Two words about high lumen stroboscopic front lights on the bike path

Please don’t.

Thank you. Please leave a comment below to let me know how you feel about those lights. I can’t be the only one who’s annoyed by them.


Bicycle and other transportation news

Anybody who rides is aware of the low level warfare between squirrels and cyclists. Elisa in Washington DC sees parallels between this squirrel hunt and the political games in Washington this week.

Actress and accordion player Nora Kirkpatrick rides a bicycle. (And not just for this interview and photoshoot at Refinery 29.

Actress Nora Kirkpatrick rides a bicycle

You might have heard about the recent creation California’s $129 million Active Transportation Program. This is a brand new thing for the state of California. The California Transportation Commission has scheduled working groups open to the public to try to figure out how to spend this money. The work group closest to the Bay Area is in Modesto, in the basement of the Stanislaus County Administration Building. The other meetings are in Sacramento (which is an easier trip using public transportation) and Los Angeles. Details here.

San Francisco police officer Matt Friedman, known throughout the Bay Area for his online fight against bike theft, discovers that the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department teaches bike mechanic skills to bike thieves in the county lockup. It’s considered vocational training, but Friedman believes these skills help the criminals become better thieves and wrote a memo to the jail asking them to stop it.

Santa Clara County Valley Transportation Agency — which plans highway construction and runs the transit system for Silicon Valley — selects a longtime transit planner as the new General Manager. The current GM, Michael Burns, took the reigns in 2005 and will retire at the end of this year. The Mercury News notes that the new manager Nuria Fernandez is the first person of color and the first woman to run the agency. Just as noteworthy is Fernandez’s long experience with running transit agencies, not highway departments. She lists hiking and bike riding among her personal interests.

That guy who biked across San Francisco Bay from Oakland to SF did the same thing on the Hudson River.

Judah Schiller Hudson River BayBike

I wish there was video of this one:

An intoxicated man stole a bicycle from the top story of an apartment building and then rode it down a flight of stairs before crashing at the bottom.

That’s all you really need to know, right? But full story here: Man found under crashed, stolen bicycle.

Start planning for a future with less driving, says transportation researchers.

Another dim-witted criminal: Charles Manzlak of New London, CT allegedly steals a bicycle from the fire department — which is emblazoned with “NEW LONDON FIRE / EMS” — and attempts to pawn it off.


And once again: Please dim your lights on the trails at night. What’s the point of flashing lights on a grade-separated trail, anyway?

15 Comments

  • October 3, 2013 - 10:36 am | Permalink

    In the city, I see cyclists with slow flashing strobes (1 Hz) during the day. That makes them more noticeable to me, though I started riding with my LED front light on low during the day, sort of like a daytime running light. It didn’t stop a guy from doing a left hook in front of me on a main street.

  • October 3, 2013 - 10:42 am | Permalink

    I can understand strobes during the day in city traffic. On a completely separated path, though, there’s absolutely no need for “be seen” lights either day or night. The exception may be if you’re running low on batteries and need to preserve battery life for a later street segment of your ride. Still, if you see a trail user up ahead, point the light toward the ground or something, please.

  • October 3, 2013 - 10:57 am | Permalink

    I forgot to add that this is a great blog – I read it every day. Thanks!

  • October 3, 2013 - 11:04 am | Permalink

    I think those really powerful lights do more harm than good when strobed or poorly aimed anywhere including the street. Blinding the cars coming toward you is not a very good safety measure, I don’t think. That said, I use a relatively weak strobe most of the time as a “be seen” light. They should call the strong ones “be blinded” lights!

    That said, powerful lights that are not strobed and aimed down enough not to blind others are a wonderful thing, particularly on a dark trail.

  • October 3, 2013 - 11:06 am | Permalink

    That said, I need to stop saying “that said” so much.

  • Daniel M
    October 3, 2013 - 12:12 pm | Permalink

    From my perspective, the main advantage of the flashing setting is to prolong battery life, with the added benefit of the increased attention brought to a flashing light, ESPECIALLY when the batteries start to give out – the flashing makes up for a bit of the reduced illumination. But once the sun goes down, keeping your front light on its flashing setting is nothing short of idiotic. It’s terrible for the user – the road ahead is presented in a series of freeze frames, and it’s terrible for oncoming traffic, which includes fellow bicyclists. And don’t even get me started about ultra-bright and/or flashing lights aimed at the eyes of oncoming traffic, rather than down onto the road ahead.

    Go dyno. You will never go back. Always on, always full power, so bright you don’t NEED a flashing setting on either end, and never any batteries to think about. Full illumination at night, full attention-getting during the day, and a shaped, focused beam that puts the light on the road and out of the eyes of oncoming traffic, cars and cyclists alike.

    Otherwise, flashing rear is OK, as is flashing front during the day, but at night, PUT IT ON CONSTANT, and POINT IT AT THE GROUND AHEAD OF YOU. You will see better, and others will be less blinded, and therefore less likely to hit you. It’s a win-win no-brainer.

  • Bike-Scoot
    October 3, 2013 - 2:06 pm | Permalink

    I believe in some European countries they do not allow mountain bike style headlights on the road, but instead ones with lenses that cut off the beam at the horizon, like low beam car headlights. You can see the road, but not blind people. Without the horizon cutoff, its like using your car high beams all the time. These lights are hard to buy in the US, and there appears to be only a couple options, both with issues, out of >100 mountain bike style lights. Its time the light manufactures stepped up and offered some more options for horizon cutoff style lights, preferably with a bubble level built in on top so you can adjust the angle. Right now it looks like they only care about getting higher lumens per $ and lumens per gram.

  • October 3, 2013 - 5:37 pm | Permalink

    Flashing headlights are a bad idea for any moving vehicle. They should only be used when stopped. When you are moving, you need a continuous view of the road or trail in front of you, not a stop-motion animation.

    Fast flashing taillights are a good idea, but headlights need to be steady and bright enough to see debris on the road in more than the braking distance (which is quite far on downhill rides at 35 mph, like my daily commute).

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  • Rick Warner
    October 3, 2013 - 8:05 pm | Permalink

    If I still had my blog up I would point you to at least two posts I did on the subject. I see a couple of issues:

    1) Folks are buying lights that have high output that is needed to see where they are going, but are using them in areas where the goal is to be seen.

    2) They run them at full brightness and poorly aimed. If they buy lights bright enough to see where they are going, they need to aim them down to see where they are going. If they are using lights to be seen, then go with less lumens and again aim them appropriately.

    I bark at people on the Stevens Creek trail all the time for running too bright and aimed too high.

  • ChinookPass
    October 4, 2013 - 6:44 am | Permalink

    No strobes on paths, period.

    At night always use a steady light properly aimed, typically 200-300 lumens is more than enough.

    Supplement with a dimmer strobe, especially at dawn or dusk.

    I would love to see some thoughtfully designed commuting lights on the market as previously mentioned.

  • October 4, 2013 - 6:55 am | Permalink

    Flashing headlights are not actually legal, at least in California. Perhaps a few well-publicized busts of both riders and retailers would change people’s minds about them.

  • Bike-Scoot
    October 4, 2013 - 12:14 pm | Permalink

    There is even a ‘Euro’ bike light that has an ambient light sensor that adjusts the brightness and direction of the light based on how dark or light it is. Its not that hard….cell phones do this for screen brightness. We need options for lights with (1) horizon cutoff to prevent blinding, (2) auto ambient light adjustment, (3) significant side amber lights built in (not spill, but an actual light), and (4) a leveling system/guide.

    The light industry needs leadership first (http://www.bicycleconference.com/), then standards for a multiclass light standard system. The class one light standard should address all the above issues, for the serious road rider. Class two for occasional use, class three for mountain bike use, etc. Who will take the leadership role…the BPSA? Their mission says nothing about standards.

  • Bike-Scoot
    October 5, 2013 - 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Also, an estimated 800,000 people in the US are susceptible to strobe induced seizures. With the newer brighter LEDs, this may be becoming a real risk. It only takes a few seconds for a seizure to start. Not such a good idea to completely immobilize a driver heading your way in the opposite lane. If they know they have the problem, apparently they are told to cover one eye. So they will have poor depth perception while may be driving with one hand. Not what you want. The epilepsy experts recommend flash frequencies be kept below 2Hz.

  • Ralph
    October 9, 2013 - 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Having a bright strobe on a bike trail is bad for your fellow riders. If you need the light to see point it down onto the surface you will be riding on. I rarely use trails when I need lights on them. For the road I usually have a small to be seen strobe blinking and a large see the road helmet mounted to see the road. That one is usually half power unless I running fast or in a difficult area.

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