Two dudes riding bikes on Ellsworth last night
There are a fair number of people driving (cars) without headlights, especially around dusk, or during rain. At least there are everyday when I’m biking home. There is a law against that, but I wouldn’t bet my life that someone is following the law.
Doesn’t have to be the majority either.. it only takes one without headlights to run you over.
When I was in Oakland CA last year I was warned by a number of locals to make sure I had lights front and rear at night due to people being stopped and fined. I use lights anyway, but good to know.
@Bricker it basically breaks down that some large majorities of fatalities are kids. 60%? The next largest is riding at night and then cars turning left in front of you.
You’re better off with lights than a helmet, IMO.
@dwillen, true enough. I am personally sensitive to the risk of riding at dusk and/or in the rain without a good taillight. I’d even consider the possibility of mandating a rear light when riding within a half-hour of sunset. But at midnight, reflectors are enough, and I don’t want to create more unenforced laws that give police the opportunity to selectively enforce at their whim alone.
I’ve been running my planet bike rear blinky on most mornings lately, even around 9a, and definitely after 6p. With the sheer volume of gasholes txting or yapping on the phone or checking their facebook out there, I’d rather run the risk of catching someone’s peripheral vision than worry about looking like a dork. About a third of the drivers I see are on their goddamned phone in one way or another… I’m just amazed that more peds & cyclists aren’t being slaughtered on a daily basis.
I start off by looking like a dork, and then add the blinkies. If someone creams me, they’ve gotta be blind or stupid.
But wait, here’s another Elbert Hubbard moment: “Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.”
Still, experienced cyclists in full electroluminescent safety gear are being killed off faster than unlit helmetless hipsters. Not saying don’t use the blinkies. Just saying don’t rely on them to save your life. Assume all drivers are blind and stupid.
I interpret the (very limited) data a bit differently. The statistics have shown (since the 1970s) that rural roads after dark account for a disproportionate share of cycling fatalities. It seems like the only thing that has changed is that the rural areas have been suburbanized. I think lights may turn out to be a secondary factor, not a primary one.
edmonds59, in suburban areas, not PGH.
I use my lights in the morning and in the evening and of course at night. Rear reflectors are adequate but they don’t give the same warning that a bright blinking light does. Someone driving behind me can see my rear light from at least a block away and can process that I am there well in advance of being behind me. When I am driving I appreciate the same thing.
I’ve found that with a front handlebar basket and a rear crate, my reflectors are all blocked or have to be removed so I can actually “use” my bike. I’m actually slightly worried that I’ll get stopped by a cop for taking the lane (“blocking traffic”) and then ticketed for that and not having reflectors (and anything else they can make up, because they’re irritated). I’m normally a fan of cops stopping anybody breaking any law (the laws are not secret, we’re all capable of following 99% of them, my municipality could use the money), and I’m all for paying the fine for any law I break… But the reflectors are just not going to save my life.
Solution is to have reflectors on crate and basket, I know. Just haven’t done that yet.
But I do have ligths everywhere. New bike doesn’t have a basket b/c with the basket, I couldn’t mount light or reflector and I’ve managed with the rack on back instead (I’m less scared of stuff flying off my bike, it’s happened and hasn’t ended the world). I put lights on the rack, when the crate is on the reflector is blocked.
But I could see how a hauler would have difficulty complying with the reflector law – complying with the light law just seems like good self preservation (except in choice neighborhoods).
None of that applies to people who are too cool for school and seem to survive life anyway.
ejwme: PA code (and that of most states) permits the substitution of a rear light instead of a reflector. So you’re legal on that score. Though you might be missing the “amber reflector on each side.” I am
But that’s not precisely the issue at hand — the suggestion was made that we should actually campaign for eliminating the minimal reflector standard.
I like reflectors and blinkies used together. The reflectors are great at giving several points of reference that help the driver determine how far away you are since the two pedals and a seat help define the object as a bike.
The blinkies are great at catching attention, especially when car lights aren’t aimed at you. I especially like the addition of a helmet blinky
I have clipless pedals that have no place for amber reflectors. Am I an outlaw?
Technically, yes. That’s why clipless pedals from the bike shop when sold with complete bikes come with those plastic clip-in reflector doo-dads.
Otherwise, I believe the pedals fall under user modifications that are up to you to be legal, much like car hotrodding type things.
hmm… eliminating the reflector minimum standard in favor of?
When motorcyclists successfully lobbied to eliminate their helmet law, I horribly thought that maybe it made sense, a chlorine in the gene pool kind of thing.
I could see this viewed as something similar – “Reflectors don’t make a safe cyclist”… except it would never get the publicity the helmet change did.
My deceased father spent about twenty years lobbying for the repeal of the helmet law. I’m pretty sure that statistically, helmets aren’t a big factor in motor cycle fatalities. Likewise, if somebody was hit by a car on a bicycle and wasn’t wearing a helmet, you probably wouldn’t say “man, that guy should have worn a helmet, he’d still be okay!”
Pierce – I’ve seen and been in bicycle accidents where a helmet made the difference between “man, that sucks” and what would have been severe head injuries – one in a place where the nearest medical help was hundreds of miles of no roads away. Granted, none involved cars, but not all bike accidents involve cars. And a car doesn’t have to be involved for there to be severe head trauma. As a kid all the helmet PSAs I saw involved trees, sidewalks, the ground.
I’ve got no experience with motorcycle helmets, like I said, it was a horrid thought I had, but my point is I’d hate for motorists to have the same thought about a reflector repeal for cyclists. Repealing the law without any other contextual change will just eliminate the opportunity for law enforcement to point out to a cyclist “you’re invisible AND you’re breaking the law”… Cops aren’t (typically) going to stop a law abiding citizen just to tell them they’re suicidally stupid. They’d spend all day at it.
“repealing the minimum reflector standard” in favor a mandatory taillight standard. I think we’re better off leaving well enough alone.
The advantage that reflectors have over taillights is – they never need batteries. I’ve seen far too many nighttime cyclists illuminated in their black gear by my headlights, and then realized they’ve got a blinky perched on their backpack, pointed at the sky, giving out a feeble dying gasp to the mothership.
Tabby: reflectors *and* blinkies, yes. Multiple solid points of reference, yes, yes, yes. It’s impossible to estimate closing rate with only a single point of unknown size and intensity. But two reflectors of the same size which are both illuminated by an overtaking auto’s headlights will get brighter MUCH faster than a blinky does, increasing the driver’s perception of overtaking rate. (In fact… This just occured to me. I think that drivers are conditioned to estimate closing rates based on the increase in perceived brightness of materials in their headlight beam, in and along the roadway. The slower rate of increase in perceived brightness of a taillight alone might cause motorists to underestimate their closing rates, perhaps tragically so. It’s probably worth doing a real study.)
Also, if you have multiple taillights, it turns out that the weaker one doesn’t really help you very much. What I do is use a brighter one on solid, and a weaker one on flash.
I wonder if this is time for me to make my plug for solid-on mode instead of three blinkies of varying strength, all on flash…
If it were an either/or situation, I would take rear reflectors over rear lights, anyday.
There is the occasional car without lights, of course, but tail lights are neither particulary bright (usually) nor reliable.
The point of my comment was really that instead of insinuating that my gene pool be eliminated via fatal head trama, you look up statistics before making a judgment.
I was speaking strictly about motorcycle accidents, and then comparing it a cyclist accident, which you seem to be a lot more sympathetic towards.
Lyle – I think you’re right on the tail lights…
Literally the way I see it when I’m driving behind a cyclist: Blinking gets my attention. Solid allows better depth perception.
Enforcing existing legislation is better than anything I’ve seen recommended here, though. There’s no use in changing the laws if nobody’s going to enforce them anyway.
The study you mention would be an awesome project for a college student, masters, intern, depending on scope. Could be nice joint project between psych, engineering, statistics, lots of opportunities. Students work cheap, but their work isn’t typically cheap with good advisorship.
As both a motorcyclist and a bicyclist, the anti-helmet/safety-gear-is-uncool crowd’s argument reminds me of this-
Re the above: I saw a dude in the parking garage this morning parking his Harley. He had a stereo going at 100dB, just absolutely blasting the music out.
How about the pro-safety anti-bike helmet crowd?
For example, If you expand Nigel Perry’s response, you will find this gem:
Let us not forget that during the 3rd International Conference on Injury Prevention and Control, Melbourne 1995, that delegates from Sweden stated, tearfully, that their helmet promotion activities had result in deaths.
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