Author Topic: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?  (Read 9979 times)

Jimbo

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Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« on: October 29, 2013, 07:36:50 AM »
Any definitive opinions on this?

I always seem to not be able to evaluate distances correctly for blinking lights on bikes when I am in a clown car. For this reason, I go for solid lights on my bike.

I want to be seen, obviously. And I am willing to consider I might be wrong.

So, what should I do? Is there a difference for front/rear? Any scientific data to back up either theories?

Thanks experienced bike riders.

hoodedfalcon

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2013, 07:48:42 AM »
I have solved this dilemma with having two rear lights, one that blinks and one that doesn't. My front light is solid. I have no science to justify this.

TrulyStashin

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2013, 07:54:03 AM »
I blink.   

1 on my helmet and one on my seat.  Both blinking.

kendallf

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2013, 07:58:23 AM »
I have no scientific data to point to, but I prefer blinking.  In a car, I have trouble judging distances to the blinking light as well, but at least the blinking draws my attention.  I can see dim steady lights and think they are from a motorcycle or car much further up the road.  If I see blinking, at least my brain defaults to "bicycle, probably close".

Russ

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2013, 08:06:26 AM »
I have no scientific data to point to, but I prefer blinking.  In a car, I have trouble judging distances to the blinking light as well, but at least the blinking draws my attention.  I can see dim steady lights and think they are from a motorcycle or car much further up the road.  If I see blinking, at least my brain defaults to "bicycle, probably close".

same here. steady when I'm riding with other people though; blinkies are annoying as fuck when you have to look past them for an hour.

Ottawa

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2013, 08:14:03 AM »
For commuting I run a blinky on the back, a little white blinky on the front in addition to a 1000 lumen bright-as-fuck led spot on the front (which I also use for night mountain biking).  I often put the bright-as-fuck spot on blink setting at nighttime intersections to jerk car clowns away from texting as they approach the intersection. 

If we're talking also about night riding safety, you should have as much bright and reflective clothing on as possible.  This turns clown cars' own headlights to your safety advantage.  Additionally, I cut strips/pieces of 3M reflective tape out and put them all over my frame so the bike will light up like a christmas tree from all angles.

GuitarStv

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2013, 08:27:21 AM »
I prefer blinking .  . . it draws my attention better when I'm driving, and is easier on battery life.  Blinking front handlebar light, blinking rear seat mounted light, and (when conditions are really crappy with snow/rain/sleet) blinking light on the back of my helmet.

Between my reflectors, the 6 ft of reflective tape on my bike, the neon/reflective jacket that I'm wearing, I think that anyone in a car will be able to figure out distance to me pretty easily.


One thing that I have discovered though . . . do not leave your bike light on blinking mode while cycling down a dark bike path at night.  It really screws with your perception of distances and leads to wildly undershooting corners.  :P
« Last Edit: October 29, 2013, 08:28:59 AM by GuitarStv »

Jimbo

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #7 on: October 29, 2013, 08:35:59 AM »
Thanks everyone. I guess I'll start blinking... And get reflective tape. And more lights...

Damn, my bike budget has been so much more than my car budget this year. Crazy. But in a good way, I suppose.

Maseroni

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #8 on: October 29, 2013, 09:09:33 AM »
Personally I blink front and rear lights when on well-lit roads.  On poorly-lit roads I put my bright-as-fuck front light on steady, with a lower-power (cheapo) front light on steady, and the rear on blink.  On paths I have rear blinking (because its a pain in the ass to stop and change it), and keep both front lights on steady for maximum daylight to blind pedestrians, small children and dogs.

Russ

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #9 on: October 29, 2013, 09:17:55 AM »
I guess I should add, front light is pretty bright and always on solid. I think this is visible enough for people who would turn out in front of me, and doesn't distract oncoming drivers like a flashing light would.

jpo

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #10 on: October 29, 2013, 09:25:08 AM »
Back light always blinks. Front light blinks unless it's too dark.

Paul der Krake

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #11 on: October 29, 2013, 09:50:01 AM »
Blinking front and back, plus an additional super bright front light (1200 lumens) for night riding. Even on well lit roads it's a plus because roads aren't exactly smooth where I live. The blinking ones last around 100 hours on one charge, the super bright one 3-4 hours.  I feel safer riding at night than during the day.

No reflective tapes at all, just my regular work clothes.

StarryC

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #12 on: October 29, 2013, 11:01:34 AM »
http://www.visualexpert.com/Resources/motheffect.html

I had read something like this long ago- that blinking lights might lead drivers to steer TOWARDS them.  For that reason, I went with solid back and front, usually.  I never use solid on the front because I dislike the way it strobes on sigs etc. on a relatively dark street, but if I'm worried about the battery, I will flash on the rear. 

This article: http://bikeportland.org/2013/05/20/youre-not-as-visible-on-a-bike-at-night-as-you-think-new-study-shows-87044
made me get retro-reflective ankle straps. 


davisgang90

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #13 on: October 29, 2013, 12:49:14 PM »
I go blink in the back, front light steady and my headlamp steady as well.

The headlamp has become more critical as the days have grown shorter and more and more runners on the multi-use trail are engaged in Ninja stealth training or a Johnny Cash look-a-like contest. 

StarswirlTheMustached

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #14 on: October 29, 2013, 03:11:42 PM »
I'm steady, front and back. Blinking is just annoying, and I need my front light to see the road.
When it's dark, I slap on a reflective vest that balls up easily in my bag when I get to work. There's reflective tape on bits of my frame, and my winter tyres have reflective side walls.

bikebum

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #15 on: October 29, 2013, 09:30:49 PM »
I think blinking lights are a little annoying so I don't blink. Good points here about battery life though. I think drivers will notice a solid light the same as a blinking light; just my opinion, don't have anything to back that up.

lackofstache

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #16 on: October 30, 2013, 08:47:53 AM »
I blink in the back unless riding w/ others, but also have a reflective triangle for consistent shine at night. I keep a solid light running in the front, as no one needs a blinding, blinking light pointed in his/her eyes.

On the road, either way is fine, but on a bike/ped path, blinking lights are a horrible idea. Not a fan of 10,000 lumens blinking in my eyes from the helmet of a passerby.

gimp

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #17 on: October 30, 2013, 01:58:52 PM »
Humans see motion much better than still objects. Blinking lights are seen earlier. (That's why plane lights blink, helicopter lights blink, ever tall structure has a blinking light on it, etc.) A solid light may even be entirely ignored by a tired or distracted driver, because they're not associating its presence with something important, whereas a blinking light draws attention and focus.

I definitely agree with what the first posts have said: Blinking and solid on the back (or at least blinking); solid on the front. Blinking on your vest or helmet or pedals also helps. Seriously, looking like a christmas tree may annoy other people (and you) but you'll be visible!

Also, blinking definitely uses less power. If the circuit is fully off half the time, you get almost double battery life. Alternatively, for the same power, you can double your light count. (You can obviously do even more if you blink at a lower duty cycle.)

Trirod

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #18 on: October 30, 2013, 03:39:16 PM »
Solid on the front (so I can see where I'm going) and blinking on the back.  I would have to think blinking on the front would be really irritating after while.

Hamster

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #19 on: October 30, 2013, 11:35:45 PM »
2 solid lights in front - helmet and bars. 2 blinkies in back, so I still have one lit in case the other's batteries die since I don't see them.

perthcyclist

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #20 on: October 31, 2013, 01:22:05 AM »
You want motorists to see movement. I use blinking on the back, solid high power on the front.... and reflective tape on the bike - red on the back, white on the front and on the wheels (in a dotty type fashion so it moves)...

I also put my headlight on 'low' when using the bike paths so that it is not so annoying to the people I am riding with.... making them continaully look at their own giant shadow lol

Also leg reflective bands that go near your ankle. Super visible and keep your pants out of your chain at the same time = win-win.... gets the movement without the blinking

GuitarStv

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #21 on: October 31, 2013, 06:30:16 AM »
I cut up some reflective tape and put it on the inside of my rims sorta like this:




It works just like reflective sidewalls, but you don't have to buy new tires.  :P


I'm not much of a fan of red tape on the back of a bike.  Red reflective tape is not as visible as white/silver stuff.  I want to be seen with maximum brightness, especially when a car is approaching from behind.  I use silver tape all over the bike.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2013, 07:18:24 AM by GuitarStv »

m8547

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #22 on: October 31, 2013, 07:08:01 AM »
My normal ride is really short, so I don't worry much about lights. I have Reelights (blinking) that are always on when I'm moving, and sometimes I'll ride with just those. I'll usually add a solid and/or blinking rear and 200 lumen solid front light for slightly longer rides.

I found a class 3 reflective vest, which is designed for workers in traffic over 55mph. It has more reflective tape than most vests, and it has both fluorescent yellow and orange. I got mine here for super cheap: http://alertshirt.com/wiraja.html

Spoke Lights are really visible as long as your rims/tires aren't too wide. On solid mode they look like they are bouncing up and down, so you get the best of solid and blink. http://www.amazon.com/Nite-Ize-Spokelit-Bicycle-Light/dp/B00152R8Q6/

I also have a bunch of reflective tape on my bike. I bought a single 18" strip of "conspicuity tape" and cut it up, sticking white pieces on my fork and red pieces on the seat tube and seat stays (diagonal tubes from the seat tube to the rear hub). I paid about $2 for the strip of tape.

One thing I've been meaning to do for a while is make a rear light that's physically large. It's hard to see a tiny LED from far away, no matter how bright it is. Tail lights on cars and trucks are always much larger than bike lights, and I think that increases visibility.

Aloysius_Poutine

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #23 on: October 31, 2013, 07:15:20 AM »
2 blinkies at back, 1 blinker up front

NestEggChick (formerly PFgal)

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #24 on: October 31, 2013, 11:26:21 AM »
It looks like I'm in the minority here, but as a driver I HATE the blinking lights. They are incredibly annoying and distracting. Yes, I need to see bicyclists, but I need to see other things too, and they draw my eye too much. I really can't stand them. I think that a strong solid light is just fine, but it also helps if you don't wear dark clothes. Too many cyclists around here ride dark bikes with dark clothes and expect to be seen. But then, pedestrians do the same thing. Drivers have to be ever-vigilant, which is why I find those blinking lights so distracting when I'm trying to pay attention to so many other things as well.

By the way, I live in the city, so the roads are always lit, if that makes a difference. Needs might be different on dark, unlit roads.

Eric

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #25 on: October 31, 2013, 12:07:36 PM »
It looks like I'm in the minority here, but as a driver I HATE the blinking lights. They are incredibly annoying and distracting. Yes, I need to see bicyclists, but I need to see other things too, and they draw my eye too much.

And that's precisely why I use blinking lights.  As you say, it may be annoying, but it definitely draws your eye.  And of course the goal is to be seen.  I'll take being annoying over not been seen any day of the week.

GuitarStv

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #26 on: October 31, 2013, 12:14:37 PM »
It looks like I'm in the minority here, but as a driver I HATE the blinking lights. They are incredibly annoying and distracting. Yes, I need to see bicyclists, but I need to see other things too, and they draw my eye too much. I really can't stand them. I think that a strong solid light is just fine, but it also helps if you don't wear dark clothes. Too many cyclists around here ride dark bikes with dark clothes and expect to be seen. But then, pedestrians do the same thing. Drivers have to be ever-vigilant, which is why I find those blinking lights so distracting when I'm trying to pay attention to so many other things as well.

By the way, I live in the city, so the roads are always lit, if that makes a difference. Needs might be different on dark, unlit roads.

All that I read in the above post is "Flashing lights work best at making you visible on a bike".

sol

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #27 on: October 31, 2013, 01:13:18 PM »
I blink front back and sides, and rock reflectors and reflective tape on both stationary and moving parts of the bicycle. 

I used to run a blinky clipped onto the back strap of my helmet, too, but I've given it up. 

Carl

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #28 on: October 31, 2013, 01:30:53 PM »
I read somewhere that drunk drivers are drawn to the strobing lights often associated with police cruisers--that being said, I run my rear on blinking both day and night.

The front I run solid at night, but blink during the day.

It has work for me so far, going on 6 years riding a lot of commuter, and in traffic, miles.

perthcyclist

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #29 on: November 01, 2013, 02:08:51 AM »
Nothing wrong with red 3M reflective tape, just as bright as the white stuff IMO and better if the motorist isn't confused about which end is the back and which end is the front of your bike.

I believe our road code has a stipulation that the back end have red reflectives and the front have white.

GuitarStv

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #30 on: November 01, 2013, 07:04:10 AM »
Nothing wrong with red 3M reflective tape, just as bright as the white stuff IMO and better if the motorist isn't confused about which end is the back and which end is the front of your bike.

I believe our road code has a stipulation that the back end have red reflectives and the front have white.

Actually, you're wrong on that.  While the red 3M tape does reflect, it's not at all as bright as the white stuff.

Reflectivity of tape is a function of the color, size, and condition of the reflector. Clear or white reflectors are the most efficient, and appear brighter than other colors.  Look at any reflectivity chart for different colours of reflective tape, you'll notice that red/blue/green colours are ALWAYS less bright than White/Silver/Yellow.  The colouring absorbs some of the light that you are trying to reflect.  Now, does that make a huge difference to visibility?  Probably not in most cases . . .

galaxie

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Re: Bike lights: To blink, or not to blink?
« Reply #31 on: November 01, 2013, 07:30:21 AM »
I have some blinking reelights (they self-charge from magnets on the wheels and are always on if I'm moving), and my front & back lights are switchable from steady to blinking.  I always set the back light to blink, but I only use blink mode in the front if it's bright but raining.  That way I have both blinking and steady in the front.