Near miss on busy road - plea for good lights!!

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Lesaid
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Near miss on busy road - plea for good lights!!

Postby Lesaid » 9 Dec 2017, 4:34pm

Recently I had a near miss of what could easily have been a fatal accident with a cyclist on a busy main road. Two lanes of traffic, continuous stream in outside line, nearside line empty with a bus at a bus stop a couple of hundred yards 'upstream'. Good weather, good road conditions, but dark. Speed limit 40 mph and traffic moving around 35 mph.

I was driving, waiting to turn left into the traffic from a side-road - a long gap on the nearside lane, and I was about to pull out, when I changed my mind because of the distant bus - and the possibility that traffic forced into the outside lane to pass it might without signalling move into the inside lane after I'd started to move out.

At that moment, a dark shape came out of nowhere and flashed by - a cyclist. I had been peering down the 'empty' lane that that cyclist was travelling in - looking carefully to assess whether to move out or not, and that cyclist was completely invisible - had I pulled out, he would have been straight into me at speed, right next to a continuous stream of traffic doing 30-40 mph.

When I overtook him a couple of minutes later, he was travelling fast at 25-30 mph - wearing a fluorescent visibility jacket and had a fully lit bicycle. By his clothing, bike and cycling style, he was obviously an experienced and serious road cyclist. And yet, with all that, he was completely invisible in the face of a mass of headlights from traffic in the outside lane and the bus blocking the inside lane a few hundred yards away! I am guessing that his presence is the reason why the inside lane was empty of other traffic - from behind, he was clearly visible and nobody would be moving in behind him.

His front light was a flashing white one - ordinarily but not exceptionally bright. He probably thought it a good, safe light - but it was totally inadequate in those circumstances and he could easily have been killed!

Please - everyone - if you are cycling in busy traffic in the dark, use a modern, seriously bright front light that can compete with car headlights!!!! The stakes are too high to penny-pinch on lighting and an 'ordinary' light simply isn't good enough!

I am a cyclist too, and my front light is seriously bright - it wasn't cheap, but it is worth it for safety!

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gaz
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Re: Near miss on busy road - plea for good lights!!

Postby gaz » 9 Dec 2017, 8:25pm

Lesaid wrote:I am a cyclist too, and my front light is seriously bright - it wasn't cheap, but it is worth it for safety!

What light are you using?
Lesaid wrote:Please - everyone - if you are cycling in busy traffic in the dark, use a modern, seriously bright front light that can compete with car headlights!!!!

That could be tricky. Motor vehicle headlamps are allowed to emit up to 625 candela above the horizontal. Cycle lamps to BS6102/3 only 70 candela. German approved lamps allow up to 200 candela. Since cycle lamps are smaller 200 candela is likely to be on a par in terms of observed "brightness" with a 625 candela car headlight. It's still a much smaller surface area.

A flashing only front light on a cycle need only emit 4 candela to be road legal.

Shouldn't it be up to other road users to look for legally lit cyclists amidst all the other traffic?
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mjr
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Re: Near miss on busy road - plea for good lights!!

Postby mjr » 9 Dec 2017, 8:38pm

I plea for you to get regular eye tests and maybe refresher driving lesson on driving into an area only when you can see it's clear, not when you can't see anything in the way. Otherwise, the first unlit walker or animal you meet has much to fear :(
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Lesaid
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Re: Near miss on busy road - plea for good lights!!

Postby Lesaid » 9 Dec 2017, 10:15pm

OK (mjr) - I thought I had made it clear - I was looking straight at where the cyclist was coming from, deliberately scouring the lane to make sure it was clear - for several careful seconds - and there is nothing wrong with my eyesight. I decided not to go because I was not convinced it was safe - but that was nothing to do with the cyclist whom I did not see, and it was not for want of searching for hazards.

So - if you wish to trust your life to the hope that motorists with superhuman eyesight can see a modest flashing white light against a sea of dazzling oncoming car and lorry headlights, then you are putting your own life at risk. That's up to you - but spare a thought for the innocent motorist who will have to cope with the consequences of such an accident as well as other road users who would become involved! Not to mention the careless driver in a hurry who might not be looking as carefully or as long and would have even less chance of seeing you.

Please think again about your own safety and that of others when you plan your front lighting!


On the other point - I know that it would be hard, and probably undesirable for bike headlights to be literally as bright as car headlights - if for no other reason that unless care was taken with the forward angle, they'd could become a dazzle hazard for oncoming vehicles. But there has to be a level of brightness that will be obviously visible against a sea of lights, rather than being totally obliterated! The light in question was flashing, but it was not bright at all !

gaz - the light I am using is a LEZYNE 'super drive' 1200 XXL, purchased a year or two ago from a local bike shop. I chose that one because it seemed a good compromise between cost and brightness, and does a great job of lighting my way along unlit roads and paths in the pitch dark, as well as being seen. And when it is not on the bike, it doubles as a really handy, very powerful household torch!

By the way - this was a busy, two-lane arterial road, very busy with fast moving traffic - a pretty extreme environment (in my view) for a cyclist. On most roads, I don't think this would be as much of an issue. I am a cyclist myself, and I always find ways of avoiding that kind of road!

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gaz
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Re: Near miss on busy road - plea for good lights!!

Postby gaz » 9 Dec 2017, 10:54pm

Lesaid wrote:... spare a thought for the innocent motorist who will have to cope with the consequences of such an accident as well as other road users who would become involved!

I'm sure society at large would consider such a driver to be innocent, I don't understand why. A flashing only front light on a cycle need only emit 4 candela to be road legal. If a driver fails to spot a cyclist with a road legal front light why should society consider that driver to be innocent?
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Lesaid
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Re: Near miss on busy road - plea for good lights!!

Postby Lesaid » 9 Dec 2017, 11:01pm

it makes no difference whether a light is 'legal' or not - if it isn't bright enough to be seen in specific circumstances, then it isn't bright enough!! I don't think anybody would argue that the law always gets things 'right' in all circumstances!

Also - what difference does it make to the cyclist if the light was legal or not, if the cyclist ends up dead. Self-defence (in my mind) takes precedence over standing on legal principle!

It is legal to drive on tyres with a tread depth as low as 1.6 mm. But if I am doing motorway speeds in wet weather, I want a lot more than that! If I kill myself in a skid due to inadequate tread depth, it does no good to complain "but it was legal" !!

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Revolution
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Re: Near miss on busy road - plea for good lights!!

Postby Revolution » 9 Dec 2017, 11:04pm

Please - everyone - if you are cycling in busy traffic in the dark, use a modern, seriously bright front light that can compete with car headlights!!!!

I don't know if you are aware Lesaid of the amount of grief we get for having lights that are too bright, that dazzle the poor motorists, give them migraines, make them dizzy, confused....etc, etc.

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Re: Near miss on busy road - plea for good lights!!

Postby Lesaid » 9 Dec 2017, 11:23pm

I am not aware of the grief cyclists get from too-bright lights - but I can well understand it. I have looked at my own bike in the dark from my car's driving seat, and sure - if the light is pointed straight forward or worse, slightly up, it will indeed dazzle. But angled slightly downwards (which it needs to be on unlit roads anyway to see the road surface properly) it seems quite benign to oncoming drivers (in my view), while being bright enough not to be easily missed! Like a car headlamp, it shouldn't be in a 'full beam' direction. It isn't as bright as most car headlamps anyway - so even though mounted higher on a bike than on most cars, unless badly angled, it will dazzle less than a dipped headlight.

Also a problem - on shared pedestrian/cycle routes, is unwanted blinding of pedestrians or other cyclists - in such places, I switch it to a lower brightness setting, and don't cycle so fast - and perhaps angle it down a bit more still.

Everything is a compromise, but as a cyclist in heavy traffic, I want the compromise to be in favour of 'me' !!

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gaz
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Re: Near miss on busy road - plea for good lights!!

Postby gaz » 10 Dec 2017, 12:05am

Lesaid wrote:it makes no difference whether a light is 'legal' or not - if it isn't bright enough to be seen in specific circumstances, then it isn't bright enough!! I don't think anybody would argue that the law always gets things 'right' in all circumstances!

If a cyclist is legally lit it is quite reasonable that they should expect to be seen rather than be blamed for not having a brighter light than the law requires.
Lesaid wrote:Also - what difference does it make to the cyclist if the light was legal or not, if the cyclist ends up dead. Self-defence (in my mind) takes precedence over standing on legal principle!

You're right, it makes no difference to a dead cyclist. It might make a difference to the criminal prosecution of an errant motorist or any civil action the deceased's family may take against them.

Lesaid wrote:It is legal to drive on tyres with a tread depth as low as 1.6 mm. But if I am doing motorway speeds in wet weather, I want a lot more than that! If I kill myself in a skid due to inadequate tread depth, it does no good to complain "but it was legal" !!

I'm not sure why you are equating a driver killing innocent people with a driver killing themself. When a driver killed four people whilst driving within the speed limit with inadequate tread depth in icy weather they got a £180 fine: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/1525561 ... lists.html
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drossall
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Re: Near miss on busy road - plea for good lights!!

Postby drossall » 10 Dec 2017, 12:14am

The trouble is, you're posting on a forum populated by people who are very likely to spend considerable amounts on bike gear, especially lighting. It's not uncommon for folk here to have lights worth more than most people's bikes. This is probably the least appropriate place you could have chosen to post your appeal.

That said, the statistics on lights, such as they are, are pretty odd. The available evidence rather supports the idea that lights make you more likely to be hit. That's basically on the basis of police accident reports attributing few accidents to unlit cyclists; if you compare those percentages with typical assessments of the percentages of cyclists who have lights, you end up saying that lit cyclists have proportionately more accidents than unlit.

Doesn't persuade me for a moment to ride without lights of course, but does suggest that something more complex is going on. One factor may be that excessive car lights make cyclists almost equally invisible, whether or not those cyclists have lights. Another may be that street lights often make cyclists visible; when motorists then see those cyclists without lights, they get annoyed, which guarantees the one thing essential for a cyclist to avoid an accident, which is a reaction to his/her presence; it seems quite clear, sadly, that many bike accidents are caused by motorists seeing cyclists, but then dismissing them as not a threat.

If we're honest, I think we've all had your "Where did he come from?" experience, both when driving and when cycling; I know that I have. To set against that, however, I'm supposed to be driving/cycling only where I can positively see the road to be clear (as opposed to proceeding unless I see an obstacle). Lights are an extra help but, if I'm going to hit an unlit vehicle, I'm also likely to hit an unlit tree, pedestrian or parked vehicle. Relying on lights as the way to see things has its risks.

Lesaid
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Re: Near miss on busy road - plea for good lights!!

Postby Lesaid » 10 Dec 2017, 12:34am

not sure what the relevance of that news article was - according to the article, the tyres were illegal, but also, their defective treads could not have contributed to the actual accident.

I gave an example of a situation where the tyres would be legal, but still (in my view) inadequate for the circumstances - the exact opposite situation!

For bicycle lights - I think there is no excuse for cycling with illegally dim or non-existent lighting, regardless of whether it actually results in an accident. BUT - it is also foolhardy to cycle with lights which while technically legal, are not bright enough to be safe. As a motorist, I do not want to get hit with a 'causing death by dangerous driving' kind of charge because a reckless or thoughtless cyclist was travelling with legal but inadequate lights for the situation. And as a cyclist, I don't want to die because I relied on the law to tell me what 'must' be safe because it's legal, rather than using common sense and self-preservation.

I think both cars drivers and cyclists make both good and bad decisions, probably in about equal proportions. Each side accusing the other gets us nowhere, since inadequate road systems force cyclists and cars to share the same space. So what is wrong with expecting cyclists to use common sense to protect themselves and others wherever they can?

I'd go further - we (as cyclists) need to protect against the idiots who don't look for cyclists so carefully as well as those drivers who are diligent but cannot see dim cycle lights. Even more reason to have bright lights!

btw thanks for engaging with this discussion - any airing of this topic has to be good for all-round road safety :)

Lesaid
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Re: Near miss on busy road - plea for good lights!!

Postby Lesaid » 10 Dec 2017, 12:44am

drossail - thanks for that. And yes - perhaps most people here already use good lighting. I take your point about the statistics - perhaps this particular kind of incident is rare because not that many cyclists choose to travel on fast two-lane highways, in busy traffic, in the dark. And I don't think front lighting is anything like as serious an issue on quieter roads (because of less dazzle).

I don't accept your point (and earlier similar points) about 'not being able to see anything in the way' as being different from 'being able to see that it is safe'. I think they are the same thing - so long as you have looked for possible obstacles and not been able to see it.

I do think that the fundamental problem is our road system - and that on some roads, it simply is too dangerous for cars and cycles to be mixing together, given human nature and fallibility. No amount of legal whatnots, or complaining about the behaviour of the other side is going to change that. So cyclists, who draw the short straw in accidents, need to go 'above and beyond' to stay safe.

I chose this forum to post in because I wanted to air this as a safety issue - and it seemed an active forum. And the cyclist in the incident that triggered my post was obviously a serious cyclist. Do you want to suggest a forum frequented by cyclist who are less likely to be well equipped on the road where this plea would be better placed?

drossall
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Re: Near miss on busy road - plea for good lights!!

Postby drossall » 10 Dec 2017, 12:58am

Not being able to see anything in the way is fundamentally different from being able to see that nothing is in the way. It's the same as the difference in the way that different drivers (and cyclists for that matter) approach junctions; some intend to proceed unless they see a problem, whereas others intend to stop unless they see that it is clear. You can see the difference just by watching - and I've been on the wrong end of a couple of people who did it the former way.

With the growth in popularity of cycling has come a much wider use of cycling clothing and so on, by people who simply commute, or simply go out with friends informally at a weekend, or whatever, so cycle clothing doesn't tell you that much, certainly not that someone is likely to read anything that you have written here. I can't prove my point that this forum is disproportionately populated by people who are more likely than most to have really good lights, but I still think you're in the wrong place. That said, I'm not sure where else you could go...

The problem with the view that cyclists need to take special care is that it's victim blaming. I'm not for a moment saying that they shouldn't; one leading cycling book published forty years ago famously advised cyclists to treat all motorists as homicidal maniacs out to get them anyway they could (hyperbole obviously, but you get the point), and any sensible cyclist will think about route choice. However, on evidence grounds, it's not at all clear that any of the measures urged on cyclists actually make any difference (there are similar results challenging hi vis, for example). What does work, again according to statistics, is getting more cyclists on the road, because drivers change behaviour and start seriously expecting to see them, so individual risk rates go down.

So, cycle training is valuable, because riding well is always going to help, but until our conversation almost exclusively places the responsibility for avoiding harm to vulnerable others on those who bring the risk onto the roads, progress is unlikely. And I say that as, like the vast majority of people here, someone who drives as well as rides.

tatanab
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Re: Near miss on busy road - plea for good lights!!

Postby tatanab » 10 Dec 2017, 7:04am

Maybe, just maybe, your incident had nothing to do with lights but more to do with where drivers look. Many, probably most of us, have had instances where motorist just miss hitting us and you can see the look of surprise on their face as we appear "from nowhere". What the motorist often does at junctions and roundabouts is look for approaching traffic at a distance that they can judge whether it is safe to proceed or not, but not necessarily assess anything closer such as a slower moving cyclist. This is because they expect, through experience, that anything closer to them will have gone. Just because a motorist is looking in your direction does not mean he has recognised you are there, the focus may well be some yards back down the road, in your case on the bus.

A problem which is highlighted in John Franklin's book is one of perspicuity. He says that with lights it is important to be perceived correctly, i.e as a pedal cycle that is close by not a motor cycle that is some distance away. How do we balance the different needs of competing with motor lights versus being perceived correctly. Of course some will say "a flashing light" which may be ok in urban areas but is not a lot of use at midnight on a dark lane. Daytime lights - don't get me started :roll:

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Re: Near miss on busy road - plea for good lights!!

Postby Username » 10 Dec 2017, 7:37am

I agree with OP about bright lights, and I found his post insightful. However not TOO bright. I have a Cateye Volt 300 and also a Cateye Volt 1200 which I use on its middle power setting. I feel that the full 1200 lumens would dazzle other drivers and reverse the intended effect. I also dont get flashing front lights. Apart from being annoying, if flashing lights were that effective then wouldnt all vehicles have them on permanently? I always use a constant light. On the rear I do use one flashing and one constant light. They are not so bright so I dont think the flashing will be so harsh.