not a problem with a bar light too.
    Which, for sake of clarity, is what I do - main light is a shaped beam unit on the bars. Then I have another smaller spare on the bars running on low. Then the aforementioned one on my helmet.

    I like to cover all the bases.
  • redvee wrote:
    This was an issue I had when I had to do 8-4 in Ocotber. I was commuting out of Bristol on a SUP with road traffic coming towards me on the otherside of the road but also cyclist coming towards me on the SUP and in the five days I did 8-4 I had a close encounter every day cause of losing the lights amongst headlights.


    You commute on a Stand Up Paddleboard?? You West country folk are so hip
  • I did notice that cars seem to notice me more, as i'm running one of exposures road lights, where as before I had two lights a big Magicshine for the dark bits and a blinkie for the road bits.

    I suspect it that the light is brighter but not blinding, equally i can flick the light from low to high, if needed, very rarely.
  • Personally in the dark I run with a 800 lumens beam on my handlebar - and then a 100 lumens on my helmet flashing. Works well for me.

    Got a similar setup on the back but the other way round. 200 lumens flashing under my seat, and 100 lumens constantly on my helmet.
  • Agent57Agent57 Posts: 2,320
    timothyw wrote:
    This is a large part of the reason I wear a light on my helmet
    As a cyclist, I hate your sort! :p

    I get dazzled more often by cyclists with helmet-mounted lights far more often than people with them on the bars. Even if initially I'm not being dazzled, they have a tendency to move their head to look at me, thus directing their high-mounted light right into my eyes.

    Grrr! Put it on the handlebars and point it at the road.
    MTB commuter / 531c commuter / CR1 Team 2009 / RockHopper Pro Disc / 10 mile PB: 25:52 (Jun 2014)
  • tgotbtgotb Posts: 4,714
    Agent57 wrote:
    I get dazzled more often by cyclists with helmet-mounted lights far more often than people with them on the bars. Even if initially I'm not being dazzled, they have a tendency to move their head to look at me, thus directing their high-mounted light right into my eyes.
    Also applies to helmet-mounted rear lights. Rider stops at the lights and then looks around all over the place, ensuring that every single person queueing behind them is blinded. I was once behind three of them; it was like being the projection screen for a laser light show.
    Pannier, 120rpm.
  • Agent57 wrote:
    timothyw wrote:
    This is a large part of the reason I wear a light on my helmet
    As a cyclist, I hate your sort! :p

    I get dazzled more often by cyclists with helmet-mounted lights far more often than people with them on the bars. Even if initially I'm not being dazzled, they have a tendency to move their head to look at me, thus directing their high-mounted light right into my eyes.

    Grrr! Put it on the handlebars and point it at the road.
    they've got too many lumens on then - I only ride with 100 lumens on my helmet - that doesn't dazzle. I do it for safety so I stand out - it's higher (usually) than a car. My bar mounted ones are not.
  • daniel_bdaniel_b Posts: 8,621
    I have the Lumos for child ferrying duties
    Electric_Lime_2_720x480_103aac85-47ea-4509-a20e-a5bbe93ddc22_800x.jpeg?v=1542957752
    plus at least one other front light, and despite this, traffic STILL pulls out on me. :roll:
    Felt F70 05 (Turbo)
    Marin Palisades Trail 91 and 06
    Scott CR1 SL 12
    Cannondale Synapse Adventure 15 & 16 Di2
    Scott Foil 18
  • bompingtonbompington Posts: 7,129
    Daniel B wrote:
    ...plus at least one other front light, and despite this, traffic STILL pulls out on me. :roll:
    This is the big advantage of a helmet light - it should certainly be a focused one that is aimed well down, but you can aim it at someone when you need to.

    I commute on rural roads, against the bulk of the traffic. I would say that if a driver fails to dip their headlights it's a pretty good clue that they haven't seen you (i.e. a confused other road user): since I changed from 2 bright, diffuse bar mounted lights to 1 bar and a helmet, the number of cars failing to dip has decreased massively.

    And of course a gentle,quick flick of the head is a great way of reminding any who still forget...
  • slowbikeslowbike Posts: 8,481
    bompington wrote:
    Daniel B wrote:
    ...plus at least one other front light, and despite this, traffic STILL pulls out on me. :roll:
    This is the big advantage of a helmet light - it should certainly be a focused one that is aimed well down, but you can aim it at someone when you need to.

    I commute on rural roads, against the bulk of the traffic. I would say that if a driver fails to dip their headlights it's a pretty good clue that they haven't seen you (i.e. a confused other road user): since I changed from 2 bright, diffuse bar mounted lights to 1 bar and a helmet, the number of cars failing to dip has decreased massively.

    And of course a gentle,quick flick of the head is a great way of reminding any who still forget...

    for dark commutes I tend to have 2 bar mounted lights - one on and the other that I flash on if an on-coming vehicle doesn't dip - doesn't happen often though. Have to say though my Cateye Nanoshot + was great in that it had 3 modes - bright, not so bright and not so bright with flash - to flick between the first to modes you just pressed the button, to get to the third mode you double clicked the button - meant it was easy to "Beam up" - can't do that on my current BikeHut light - with it's 700 modes all click downable ...
  • mark~pmark~p Posts: 52
    There are two issues: you need to be seen but unless you cycle on unlit roads/paths then mostly you do not need to see.
    As an all-year round commuter on a mix of road/lit cyclepath and unlit cycle path what really causes the problems it riders with mega bright lights pointing straight down the path. They are so bright they are dangerous as they cause the pupils to contract so much. Equally dangerous are the same lights with an even brighter flash.

    There is no concept of dimming them when people (walkers or cyclists) are coming the other way.
    If you are on a lit cyclepath or road, why do you need a light that is so bright it is dazzling everyone? On the cyclepath I see the same people with insanely bright lights over a mile away, that is of no use to anyone. The same applies, when as a driver, one of these comes up behind you and shines the light straight into the mirrors: instant blindness.

    If you need one of these lights to see it should be pointing down at a sensible angle to illuminate the path. It should also have the capability to be dimmed. What is even more frightening is that many of these lights have all sorts of warnings about not looking directly into the front. That is exactly what these people are forcing everyone else to do.
    The problem is only going to get worse as the cost of these ultra-bright abominations comes down. All lights appear to be sold on how bright they are with no thoughts as to the consequences.
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