What's best for commuting, flashing or continuous front light?
A the title says, I’m interested in views on the best option for front lights – flashing or continuous?
I’ve always been in favour of a continuous front light, and am pretty sure that is what is required in Highway Code. When I’ve seen cyclists coming towards me with powerful front lights that are flashing, as a cyclist or car driver I’ve always found them to be too distracting, and quite dangerous as it’s difficult to see clearly with the strobing effect.
An incident yesterday got me thinking about this. I have to cross a fairly busy road on my commute. It’s not a cross roads – it’s two offset junctions (turn left onto main road, then immediately turn right onto side road). If there’s a lot of traffic I usually have to pull into the filter lane in the middle of the road an wait to turn right. Yesterday I’m waiting there in the middle of the filter lane while a series of cars pass. It’s dull, but not dark. There’s a bit of a blind bend ahead with a cyclist (close to the gutter) coming down the road. No problem with him, but there’s a car intent on overtaking him that is coming directly towards me heading for the filter lane that I’m in. From the look on the drivers face it is clear that they have not noticed me, despite my front light ~600-900 lumens shining constantly towards them. Fortunately they pulled in about 15-20m ahead of me and both cyclist and car passed me at the same time. It was a bit of a “oh s**t!” moment.
So, is the driver more likely to notice me with a flashing light? Or would a flashing light have been more distracting to the oncoming cyclist and driver affecting their vision and making an accident more likely.
What do you think?Posted 4 years agoFunkyDuncMember
I’m fast coming to think that the Hope District is the best for lit roads, its just amazing and you really notice the cyclist. However for unlit roads I think they are too bright.
Otherwise I think one flashing low down and one static high up works really well and helps give car drivers perception of where you are.Posted 4 years agopdwMember
One of each, but the flashing one doesn’t need to be particularly bright.
Was it a right hand bend? Was it possible that there was traffic behind you? I reckon that one of the times you’re most at risk is when you’re in front of a sea of other front lights, and a flashing light may make you stand out against that.
That said, I usally have both my lights on steady, but of them flicks between less than 100 lumens and about 1700 lumens aimed horizontally using a switch in the brake lever. That tends to get you noticed.Posted 4 years agoantigeeMember
when you’re in front of a sea of other front lights, and a flashing light may make you stand out against that
would agree – I regularly drive kids to stuff across town early evening and find it much easier to pick out cyclists among the cars if they have a flashing lightPosted 4 years agopetefromearthMember
I agree flashing lights can be more noticeable when it’s low light (not fully dark) especially around town. High power is not necessary it just annoys people.
on my commute, part of which is proper dark country roads a few cyclists coming the other way have stupidly bright flashing ones. One guy has this really dumb slow flash. Incredibly annoying and impossible to judge speed or distance. Surely it’s harder for them to see where they’re going as well!
I’m coming back round to the idea that reflectors are the most effective and least driver-blinding optionPosted 4 years agothegreatapeMember
I used to use both. With a only a continuous light, too many drivers, who are only expecting cars or perhaps motorbikes, see a smaller light and think you’re a different type of vehicle a long way away (Father Dougal and cows). I reckon anyway. As above, at least they recognise flashing light = bike.Posted 4 years agohjghg5Member
Depends where I am, but on city roads (the bulk of my commute) I use flashing. I drive to work a couple of days a week and cycle the others so I watched out for cyclists on car days and made a note of what I could see best. The main difference was that a cyclist filtering from behind with a flashing light is far more likely to get my attention in the mirrors as it stands out more from a stream of solid lights.
I will switch it to continuous when I get onto quieter/darker roads though.Posted 4 years agoBen_HSubscriber
I have a Flash light on my handlebar on continuous setting, plus a Joystick on my helmet – usually on flashing mode.
There’s a particular section near my home, where the street is purposely narrowed and one direction of traffic has priority. I often have trouble in broad daylight with cars coming directly at me, despite it being my priority – but I’m pleased to say that with the Joystick set to constant and directed at drivers’ line of sight, I don’t have that problem in the dark. 😉Posted 4 years agoantigeeMember
thegreatape – Member
……see a smaller light and think you’re a different type of vehicle a long way away (Father Dougal and cows).
I will own up to nearly rear ending a 2CV on the M1 late at night once – small lights and moving slow – thought it was a car in the far distance – high speed differential too (but I did learn from the experience)Posted 4 years agocrazy-legsSubscriber
Mix of both.
I use a flashing on the bars and a constant one which is actually mounted on the headtube (bit of a bodged mount, it’s not designed for there but it works well!)
Got a helmet mounted Diablo too which I use on flashing if it’s light-ish (ie dawn, overcast) and constant at night. Usually low power, flip it up to max on roundabouts and dangerous junctions.
That covers all bases – two lights pointing forward to catch attention and judge distance, one on the helmet for me to
blind driversalert blind drivers to my presence.
Where flashing really works is flitering – as you’re coming up behind a line of cars and passing on the inside or outside, the flashing light bounces off their wing and rear view mirrors into the car, it reflects off road signs in front and it really says “bike coming up behind”.Posted 4 years ago
I have two cateyes on the front that flash, and when it is working well the flashes are alternate and it looks like the light is moving horizontally back and forth.
I think this is good as it is ‘movement’ which the human eye is suppossed to be good at picking up.
I have noticed a difference in the number of cars that want to pull out on me, whereas they will with a single flasher, they don’t with the two.
Unfortunately the regulation on the cateyes isn’t good enough and they go back in sync and then come out of it.Posted 4 years agoRusty ShacklefordMember
Our eyes have evolved to detect moving objects more readily than stationary and I reckon a flashing light replicates ‘movement’ to some extent; certainly, when I’m driving I find flashing lights more attention grabbing than stationary.
When it’s dark I have a steady light on the bars and flashing helmet light, so that when my head turns to make eye contact with the half-asleep driver at the side road or roundabout, the flashing light is pointing right at them.
The flashing light doesn’t need to be massively powerful and indeed shouldn’t be, if it’s going to be pointing directly at other road users.
In broad daylight I have the bar light on flash mode, pulse mode for twilight, steady in the dark only.Posted 4 years agocookeaaSubscriber
continuous FTW, Flashing / Strobing lights make it harder for drivers to guage distance and closing speeds, and only serve to Dazzle, especially when a light is flashing at a higher output putting 2 bursts of 800+lm through a drivers retina in one second isn’t going to improve their ability to see.
There are a few lights that are more of a contiuous beam with a once a second “pulse” that are perhaps better, the pulse not being too much brighter than the constant beam helps, grabs a little more attention without blinding…
You need to consider what’s most appropriate to the environment you are riding in, Flashing / Strobing lights on the front are seldom the right choice… IMOPosted 4 years agoPimpmaster JazzMember
I used to use flashing in half-light conditions and then switch to full when it got dark. I also used to have it flashing while dark when cycling in traffic in built up areas, but switch after getting out into the countryside.
My reasoning was that when I had it strobing judging distance wasn’t such a problem because we’d be pretty close due to limited visibility (either dusk or lots of traffic, or both) but once out of heavily built up areas where there was more space I needed to judge distances better, which is difficult with a strobing light. A strobing light doesn’t illuminate anything either, so I put it on constant to see where I was going outside anywhere lit up.
You need to consider what’s most appropriate to the environment you are riding in, Flashing / Strobing lights on the front are seldom the right choice… IMO
That’s pretty much what I’m trying to say. 🙂Posted 4 years ago
Flashing / Strobing lights make it harder for drivers to guage distance and closing speeds,
as long as the lights are not dazzling, is that really a problem as drivers have proven that they are not good at this anyway.
Flashing/Stobing identifies you as a bike, so they have a good idea at what your closing speed is likely to be.
A solid light, particularly if very bright where it could be mistaken for a motorbike, gives less of a clue and so estimates of closing speed are likely to completely wrong.Posted 4 years agostormtrooperMember
My commute is all on well-lit busy roads. I have one of those Topeak helmet lights above which I set to flashing, a Solar Storm on one side of the bars set to constant (on low setting) and an Aldi mini LED on the other side of the bars set to flashing.
On the rear I have a ‘holy hand grenade’ set to one row constant and one row flashing as well as a rear light on the mudguard which I set to flashing.
I will also be digging out the flashing reflective armbands and spoke reflectors this weekend as well for the full ‘Christmas tree’ effect 8)Posted 4 years agobreatheeasyMember
I see a lot of commuter round ours have rear leds mounted into the cradle at the back of the helmet and think they are covered for rear lighting.
Sadly quite a few haven’t noticed when they put their mahoosive rucksacks on and assume the riding position then the led is just covered by the pack rendering it fairly useless.
Back to the point – one flash, one solid for me at the from. And a nice big reflector mounted on the fork brace.Posted 4 years agofunkrodentSubscriber
Amazing the number of cyclists I see who have a decent light on the back and nothing, or a very weak light, on the front. As far as I’m concerned, in built-up areas (with street lighting) you’re in far greater danger of somebody not seeing you and pulling out in front of/into you than you are of being hit up the arse.
I have three front lights. Two small (but reasonably bright) clip-on flashing ones and a powerful solid one. Also have reflective ankle bracelets with flashing lights on them as the pedalling movement makes them very noticeable. All this since I near as dammit pulled out onto a cyclist on a roundabout who had one weak front light and was dressed all in black… 😯Posted 4 years agocrazy-legsSubscriber
All this since I near as dammit pulled out onto a cyclist on a roundabout who had one weak front light and was dressed all in black…
I drove to work last Monday – the superstorm of death was nowhere near as bad up here but it was very wet and still pretty breezy. Driving up to the roundabout, a cyclist shot across the front of it – it’s a 3-exit, Y-shaped mini roundabout – in front of my headlights. He barely registered, he was all in black, not a shred of reflective kit anywhere and two of the weakest blinky LEDs ever. May have been those tiny little rubber-encased Knog ones. He was virtually invisible.Posted 4 years ago
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