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Taking the lane at night in 45/55mph rural roads

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Taking the lane at night in 45/55mph rural roads

Old 11-11-17, 01:13 PM
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salcedo
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Taking the lane at night in 45/55mph rural roads

The last two miles of my commute are on a straight 45mph rural road in central NY. The road has a very wide shoulder. So I usually ride on it. The last half a mile has a more narrow shoulder but still wide enough for a bike.

However, they never clean the shoulders during winter. So, it is icy and snowy most of the time. This leaves me with three options:

(1) Taking the lane and hoping that I have enough lights and reflective gear for cars to notice me. I feel comfortable taking the lane in slower roads that are nicely illuminated, but this road gets pitch dark and cars are usually speeding. I worry that a car might not notice me until it is too late to stop or swerve.

(2) Riding on the snow/ice. This is what I've done in past years. I don't like it because I feel unstable, specially when it is windy. I have actually fallen once or twice.

(3) Ride on the edge between the shoulder and the road. The edge of the shoulder is usually clean enough to ride. What I hate about this option is that it encourages close overtakes.

I don't have that much experience cycling. So, I thought I would ask for some opinions.
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Old 11-11-17, 01:31 PM
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Originally Posted by salcedo View Post
(1) Taking the lane and hoping that I have enough lights and reflective gear for cars to notice me. I feel comfortable taking the lane in slower roads that are nicely illuminated, but this road gets pitch dark and cars are usually speeding. I worry that a car might not notice me until it is too late to stop or swerve.
If you have decent tail lights, I think you're more visible at night than at any other time. On dark rural roads, you can see a flashing tail light from well over a mile. I'm much more concerned with being seen when there's more ambient light. When it's pitch black, your lights are highly visible.

I always ride in the center of the lane as I believe your most visible there. And there's more chance of branches, road kill, or animals vying to become road kill when you ride near the edge. So I ride in the center and move to the right as the car gets close. I never have any concern over whether or not I'll see seen in the dark.
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Old 11-11-17, 01:34 PM
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I don't get caught up in lane placement as much as some here, but always like to leave myself about a yard of maneuvering room to my right. I will move over and allow a close pass if oncoming traffic denies passing opportunities, but only after bars have slowed to natch my speed.

That provides drivers the ability to pass, while ensuring that close passes are low speed.

However, I believe that the most important thing you can do is take advantage of the fact that NYS allows bicycles to opt for flashing amber tail lights. Flashing amber is a warning for stationary obstacles and slow moving vehicles, and will signal drivers to slow down as they approach.

It's too easy for sale driver seeing a red tail light to assume it's a vehicle moving at typical highway speed, and I greatly prefer a driver approaching from behind to under, rather than over estimate my speed.
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Old 11-12-17, 08:53 AM
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Originally Posted by jon c. View Post
If you have decent tail lights, I think you're more visible at night than at any other time. On dark rural roads, you can see a flashing tail light from well over a mile. I'm much more concerned with being seen when there's more ambient light. When it's pitch black, your lights are highly visible.

I always ride in the center of the lane as I believe your most visible there. And there's more chance of branches, road kill, or animals vying to become road kill when you ride near the edge. So I ride in the center and move to the right as the car gets close. I never have any concern over whether or not I'll see seen in the dark.
I too have little concern about being seen at night, especially from behind. Besides the high powered taillight, I like to add a reflective safety vest, and other bits like a leg band and helmet tape. If you've ever driven up behind a set up like this, it is strikingly noticeable from quite a long distance! The leg band especially identifies you as a bicycle rider (slow) due to the pedaling action.

My main concern in any higher speed taking the lane situation is when groups of tailgating cars come up from behind. If the lead driver holds the lane until the last moment, the tailgater behind him would have little time to react once seeing me. There's less chance of this at night, but still... I have found the farther left I ride, the sooner the lead driver figures it out and changes lanes or slows to my speed. So in any high speed situation I don't ***** foot around, I get out there fully in the lane.

I also insist on monitoring the action with my mirror. By varying my position and communicating with drivers with hand signals (reflective wrist band at night) and look backs, I can better encourage them to change lanes or slow to my speed sooner. It's kind of fun once you start doing it!

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Old 11-13-17, 10:28 AM
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Try two or more lights, front and rear. Helps drivers quickly estimate your position, distance, speed, etc.

At a minimum I use a headlight and taillight on my road bike, and another to-be-seen set of lights on my helmet.

On my errand bikes, which I ride more often at night, I have two sets of head and tail lights.
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Old 11-14-17, 04:18 AM
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Add a good tail light to your helmet. I just tried this on our last club ride and I got great feedback for how far back people could see me. I was told that it was really helpful on a winding and busy country road that has a 45 mph speed limit, but often drivers go faster. There is not much shoulder either. The helmet light has a great angle and offers a very visible and somewhat unusual visual warning to drivers to pay attention.
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Old 11-14-17, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Try two or more lights, front and rear. Helps drivers quickly estimate your position, distance, speed, etc.

At a minimum I use a headlight and taillight on my road bike, and another to-be-seen set of lights on my helmet.

On my errand bikes, which I ride more often at night, I have two sets of head and tail lights.
Agreed... while this is still no guarantee, this too is what I did for years on dark high speed roads (45MPH+) ILTB also did something similar, but I believe he had at least a reliable shoulder to use.

Don't skimp on the lighting... you want to be seen... you want them to go "huh, what's that... " and slow down.

I would go with high/low lighting... one high, at helmet or backpack level (and make sure it is not aiming "up" but back) and one low, at about seat or rack height. And then add one more, a steady light, perhaps yellow.

So the other two can be flashing, and probably some odd pattern... like a PB super flash or something similar... (better), with the third as a steady light.

Do not rely on "blinkies" for something like this... get some decent rechargeable lighting. I used Nite Rider lights... and before they came out, I used three "Belt Beacons" mounted on an aluminum plate... three yellow lights mounted in a triangle with an odd flashing pattern.

At one time, briefly, I also used a "lost at sea" strobe... (hey, bike lighting at the time was quite primitive...) which while bright, had it's own issues when I was in really dark places... it made the road flash and made things a bit confusing for me.

Bottom line, think Alien Mother Ship...

Reflective stripes are a good idea too... especially on crank arms, and anywhere facing aft. (I also put that stuff on my helmet).
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Old 11-19-17, 11:22 AM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
Agreed... while this is still no guarantee, this too is what I did for years on dark high speed roads (45MPH+) ILTB also did something similar, but I believe he had at least a reliable shoulder to use.
Incorrect; if and when I had/have a reliable shoulder to use, I use it, such as I did for 2 years of bike commuting in 1978-1980 on a six mile stretch of I-80N ( now designated I-84) west of Pendelton, OR.

The six mile section of old US 34 west of Burlington (before the bypass was built) did not have a reliable shoulder suitable for bicycle riding, I rode in the right lane of the 55mph highway for 7 years of commuting with very bright lights mounted high on a pole.
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Old 11-19-17, 01:07 PM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
Incorrect; if and when I had/have a reliable shoulder to use, I use it, such as I did for 2 years of bike commuting in 1978-1980 on a six mile stretch of I-80N ( now designated I-84) west of Pendelton, OR.

The six mile section of old US 34 west of Burlington (before the bypass was built) did not have a reliable shoulder suitable for bicycle riding, I rode in the right lane of the 55mph highway for 7 years of commuting with very bright lights mounted high on a pole.
And OP, there you go, complete with pictures... lighting on par with the Alien Mothership.

Bottom line... you can't have too much lighting when sharing the road with high speed motor vehicles.

Thanks to ILTB for the pics of his lighting system.
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Old 11-19-17, 01:38 PM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
very bright lights mounted high on a pole.
That pole is awesome. What kind of lights are the two biggest ones?
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Old 11-19-17, 02:37 PM
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The lights were just like this amber one but with a transparent red plastic covering. They are heavy since they also have magnets built into the rear for use with disabled motorized vehicles. I bought them, I think, in the automotive section of the Farm King big box store. Another change I had to make was adding bungee cord/rubber strap "guy wires" from the PVC pole to the basket to keep it from swaying too much. The swaying gave a great visual effect in the dark for those following, but was ripping apart the metal basket.

Powered by 4 AA batteries. Rechargeable NiCd/NiMH batteries were good for about 6 hours before needing a recharge.
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Old 11-24-17, 01:53 PM
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I was using belt beacons... three in a triangle, mounted on a thin aluminum plate. I wired them all together so I only needed one battery and one switch. I mounted that to the back of my seat.



It was a simple flashing incandescent light. It flashed brighter than just a steady light. But I did not use a tall pole like that which ILTB used. His idea obviously lends more long range visibility.
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Old 11-25-17, 02:07 PM
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Originally Posted by genec View Post
I was using belt beacons... three in a triangle, mounted on a thin aluminum plate. I wired them all together so I only needed one battery and one switch. I mounted that to the back of my seat.



It was a simple flashing incandescent light. It flashed brighter than just a steady light. But I did not use a tall pole like that which ILTB used. His idea obviously lends more long range visibility.
The biggest advantage of mounting a light high on a pole is that it makes the light visible to vehicles that are behind the car immediately following the cyclist. Especially important on high speed roads when some motorists decide not to change lateral position to pass until close behind the cyclist, effectively blocking from the vision of following vehicles even the brightest lights that are mounted lower.
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Old 11-26-17, 11:17 AM
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Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike View Post
The biggest advantage of mounting a light high on a pole is that it makes the light visible to vehicles that are behind the car immediately following the cyclist. Especially important on high speed roads when some motorists decide not to change lateral position to pass until close behind the cyclist, effectively blocking from the vision of following vehicles even the brightest lights that are mounted lower.
Exactly.

That was why I tried a man over board strobe on a fiberglass flag pole... but I discovered the flash made it hard for me to see well in really dark areas.
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Old 11-26-17, 09:26 PM
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Not really much of a choice on farm-to-market roads that make up most of the best miles around here.

(Just off a left curve, so staying as far right as I felt comfortable for visibility around the curve at this point.)

Radbot 1000, red Scotchlite on the backs of the seat stays, rack and helmet, and white reflectives on the panniers and most of my riding clothes.
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Old 11-27-17, 11:16 AM
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Originally Posted by jon c. View Post
If you have decent tail lights, I think you're more visible at night than at any other time. On dark rural roads, you can see a flashing tail light from well over a mile. I'm much more concerned with being seen when there's more ambient light. When it's pitch black, your lights are highly visible.

I always ride in the center of the lane as I believe your most visible there. And there's more chance of branches, road kill, or animals vying to become road kill when you ride near the edge. So I ride in the center and move to the right as the car gets close. I never have any concern over whether or not I'll see seen in the dark.
+1

A mirror really helps with the timing on "... and move to the right as the car gets close".

A bonus of this approach is you're making a friendly overture to those behind when you move over, and they appreciate it. Whereas if you were off to the side the whole time, you wouldn't have the opportunity to make this move, and you would be largely ignored, and perhaps completely overlooked, and maybe even hit if a driver drifts.

Much better to grab their attention with "in their way" positioning early and thus keep them from getting distracted until they pass you.
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Old 06-24-18, 10:02 AM
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Thoughts on lights (I can't recall all of the sources or I'd quote them).

There was some suggestion a few years back that blue lights were safer than red and it appears the majority of the police cars around the world have moved to having either exclusive blue or blue intermixed with red lights, not so much for when the police cars were moving but when they were on the shoulder (which after all you might as be because cars pass bikes like we are standing still). I have quoted from an Ontario press release from back when Ontario was pushing to cut down on the amount of emergency vehicles, (police, fire, ambulance and tow trucks that were getting hit when stopped on the shoulder). "The move to blue light embraces a Peel Regional Police initiative, which suggests that the inclusion of flashing blue lights greatly increases the visibility of roadside emergency vehicles and causes drivers to give them a wide berth, particularly at night."

Per our old friend Wiki "A study at Loughborough University in the United Kingdom showed that strobe lighting conveyed a greater sense of urgency to other road users, with the faster the flash the greater urgency, potentially helping to speed the emergency vehicle through traffic. It also concluded that factors such as flash pattern were important, with simultaneously flashing beacons attracting attention far quicker than alternately flashing versions, although this did increase discomfort glare. In general, as light intensity and the number of beacons present increased, the time it took to gain the attention of other drivers decreased."

Logically I would say have multiple lights, higher the better to start with (for a regular commute or touring the pole light ideas are perfect), then helmet, then seat bag and then fender. I'd add blue in your mix if it's legal where you ride (even if you can only have it flashing to the rear). Just remember that having a vest and lights on your back may save you if you have to get off your bike as drivers would see your bike flashers but not you if you have no lights on you.

100% for the warning that daylight can be worse than darkness, especially when commuters are staring into sunrise or sunset. Many many people do not see cars that have stopped let alone bikes due to glare.

In the army they taught that things are seen for a variety of reasons but it all comes down to this one point "Things are seen because they differ from their surroundings", The lesson here - be different and draw attention to yourself.

Lastly, if someone hits you (or worse), they and their insurance company are going to be fighting tooth and nail not to pay you or your estate. You want the witnesses to testify they could see you from a long way away and if this is a regular commute, people will remember you , at least they sure as hell will remember I-like-to-bike and his rig above and your side will have no trouble saying in that spot were you were hit, there is no way an ordinary and prudent driver wouldn't see you.

With the cost of good quality LEDs for bikes dropping all the time we are crazy not to have good quality lights (which reminds me I have to tear of my rear flasher which has been shutting off and replace it now!!)
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Old 10-20-18, 08:35 PM
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I swear by the Bontrager Flare R tail light in most cases day and night, but I found in the sheer obnoxious category a diy white LED strobe set to be more effective at space gains. The Flare light is bright and true to distance claims but here in PA people get too nervy on how close when it is a gentle flash. By comparison, I have used the diy flasher which came with a 12v variable rate control to experiment from slow to siezure flash and found as previously mentioned the higher rates produce a fairly consistent 4ft distance gain in passing. Mind these are not headlight strobes by any stretch, only 4 1/4" wide units arranged on a radial bracket to allow for a 120 deg arc of flash instead of the straight behind only mode. What I had observed from version 1 to version 2 was that the straight behind version caused people to see, the version 2 with radius causes higher visibility as the car is presently passing. That reduced the incidence of cars cutting in short, which is a very frequent occurence here otherwise. Pix later to come.
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Old 10-25-18, 12:15 AM
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People will drive into anything. Yellow school buses, Police cars with their beacons flashing, anything.

You're talking about taking the lane at a time when there's snow and ice on the road, and when there's a dazzling sun, and when there are on-coming headlights..

It doesn't matter what you put on the back of your bike, if you ain't gonna be seen, you ain't gonna be seen - don't put yourself in front of such vehicles.
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Old 10-25-18, 01:58 AM
  #20  
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Of course, the flip side is if the shoulder is so bad it causes a person to crash, then it could be as dangerous to be there, as actually being in the lane.

Even a flat tire could be dangerous in the cold.
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Old 11-16-18, 01:15 PM
  #21  
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That looks like my commute. I have wide shoulders and bike lanes for most of it but it is the last 1.5 miles home in the winter that causes headaches for me. Not so much the riding conditions or cars, it is the lack of effort of the snowplows to push the ice and snow PAST the fog line. After a day of melting and freezing, the shoulders are like a rutted motocross track. Thankfully my studded tires do most of the work.
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Old 11-21-18, 12:53 PM
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dont.
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Old 11-27-18, 05:50 PM
  #23  
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Keep just to the left of the fog line (white line) as traffic approaches. Otherwise, take the lane. If you don't have one already, get a good mirror (Supercycle has a good one and it's pretty cheap, too) and use it. After that, good lights, hi-vis garments (yellow is good at night). It makes a major difference.
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Old 09-10-19, 02:15 PM
  #24  
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Hi

I have a similar situation in rural England so identify with your predicament...

I would suggest the following strategies:

1) Invest in powerful lights and comprehensive high vis gear.
  • LED rim lights for a helmet are good here.
  • A fully reflective gilet is great for catching car headlights.
2) Contact the municipal authority to request a more thorough snow sweep of the road edges. Get winter tyres for cold weather if not already.

3) Ride in the shoulder where possible. When this is not feasible I suggest riding 1-2 feet into the cyclable tarmac. Taking the lane is good in principle like you say but can be sketchy in dark rural areas in my experience.

Good luck & safe cycling

Andy
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