what's this about lights being too bright?

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  • what's this about lights being too bright?
  • Premier Icon feenster
    Subscriber

    The other day I made a comment on a thread about near misses in traffic. I said someone had pulled out in front of me despite my off road light in blink mode being bright enough for driver to have to put his hand up when I spoke to him at his window.

    I was told on the thread I was my own worst enemy, which totally perplexed me.

    Another sarcastic comment on the wiggo thread which seems to have a subtext about having a 4000 lumen light which dazzled the driver.

    Can someone explain all this to me?

    bencooper
    Member

    I sometimes wonder if a flashing yellow light would be better – car drivers know at a deep subconscious level that flashing yellow lights mean “watch out”.

    druidh
    Member

    My understanding…..

    If you have a car travelling towards you at night, there are two lights. You can judge the distance/speed of the car by the rate at which the distance between two lights appears to change. The closer the car, the further apart they appear.

    If you have one very bright light, there is no way of judging speed and/or distance as it approaches you. It could even be stationary.

    This was successfully used as part of the reason against having daytime headlights for motorcycles.

    Premier Icon nickjb
    Subscriber

    Maybe cars should leave their headlights on full beam, rather than dipped too 🙄 . Lights that are too bright/dazzling are not suitable for road use. Not sure what you find tricky about that.

    Premier Icon nickjb
    Subscriber

    double post

    Premier Icon amedias
    Subscriber

    It can be very difficult to judge based on a single point of light as druidh says, especially so given the wide variation in cyclist speeds on the road from a couple of Mph to ~20 in some cases and a lot of people don’t expect cyclists to be travelling quickly.

    The wide variation in brightness of lights doesn’t help either, makes it even harder to tell if what is approaching and how far away it is as bright light at a distance is easily equivalent to dimmer light closer, and a very bright light up close is dazzling and makes it even worse, modern car headlights are just as bad.

    Your eye instinctively reacts to a bright light by *reducing* the amount of light it lets in by constricting (and often you squint or turn your head too), reducing your visual field and it also acts to reduce sensitivity to other dimmer objects in your field of vision this is NOT helpful when you need to observe what is going on around you.

    What you need is to be sufficiently brightly lit up to be noticed and visible, and stand out form your surroundings but without being so bright that it causes other problems, and not directed into the eyes of other road users as that’s when problems occur.

    I have the same problem as a cyclist in judging other cyclists approach speeds at times.

    I think another problem is the need to remind people that when you can’t judge it quickly and easily then your default behaviour should be to NOT do anything until you ARE sure of the speed and direction of approach, rather than just assume it’s OK and carry on.

    dantsw13
    Member

    Bright = fine
    Bright, and shining in drivers eyes = dazzled drivers = Bad.

    Offroad lights are floody and designed to light the whole trail.
    Road lights are specifically designed not to dazzle oncoming drivers (ever used those beam adjusters for France?)

    Premier Icon scaredypants
    Subscriber

    comment was mine – I stand by it. I commute by car

    On a busy urban road there’s loads of light sources in drivers’ field of view and they quickly sort them into what they’re expecting – paired lights = car, and distance between = how close. Single = probably mbike.

    Car headlights are bright but have lenses directing all the light downwards when dipped
    Bike lights are now potentially much brighter than car lights and totally unfocussed, conical beam shining right into drivers’ eyes (you’d be amazed how far down you have to poinbt a light for this not to happen)

    Your light unit is smalller than a car/mbike unit which is what they’re used to seeing, so assumption until they see otherwise is that you’re a far away motorbike on full beam. SInce they can’t really look directly at you, they’re not going to pick up new information about you very fast.

    Add in the flashing and they not only can’t comfortably look at you but they lose previous reference points and can’t see that you’re approaching at all

    Wear a very bright reflective top and shine a moderate light or two onto yourself, then you’ll instantly look like a person on a bike. WHen I start commuting on a bike that’ll be me, no question.

    butcher
    Member

    Generally speaking blind drivers are a bad thing.

    Especially ones driving towards you.

    uselesshippy
    Member

    Stop making excuses for bad driving.
    Its always the cyclists fault isn’t it…..

    nbt
    Member

    scaredypants wrote:

    Wear a very bright reflective top and shine a moderate light or two onto yourself, then you’ll instantly look like a person on a bike. WHen I start commuting on a bike that’ll be me, no question.

    oooh that’s a good idea – i’ve got a reflective safety vest, might add a small bar light pointing at my chest

    and yes, bike lights can be terribly bright, I passed a guy on the canal the other day, my light was pointing down and his light straight ahead, I couldn’t see a thing till he went past me

    Premier Icon feenster
    Subscriber

    nickjb, can you leave the sarcasm and patronising out please, trying to understand this.

    My objective is to make myself safer. To my mind brighter light = better beacuse more likely to be seen. My light is not as bright as a car full beam, but I accept could still be dazzling, same as some newer car headlihgts. I don’t accept that my light is bright enough to cause a hazard to other road users.

    What I’m not getting here is the suggestion that it’s my own fault that a car pulled out in front of me because I had a bright light in blink mode. As amedias said surely if a driver pulls out without first being sure of how far the light source is, then that’s his bad, not mine?

    Premier Icon amedias
    Subscriber

    Stop making excuses for bad driving.
    Its always the cyclists fault isn’t it…..

    bad driving is not taking the time to make sure you have observed correctly.

    bad use of lighting makes it hard for the ones that are trying to observe properly to do so.

    I have the same problem as a cyclist in judging other cyclists approach speeds at times.

    Premier Icon scaredypants
    Subscriber

    that’s his bad, not mine?

    Here lies ……
    He had right of way

    Premier Icon feenster
    Subscriber

    @scaredypants, making more sense now, thanks for taking the time to explain. Read your post after making my last one. Some things I wasn’t aware of there.

    Premier Icon amedias
    Subscriber

    As amedias said surely if a driver pulls out without first being sure of how far the light source is, then that’s his bad, not mine?

    Damn right, but there are things you can do to help the ones that are paying attention to notice you and judge better, and it’s not always brighter = better.

    It’s about where the light is, what it illuminates and how visible *you* are. Using just a single very bright light is not the best solution.

    And good on you for taking the time to think about it and wanting to try and understand how to make yourself safer.

    I don’t accept that my light is bright enough to cause a hazard to other road users

    problem is, you’re not the best person to make that judgement* as you’re on the wrong side of the light, unless you’ve done extensive testing approaching yourself in the opposite direction?

    as someone mentioned up there ^ it’s often surprising how far you have to dip your lights to not shine them in drivers faces, think about the height of your handle bars and the height of their head when sat in car…

    *neither are we as we haven’t seen your light or where you point it, just making general comments.

    Premier Icon nickjb
    Subscriber

    if a driver pulls out without first being sure of how far the light source is, then that’s his bad, not mine

    You’ve made it difficult for the driver judge that distance. If you were dressed as a ninja with no lights would your argument still apply? If you want to make life difficult for other road users then these things are more likely to happen

    I can’t really equate these two statements:

    my off road light in blink mode being bright enough for driver to have to put his hand up when I spoke to him

    [quote] I don’t accept that my light is bright enough to cause a hazard to other road users[/quote]

    stgeorge
    Member

    Wear a very bright reflective top and shine a moderate light or two onto yourself, then you’ll instantly look like a person on a bike

    Best idea I’ve heard for a long time.

    Premier Icon imnotverygood
    Subscriber

    I’m sorry.. But show me a light coming towards me & I have no difficulty differentiating between a motorbike at x times two distance and a push bike at x distance. Next time you are out on the road try it for yourself. They look completely different. Stop excusing stupidity & carelessness.

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    my off road light in blink mode being bright enough for driver to have to put his hand up when I spoke to him at his window.

    I’d suggest this sentence means your light is too bright and/or angled at eye level.

    Blink mode doesn’t do you any favours either – especially if it is your only front light – very hard to judge distance from a single blinking blinding light source.

    Road only accounts for a small part of my commute, thankfully. I use my old Lumicycle Halide (with the commuter glow ring on it for a bit of side visibility).

    It’s an off-road light and has no dimmer – so it gets pointed at the floor when I want to avoid blinding people. I aim to have it cover roughly the same area as a car headlight. I’ll sometimes flick it up at junctions to make sure oncoming traffic clocks me, then flick it back down again.

    Premier Icon feenster
    Subscriber

    my off road light in blink mode being bright enough for driver to have to put his hand up when I spoke to him

    I was beside the car with the light at his eye level pointing straight into his face, probably 2 meters away. I think the same would probaly happen with a £25 cat-eye at that range.

    I don’t accept that my light is bright enough to cause a hazard to other road users

    While riding around, I’ve never see any signs of drivers being dazzled; slowing down, swerving, putting their hands to their face while coming the other way, flashing their lights, tooting, although they do dip headlights on unlit roads.

    Anyway, some stuff here I wasn’t aware of, so will definitely be reviewing my setup.

    Premier Icon nickjb
    Subscriber

    But show me a light coming towards me….

    Have you tried it with a 4000 lumen flashing light that completely blinds you?

    trb
    Member

    I have almost taken out a cyclist who had a silly bright flashing light mounted on his helmet. The fact that it was so bright and shining in my eyes meant I couldn’t focus on it (& him) plus the height made him look at least 100m farther away that he actually was, ie from my point of view his light was at the same angle as the car waaaayy back down the road.

    Luckily I was so busy calling him a c*ck and wondering what type of light it was that I stopped where I was…. someone else may not have.

    I ride with a halide light pointing down and to the left so that it’s useful for seeing the road, and have a hi vis vest and keep my wheel reflectors on (you know the ones we all take off as soon as we get a bike out of the box)

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    show me a light coming towards me & I have no difficulty differentiating between a motorbike at x times two distance and a push bike at x distance

    Using my light on the off-road path, pointed forward so I can see where I’m going, I’ve had several different pedestrians say to me they thought I was a motorbike.

    One bloke, on a bike, said he thought it was a searchlight coming towards them.

    Premier Icon amedias
    Subscriber

    If you have a dedicated commuting bike then also worth looking into tyres like the spesh and michelin ones (im sure others too) with reflective strips on the side, nothing says ‘I’m a bike’ to an approaching car like two big wheel sized circles reflecting back at you.

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    keep my wheel reflectors on

    Reflective tyre walls here. Very useful for side visibility.

    (Conti City Contact Reflex)

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    my off road light in blink mode

    Flashing only = bad
    Very bright and flashing = bad

    If I wanted to confuse the hell out of someone and disrupt their vision as much as possible, I’d use a very bright strobe light.

    I got flashed at countless times when riding around with my lupines. And having been driving when cyclists have come the other way with very bright lights, it is indeed horribly dazzling and dangerous. If you want to be seen, don’t force people to look away from you!

    While riding around, I’ve never see any signs of drivers being dazzled, slowing down, swerving, putting their hands to their faceup while coming the other way

    I have.

    Premier Icon feenster
    Subscriber

    I have.

    I didn’t realise you were folliwing me 😀

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    If I wanted to confuse the hell out of someone and disrupt their vision as much as possible, I’d use a very bright strobe light.

    Yep – that’s exactly what the military/swat do in some situations: tactical strobe, very disorienting.

    Watch from 3:30
    [video]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=okPir0dFXOo[/video]

    What I’m not getting here is the suggestion that it’s my own fault that a car pulled out in front of me because I had a bright light in blink mode. As amedias said surely if a driver pulls out without first being sure of how far the light source is, then that’s his bad, not mine?

    Bright light = iritating, subconciously you won’t look at it becasue your instinct is to preserve your retinas.

    Blinking = nearly impossible to figure out how far away it is, or how fast it’s traveling.

    Yes you had right or way, but you didn’t exaclty make it easy for the driver pulling out. IME several small lights and one main one are far better than one retina burning one, especialy if you have a relativey dim (~200lumen or normal by everyone except serious cyclist standards) helmet light (so as not to blind drivers), combined with a red light on the back of your helemt, gives you more of an outline and makes it easy to judge distances.

    It’s less about right and wrong, more about making it easy for drivers to make the right decisions then you can both be right rather than one wrong and the other in hospital.

    trb
    Member

    Reflective tyre walls here

    Ohh yeah, my Tortec mudguards have reflective strips as well
    http://www.sjscycles.co.uk/tortec-reflector-mudguards-prod15328/

    if a driver pulls out without first being sure of how far the light source is, then that’s his bad, not mine

    The reality being that if you’re not careful about how you appear to a driver, then quite often they ARE sure how far away you are…..right up to the point you go over the front of their bonnet

    Premier Icon GrahamS
    Subscriber

    It’s less about right and wrong, more about making it easy for drivers to make the right decisions then you can both be right rather than one wrong and the other in hospital.

    Yep. Completely agree the driver shouldn’t have pulled out on you. And I would never say it was “your fault” – they made the bad call – but you didn’t help them make a better call.

    Premier Icon nickjb
    Subscriber
    Premier Icon feenster
    Subscriber

    Ok, can anyone suggest any examples of good commuting lights. Part of my commute is on unlit road, and I do a bit of road training on quiet country roads, so I want something that will light my way, as well as something that will make me as safe and visible as possible.

    What about the Exposure Flash front light?

    Premier Icon D0NK
    Subscriber

    As amedias said surely if a driver pulls out without first being sure of how far the light source is, then that’s his bad, not mine?

    absolutely but not much comfort to you when your flying through the air.

    It’s a weird one, birght dazzling lights are certainly noticeable but there does appear to be a behavioural trait where drivers brains say “I don’t know what that is so I’ll ignore it” they know 2 lights = traffic so watch out. Blinky or bright single lights don’t produce that effect. The argument drivers can’t figure out how fast single lights are going is a crap one, if they don’t know your speed they should err towards extra caution but it’s the subconscious stuff we may need to worry about, like the fighter pilot stuff that was mentioned last week.

    Not sure about the dazzling drivers bit, on unlit roads (or towpaths) yes obviously that’s a bad thing but on urban streets with plenty of street lights around surely “pinning” a driver who is waiting to pull out of a side street with a few hundred lumens form a helmet mounted spotlight is a good way to get you seen? (and take care not to aim it at oncoming drivers)

    FTR on my commuter I have 2 pairs of leds 1 lit constant 1 flasher front and rear and a joystick on my helmet which has a low powered continuous with a flash “pulse”. Mudguards have reflective strips and I have a few spoke reflectors. plus hiz viz sam brown belt and ankle bracelets for really dark horrible depth of winter road commutes

    Premier Icon feenster
    Subscriber

    the fighter pilot stuff that was mentioned last week

    ?

    julianwilson
    Member

    I have exposure flash/flare lights on my commuter. Whilst it is very practical in terms of space it takes on handlebar, ease of taking on/off, easy to carry spare battery and quick to recharge etc, I’m not sure that the flashing mode on the front one isn’t too bright.

    The flash on the front sure is wierd: it is always “on” but pulses an extra bright flash at about 90bpm. I’m not sure I really like it but haven’t been growled at by any drivers yet in the three months I have been using it. Obviously I point it downwards a bit but the spread is by the design of the light very “round”.

    -The flash really is so bright that despite the “baseline” light in between flashes, it is a bit disorienting if I am riding alone with no other traffic/headlights behind or in front, on a lit-but-not-fantastically lit road (forder valley road in plymouth in case of my commute, lots of trees obscure streetlights somewhat especially on the cycle path). Even sometimes feels too ‘flashy’ with another 240l bar light on the other side of the stem to ‘balance it out’ and give drivers a fixed light source to see as well as a flashing one. Also the flash is a bit of a faff to switch between modes, especially with one hand as the light just rotates in the mount when you rotate the bezel.

    I think I might try ‘downgrading’ to using the exposure light on fixed (150l or thereabouts) and a less bright 1 watt led on flashing.

    Premier Icon scaredypants
    Subscriber

    surely “pinning” a driver who is waiting to pull out of a side street with a few hundred lumens form a helmet mounted spotlight is a good way to get you seen? (and take care not to aim it at oncoming drivers)

    Theyre then suffering impaired vision afetr you’ve passed. Not much of favour to the biker 3 seconds behind you

    julianwilson
    Member

    stoopid double post.

    Premier Icon nickjb
    Subscriber

    Ok, can anyone suggest any examples of good commuting lights.

    Does your existing light not dim? I just use a DX torch. It’s mounted on the bars tight enough to stay put but still movable. When the road is empty I point it up, when a car comes along I just nudge the back and point it down, just like main beam/dipped headlight. You need to drop it quite a lot, though.

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