do flashing lights help drivers see you?

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martinn
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do flashing lights help drivers see you?

Postby martinn » 6 Jan 2014, 7:57am

Hi all,

I ride with high vis, reflectors, and bright lights. I have two 300+ lumen front lights, so I thought that this would be enough for drivers to see me. Obviously not. At a roundabout this am and the previous friday (around 07.15), i have had cars on my left fail to stop, when I am on the roundabout. Today i really though this was it :shock: and i was going to get to work but in a very different form of transport.
So not wishing to become a statistic, would it help if i ran one of the lights in a flashing mode? (I have two currently, one set for the near field and one set for distance, as i ride on unlight cycle paths)

Martin

Vorpal
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Re: do flashing lights help drivers see you?

Postby Vorpal » 6 Jan 2014, 8:16am

The problem is not being noticeable, it is being noticed. People just don't look. Or they look and don't see. Or they see and assume that cyclist can't be going very fast. Or they realise how fast cyclists go, but don't mind making someone else brake if it isn't likely to cause an accident.

That said, a flashing light does draw attention. I doubt that you will be worse off.

Do you ride in a prominent position? Do you occupy the lane as if you were driving or riding a motorcycle? IMO, that makes more difference than all the lighting I can hang on myself and my bike.
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northstar
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Re: do flashing lights help drivers see you?

Postby northstar » 6 Jan 2014, 8:17am

Without doubt but there's none to blind as those who don't want to see you.

eileithyia
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Re: do flashing lights help drivers see you?

Postby eileithyia » 6 Jan 2014, 8:30am

As said elsewhere, the trouble with a vehicle approaching a junction where they only have to look in one direction, the driver glances to where he expects to see a threat, and that is something 4 wheeled, large and travelling faster than 10-15mph. They do not look for the smaller vehicle right in front of their nose...
Having said that I have had more near misses at junctions of this nature during daylight than at night. A Flashing light will attract attention as long as it is bright enough. But always always watch what the driver approaching from the left is doing and expect to take evading action....
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BSRU
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Re: do flashing lights help drivers see you?

Postby BSRU » 6 Jan 2014, 9:30am

I found that a flashing front light at night gets you noticed but does not allow the other road user to determine your position or speed.
I only use a flashing at night with another light on steady if there is lots of traffic.

kwackers
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Re: do flashing lights help drivers see you?

Postby kwackers » 6 Jan 2014, 9:45am

I've been through the flashing light phase then I tried weapons grade front lighting (2x5W Hope) currently I'm using a B&M IQ on a dynamo.

The flashing light I think has had its day. Probably fine if you don't cycle too fast but I find that it simply tells motorists a cyclist is coming and allows them to pull out without further thought and if you're travelling quickly then it falls apart. As others have said it also isn't very good at conveying information to those who actually take a second look.

For some reason the Hope was the same - in fact I had more people pull out on me using that than at any other time. I don't really know why this is the case, but my guess(es) are that being a pair of lights they're too close together so out of the corner of one's eye it looks like a car quite far away. I also think the lack of a discernible beam has a similar effect, dittos the fact the lights are a 'point' source.
Overall my conclusion with the Hope is I think they see you but make (incorrect) assumptions.

On the other hand the IQ has been brilliant. It sits much lower down (above front mudguard), is a single light, isn't a point source, has a discernible cut off and so doesn't blind oncoming vehicles.
Haven't had a single vehicle pull out on me in over a year, people sit and wait at junctions (and because it's dynamo driven I also have daylight running lights).

reohn2
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Re: do flashing lights help drivers see you?

Postby reohn2 » 6 Jan 2014, 10:02am

Kwacker's finding are similar to mine,I've stopped using flashing lights on the front and I now only use a light with a big reflector(Cateye HL530) as IMO it appears closer to drivers who could pull out on me.
I don't see many hub dynamo systems in use but a couple of weeks ago I saw a cyclist approaching in the opposite direction when we were out on the tandem.I had to do a double take as I thought it was small motorcycle initially.At a glance,for that's what overconfident drivers tend to do,it would definitely have had the desired effect,and if I were riding in the dark more often I'd be similarly equipped.
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Mark1978
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Re: do flashing lights help drivers see you?

Postby Mark1978 » 6 Jan 2014, 10:06am

It may be my imagination but I've noticed an increasing problem at roundabouts where drivers just don't want to give way - and this is driving a car! So many times I've had close calls with drivers who think it's their right to just steam out without looking. On a bicycle it's a particular problem that even if they see you, and they notice you, they still think they can 'nip out' in front of you.

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mjr
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Re: do flashing lights help drivers see you?

Postby mjr » 6 Jan 2014, 11:07am

I echo the earlier comment about cars jumping out in front of cars. I don't think we can fix this with more/different lights. We need to go along to PACT/SNAP/whatever-the-police-call-public-meetings-now and press them to act on bad driving.

Personally, I'd probably go for a different tool like an Airzound if I had a problem junction. If they start moving, a horn blast might be enough of an "oi, I'm here!" to make them think I could be a moped (my front light is steady, bright and low), that they've made a mistake and that they should emergency-stop.
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ChrisButch
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Re: do flashing lights help drivers see you?

Postby ChrisButch » 6 Jan 2014, 12:13pm

Mark1978 wrote:It may be my imagination but I've noticed an increasing problem at roundabouts where drivers just don't want to give way - and this is driving a car! So many times I've had close calls with drivers who think it's their right to just steam out without looking. On a bicycle it's a particular problem that even if they see you, and they notice you, they still think they can 'nip out' in front of you.
Same here. Worse still, I now often find drivers behind flashing or tooting when I'm in the car and stop at the roundabout 'give way' line!

Farrina
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Re: do flashing lights help drivers see you?

Postby Farrina » 6 Jan 2014, 3:06pm

I must confess that some bicycle front lights are so bright these days that as a car driver I have mistaken them for a distant motorcyclist. Only having a second look (which is my habit as well as looking long and scanning back) saved me from great embarrassment <blush>.

Apart from the potential damage to an innocent party I would never live the shame down.

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meic
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Re: do flashing lights help drivers see you?

Postby meic » 6 Jan 2014, 3:08pm

I know exactly what you mean about never living it down.

What I dont see is how mistaking a cycle for a motorcycle would make you do something dangerous?
Yma o Hyd

Farrina
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Re: do flashing lights help drivers see you?

Postby Farrina » 6 Jan 2014, 3:18pm

meic wrote:I know exactly what you mean about never living it down.
What I don't see is how mistaking a cycle for a motorcycle would make you do something dangerous?

Of course it may just be me .....
It does not happen when cyclists are immediately upon you, but at longer range. At first glance I have assumed the bright light to be a more distant motorcyclist therefore leaving me time to exit junction, when in fact it is a much nearer cyclist. Its hard to explain as such but I suspect, should you encounter such a scenario, it will become apparent.

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mjr
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Re: do flashing lights help drivers see you?

Postby mjr » 6 Jan 2014, 4:31pm

Farrina wrote:Of course it may just be me .....
It does not happen when cyclists are immediately upon you, but at longer range. At first glance I have assumed the bright light to be a more distant motorcyclist therefore leaving me time to exit junction, when in fact it is a much nearer cyclist. Its hard to explain as such but I suspect, should you encounter such a scenario, it will become apparent.

It's not just you. Far too many bright bike headlamps are almost point light sources, which are fairly difficult to judge distances. Is this a side-effect of the so-called lumen wars, where lights are marketed by brightness rather than visibility? I feel that one noticeable advantage of imported European lights (often marketed as "X m to see and Y metres to be seen") is that they tend to have better lenses and reflectors that make them appear to be a disc, which I find easier to place, distance-wise.

I suppose there may still be a small risk that someone would think a nearby smaller cycle headlamp is a far away larger moto headlamp, but if so, why wasn't that a bigger problem with the old EverReady lamps?
MJR, mostly pedalling 3-speed roadsters. KL+West Norfolk BUG incl social easy rides http://www.klwnbug.co.uk
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axel_knutt
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Re: do flashing lights help drivers see you?

Postby axel_knutt » 6 Jan 2014, 5:32pm

Vorpal wrote:The problem is not being noticeable, it is being noticed.

Indeed. A gorilla is noticeable, but most don't notice it, and it's not because they aren't paying attention.
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