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Lights and Gadgets for Safety

Old 06-30-22, 07:11 PM
  #1  
greatbasin
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Lights and Gadgets for Safety

I don't suppose "safety" is something that can just be purchased, but I think there are some accessories that contribute to visibility and address some of the needs to be safe, like lights and reflectors and helmets.

Safety, to the degree we have influence over it, is probably most affected by our behavior and to a lesser degree by gadgets we buy and use. I was studying the guidance on this site: https://bicyclesafe.com/ and read the following under #10: "A car runs into you from behind. This is what many cyclists fear the most, but it's actually not very common, comprising only 3.8% of collisions."

I live in a rural area and rarely cycle in urban areas and busy intersections are not my greatest concern. I have to this point, mostly been concerned with being struck by a motor vehicle that doesn't give me sufficient room when passing, most probably because there is opposing traffic -- the "scissors." The greatest portion of my riding is on undivided two-lane highways where motor vehicles are going 50 mph or more. Sometimes there is a shoulder, and often not much. There are also often poor sight lines in the mountains with hills and curves.

Because of this, I've focused mostly on making myself and bike more visible from the rear. I have flashing taillights and a reflective triangle for example. I think to a certain degree, this is meaningful in as much as it helps me be seen when I'm in the shadow of trees. On the other hand, it's probably naÔve to think this will increase my safety with drivers who do see me but are willing to try to squeeze past too close anyway. I do have a mirror so I can see cars approaching from behind. If I have a wide shoulder, I can move FRAP, but if I don't have sufficient space, I don't want to invite the driver to pass. Sometimes the speed differential is too much to think that they won't pass. If I see cars coming the other way and I know I'm going to get scissored by a car coming up behind me 60mph faster than me, I'll get off the road. My mirror is essential to seeing cars coming from behind. In heavier traffic with a very narrow space, turning my neck risks the bike wandering.


So far I've got:

a rearview mirror on the left
a flashing red light on the back
a reflective triangle on the back




The "Door Prize" is a big concern for me lately. I'm riding around a lake -- it's a 150 mile ride -- and there are places where hundreds of cars (miles long) parallel park on the shoulder for access to the beach. Those cars put me out in the lane with traffic going 50 mph. The speed differential makes me want to ride FRAP, but getting doored could push me under the wheels of a passing truck. I really don't expect the beach-goers are going to look before they open their door, so I'm skeptical that a headlight would help me be seen better in this case.

Preventing collision types #1, #3, and #8 (https://bicyclesafe.com/) can be aided with a headlight. I have and use a flashing white visibility light on the front. It's one of these cheap jobs that are sold under various brand names:



It's not bright enough to see by at night, but I think it adds some visibility in the day. I also have a 1600 lumen Fenix PD36R. This is my EDC flashlight. I can mount it on my bars with a bar-mount. It will only run at 1600 lumens for 3 hours, but at 350 lumens it will run 8.5 hours. I'm thinking I should use it since I have it anyway. I don't generally ride at night.

So what gadgets am I missing? Flag? Orange vest? Pinnacle Technologies Traffic Annihilatorô ?
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Old 06-30-22, 07:13 PM
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Polaris OBark
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Garmin Varia radar.
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Old 06-30-22, 09:37 PM
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Definitely the radar.
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Old 07-01-22, 04:56 AM
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I assume you are already wearing a high visability jersey.

I commuted for many years on a motorcycle. One conclusion that I reached from that was that on sunny days I was quite visible, even if I was not trying to be. But overcast days, all the car drivers treated me like I was invisible. There is nothing you can do to fix the weather, but it does tell you when you need to be much more alert.

And riding into sunrise or sunset when the car driver behind you has a dirty windshield and is struggling to see you when they have the sun in their eyes, they will have trouble seeing you. This is near one of my exercise rides, about a week old news.
https://www.channel3000.com/bicyclis...spect-ongoing/
Based on the time of day and direction I would not be surprised if the driver had the sun in their eyes when they hit the bicyclist. I avoid going east into the sun in early morning and west into the sun in evening as much as I can, but sometimes there is no choice.

Flashing taillights are good to attract attention, but you can't get any depth perception off of them. Constant on lights are less noticeable, but when you see one you get a better sense of where it is. In low light conditions I sometimes will have both a constant and also a flashing taillight. And I really hate those flashers that are so bright that you lose all track of where anything is, my taillights are bright enough but not obnoxious.

And last, if you have a taillight that has a very narrow beam, mount it on your bike in a way that it is well aimed straight behind, not shining at the tree tops.
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Old 07-01-22, 06:42 AM
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Garmin’s Varia combo rear light/radar unit works great. I don’t ride without it.
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Old 07-01-22, 09:50 AM
  #6  
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I assume you are already wearing a high visability jersey.

I commuted for many years on a motorcycle. One conclusion that I reached from that was that on sunny days I was quite visible, even if I was not trying to be. But overcast days, all the car drivers treated me like I was invisible. There is nothing you can do to fix the weather, but it does tell you when you need to be much more alert.

And riding into sunrise or sunset when the car driver behind you has a dirty windshield and is struggling to see you when they have the sun in their eyes, they will have trouble seeing you. This is near one of my exercise rides, about a week old news.
https://www.channel3000.com/bicyclis...spect-ongoing/
Based on the time of day and direction I would not be surprised if the driver had the sun in their eyes when they hit the bicyclist. I avoid going east into the sun in early morning and west into the sun in evening as much as I can, but sometimes there is no choice.

Flashing taillights are good to attract attention, but you can't get any depth perception off of them. Constant on lights are less noticeable, but when you see one you get a better sense of where it is. In low light conditions I sometimes will have both a constant and also a flashing taillight. And I really hate those flashers that are so bright that you lose all track of where anything is, my taillights are bright enough but not obnoxious.

And last, if you have a taillight that has a very narrow beam, mount it on your bike in a way that it is well aimed straight behind, not shining at the tree tops.
Lots of good points here!

The brightly colored clothes are visible from all directions, as opposed to lights being mostly visible to the front and rear. In an urban environment where you need cross traffic to see you, it can be very helpful. In fact, there is usually so much going on in urban traffic that you need everything available to get noticed.

The position of the sun relative to you and traffic is important, as noted. Do what you can to avoid having traffic behind you facing into the sun, since it's much harder for them to see you against that bright light.
Similarly, be aware of when you are moving from a well lit area into the shadows. Once you are in the shadows, anyone still in the sun will have a much harder time seeing you.

In many of these situations of questionable visibility, it can be important to keep an eye on the traffic behind you, in order to judge whether they can see you properly and are actually going around you. I use a helmet mirror to glance back quickly at traffic behind me, and it has allowed me to move off of the road when I could tell that a car approaching from the rear (at night) was not moving to the left to go around. Even as I was moving onto the shoulder, the car clipped my left pannier as it went by me and knocked it off. The driver, to his credit, came back to see if I was okay. The driver was a young high school kid, and said that he saw my taillight. I didn't bother asking why he still clipped me.... I assume it was "target fixation", or maybe texting while driving, or ?? Some folks tend to drive towards whatever they are looking at, so maybe a new driver would be prone to this?

Anyway, I think the OP is covering the basics well. Future improvements might depend on the specific environment or threats

Steve in Peoria
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Old 07-01-22, 10:26 AM
  #7  
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Originally Posted by steelbikeguy View Post
...
..., be aware of when you are moving from a well lit area into the shadows. Once you are in the shadows, anyone still in the sun will have a much harder time seeing you.
...
Good point, I forgot to mention that. Thanks. At times I had trouble noticing my touring partner ahead of me when I was in sun and he rode into shadow, which is why I stopped to take the photo below. The road was winding and up and down, cars came up on us quickly. The kind of conditions that I often had both of my rear flashers on. (Touring, I bring two, most of the time one is only a spare.)



Some of the bushes on the side of the road were thorn bushes, you did not want to ride very close to the edge of the road here.

***

Your story about being hit in the left side pannier, reminds me of something else. On this bike tour (photo below), I usually put my rear triangle on my blue dry bag on top of the rear rack, but at times that was small enough (not much food or other stuff in it) that it was hard to put the triangle on it. One day I put the triangle on the left pannier instead of centered above my rack. And perhaps it was my imagination, but I felt that the traffic was giving me an extra foot of space after I did that. So, for the rest of my tour, I put that triangle on the left pannier.

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Old 07-02-22, 09:33 PM
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As above. I was thinking the same way. Mount all your lights and reflectors on the left side to give the illusion that you are further to the left than you actually are.

Also, try to make motorists want to avoid you. The best way is not to make them aware for your own safety but for them to be worried about getting any kind of damage to their vehicle. So carry a cheap fishing rod with a highly visible lead weight swinging around on the left side. People have had success hanging a pool noodle off the left side but I got a feeling a lot of cyclists might feel they look foolish with it.

And finally, mount a highly visible rear facing camera. If it doesn't serve as a deterrent of bad driver behaviour, it may provide good evidence for police to take action.

Last edited by Daniel4; 07-02-22 at 09:41 PM.
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Old 07-03-22, 04:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Daniel4 View Post
As above. I was thinking the same way. Mount all your lights and reflectors on the left side to give the illusion that you are further to the left than you actually are.

Also, try to make motorists want to avoid you. The best way is not to make them aware for your own safety but for them to be worried about getting any kind of damage to their vehicle. So carry a cheap fishing rod with a highly visible lead weight swinging around on the left side. People have had success hanging a pool noodle off the left side but I got a feeling a lot of cyclists might feel they look foolish with it.
....
I have seen photos on this forum with people that have a pool noodle that extends several feet into the traffic lane, but that becomes a different kind of hazard, as you have essentially become a portable lane closure and traffic from behind take extra risks to get around you in light traffic, in heavy traffic you could cause some cars to rear end each other. Plus, that also can contribute to road rage which doe nobody any good.
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Old 07-03-22, 10:15 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I have seen photos on this forum with people that have a pool noodle that extends several feet into the traffic lane, but that becomes a different kind of hazard, as you have essentially become a portable lane closure and traffic from behind take extra risks to get around you in light traffic, in heavy traffic you could cause some cars to rear end each other. Plus, that also can contribute to road rage which doe nobody any good.
I don't dispute that at all. I've never done the pool noodle myself because in MUPs and bike lanes, that will hinder other cyclists trying to go around me as well as pedestrians getting out of the way.

There is no easy solution. Lights and reflectors are the most effective but you still get that 1% (or so) of motorists who still didn't see you or just don't care. Maybe instead of red taillights, have flashing blue. From far away, blue registers as a service vehicle and motorists will prepare to change lanes. There are too many kinds of red lights. It just confuses drivers for filtering what are real concerns from what is visual noise.
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Old 07-03-22, 12:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Daniel4 View Post
..... Maybe instead of red taillights, have flashing blue. From far away, blue registers as a service vehicle and motorists will prepare to change lanes. There are too many kinds of red lights. It just confuses drivers for filtering what are real concerns from what is visual noise.
In the USA, there are laws that reserve the use of blue lights for emergency vehicles.
I think that flashing amber lights might be more consistent with the idea of alerting motorists that something unusual is on the road that is moving slowly and requires their attention.

About 20 years ago, I had rigged up a home-made nicad battery pack in a clear water bottle. The nicad battery powered the headlight. As an extra feature, I added some yellow LEDs in the water bottle that lit up when the headlight was on. This provided extra visibility to the sides.. or at least that was my goal.

Steve in Peoria
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Old 07-03-22, 07:02 PM
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Originally Posted by steelbikeguy View Post
In the USA, there are laws that reserve the use of blue lights for emergency vehicles...
...in some states.
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Old 07-05-22, 12:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Polaris OBark View Post
Garmin Varia radar.
Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
Definitely the radar.
Originally Posted by oldwinger14 View Post
Garmin’s Varia combo rear light/radar unit works great. I don’t ride without it.
Having now owned a Varia unit for about two or three weeks, I concur. If you want to go further, set the Varia to the flashing mode, and mount another light (e.g., down low on the seat stay) that is set to a steady beam.

If I'm riding out in the country, I don't bother with a headlight; if I'm riding through town, I run a headlight so that motorists are less likely to turn in front of me and such.
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Old 07-05-22, 01:49 PM
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I run the headlight "out in the country" hoping that an oncoming car will be less likely to have a head-on with me when they are passing someone tooling along at only 55 mph.
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Old 07-05-22, 02:05 PM
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You probably don't want to hear this, but sometimes I think you just have to decide the risk is too great and not do the ride. That lake ride sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, and the stress of it would take all the enjoyment out of it for me.

That said, I hate riding in traffic, and you sound like you are much more used to it than me. I'm just saying that there is no shame in deciding it's too risky.

Mark
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Old 07-05-22, 02:18 PM
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Originally Posted by Polaris OBark View Post
I run the headlight "out in the country" hoping that an oncoming car will be less likely to have a head-on with me when they are passing someone tooling along at only 55 mph.
At highway speeds the car can be quite far from you when they go into the passing lane, far enough away that a headlight might not be adequate.

I had that type of close call about six years ago, but I think I had about three seconds to get my tires right on to the edge of the pavement, there was no shoulder and a steep rocky embankment. I was doing about 12 mph, the mini-pickup (that fortunately was quite narrow, had car type small mirrors) was doing about 70 mph, and my calculator tells me that for the 3 seconds that I had, the truck coming towards me pulled into my lane when he about 360 feet away. He probably was closer to 500 or 600 feet away when he started to turn the steering wheel.

From the expression on the drivers face as he shot past me, he never saw me at all, but the car he was passing was slowing and their tires were almost off the pavement, they clearly saw me.

My point is that if your headlight is on and it is a sunny or bright overcast day, they will be a LONG way away when they need to see your light that might not be that noticeable. I am not saying don't bother, just cautioning you that it might not be that effective.
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Old 07-05-22, 02:30 PM
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Originally Posted by Koyote View Post
If I'm riding out in the country, I don't bother with a headlight; if I'm riding through town, I run a headlight so that motorists are less likely to turn in front of me and such.
Originally Posted by Polaris OBark View Post
I run the headlight "out in the country" hoping that an oncoming car will be less likely to have a head-on with me when they are passing someone tooling along at only 55 mph.
Well, that's a good point. I should've specified that when I am "out in the country," I'm waaay out there. I live in the rural midwest. I rarely meet one car, much less two at a time.
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Old 07-25-22, 05:34 PM
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I've been thinking about hanging a road flare or smudge pot on the back. jk
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Old 08-11-22, 09:52 AM
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Smudge pot? Now that is something I havenít heard in a long time. But Varia and headlight for me. I am on hold for several hours for my daily ride. Super thick fog and I am not willing to be on the road in such limited conditions.

Mike
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Old 08-14-22, 07:41 PM
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35 years ago someone marketed a flag that attached to the seat stay and stuck out horizontally about 18". I bought something similar 6 or 7 years ago, but it didn't last. Neither flag could damage a car, but every car that passed me gave me ample clearance. I keep meaning to jury-rig something similar....
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Old 08-15-22, 10:28 AM
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Originally Posted by philbob57 View Post
35 years ago someone marketed a flag that attached to the seat stay and stuck out horizontally about 18". I bought something similar 6 or 7 years ago, but it didn't last. Neither flag could damage a car, but every car that passed me gave me ample clearance. I keep meaning to jury-rig something similar....
I was thinking you'd say that all the cars were using it as target practice, ripping up the flag and snapping the flag stick.

I think just a good ol' reflector triangle would do. Reasonable drivers normally do give ample clearance.

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Old 08-15-22, 11:13 AM
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I run a Dinotte Quad Red for my rear taillight. I only ride in the daytime and do not run a front light. I am very happy with the Quad Red.
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Old 08-15-22, 08:26 PM
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I was thinking you'd say that all the cars were using it as target practice, ripping up the flag and snapping the flag stick.
I think just a good ol' reflector triangle would do. Reasonable drivers normally do give ample clearance.
No - it's uncanny. Drivers avoided the flag as if it were a diamond cutter attached to a thick, rigid steel arm. I agree that a reflective triangle is all that's needed, as long as it sticks out horizontally about 18". Maybe a cyclist is an annoyance, but a piece of plastic that looks like it could scratch one's car is a threat that must be avoided.

Around here (Chicago's North 'burbs) most drivers do provide plenty of space, but a couple of weeks ago, one driver cut me off by driving in the bike lane twice in 2 blocks.
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Old 08-15-22, 10:08 PM
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Originally Posted by philbob57 View Post
No - it's uncanny. Drivers avoided the flag as if it were a diamond cutter attached to a thick, rigid steel arm. I agree that a reflective triangle is all that's needed, as long as it sticks out horizontally about 18". Maybe a cyclist is an annoyance, but a piece of plastic that looks like it could scratch one's car is a threat that must be avoided.

Around here (Chicago's North 'burbs) most drivers do provide plenty of space, but a couple of weeks ago, one driver cut me off by driving in the bike lane twice in 2 blocks.
Once at a friend's house, they wanted me to look at their son's new bike with the flag at the back. I helped them reattach the flag so that it stuck out sideways and explained to them the only way your son would be safe on the road is if all the drivers stayed away in order to avoid getting their paint scratched.
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Old 09-05-22, 05:52 AM
  #25  
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Bikes: 2001 Trek 7200, GT Avalanche, and more

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I got forced out of the bike lane a few weeks ago in downtown Falmouth, MA.
I started looking for a flag/ pennant mount for my rack that I could secure at 90 degrees (horizontal) for riding, but then rotate vertical (for storage).

Last edited by ralphs; 09-05-22 at 05:56 AM.
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