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Commute Seattle and city hosting bike light event Thursday

1379720_10151987946199853_1112145047_nBike lights are not optional. Aside from being required by law (technically, only front light and rear reflector are required), lights are vital if you are going to be visible to folks driving, biking and walking at night and sun-in-the-eyes situations.

Studies have shown that people on bikes naturally feel more visible to others than they actually are. Unfortunately, this leads people to a false sense of security about biking without lights (or with very poor lights).

The US never developed a bike culture where standard city bikes are sold with wheel-generated dynamo lights as is the case in some European countries (can you imagine buying a car with “optional” headlights?). So the impetus is on you to make sure you and your bike are visible.

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The city and Commute Seattle want to help you out. They are hosting an event Thursday from 4-6 p.m. at 5th and Stewart.

Details from Commute Seattle:

Commute Seattle and the Seattle Department of Transportation are hosting the 1st Annual Light Up Your Ride! event on October 24 from 4-6pm in McGraw Square (5th and Stewart). Bicycle commuting in Downtown Seattle is up 18% since 2010, with 6,500 Downtown commuters choosing to bicycle each weekday. As the days get shorter and the clocks change, people bicycling need to take special care to be visible to cars and buses.

An Australian study released this year revealed that people bicycling consistently overestimate their visibility to vehicles, and that simple steps can be taken to greatly increase visibility. While front and rear bicycle lights are essential – and required by city law – reflectivity is underappreciated but often more impactful, especially when viewed from the side.

Attendees can peruse the latest in lighting, visibility, and winter gear from VeloBikeShop and Wandergoods, sip hot chocolate, work on their bike at the Sportworks’ fix-it stand, practice loading their bicycles onto a Metro bus, and take home swag and raffle prizes from Commute Seattle and Seattle Department of Transportation.

“Seattle started the Be Super Safe campaign because we are all responsible for looking out for each other on our city’s roads,” said Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn. “Working together we can reduce collisions between bicycles, buses, and cars, and proper lighting is an important part of that. We’re proud to partner with Commute Seattle on this critical issue.”

“Being able to see and to be seen are the most important safety considerations bicyclists should take into account during winter bike commuting,” said Commute Seattle Interim Executive Director Jessica Szelag. “Front and rear lights alone are not enough to be seen from a distance by cars and buses. We hope to show commuters how adding reflective tape, lights, and clothing can really increase your safety when riding on city streets at night.”

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70 responses to “Commute Seattle and city hosting bike light event Thursday”

  1. Andrew Squirrel

    Thanks for bringing up dynamo lights, As someone who has put dynamo lights on all my bikes I can attest they are the best lighting solution for those who enjoy high quality lighting & have better things to worry about than the status of their lights. I am done with dead batteries in the middle of a ride, charging rechargeables or squeezing that last 2 hours of dangerous & substandard light output from battery lights.

    The added benefit of dynamo lighting is that most of the lights coming out of Germany are not only standardized (making inter-connectivity a breeze) but the optics are 10x better designed than any lights you see sold in the US taking into account other road users.
    The icing on the cake is that none of these dynamos have obnoxious blink modes which are the most overrated and dangerous features on most bike lights these days. The perfect storm of ultra bright headlight technology with flash mode render all road users blind and can lead to more accidents than they prevent since a blinking light causes difficultly in judging distance.
    The complete lack of regulation on these seizure inducing headlights will probably come to a head sometime in the future since there seems to be a Lumen war (more efficient LEDs & increasing battery capacity) that can only end in the blindness of our species or reasonable regulation. I pray for the latter.

    1. Fnarf

      Yeah! Blinkies are stupid, and blinking light on the front is illegal (but popular for some reason).

      As a driver, I can affirm that blinking lights give very little information as to the exact location of the bike, especially when it’s dark and rainy and slick, as it is soon going to be for six months. You can see there’s something, but only a steady light lets you see where it really is, which is important. Your light is competing not just with car headlights, streetlights, and shop and house lights, but the reflection of all of these off wet streets and glass windows. Make it steady, and make it REALLY BRIGHT.

      But aimlessly bright is stupid, too, because it just blinds people. On my bike, I have a (German, naturally) B&M (Busch & Mueller) Ixon IQ. It’s battery-operated, and while I understand your preference for dynamo systems, I love this light. The best thing about it is that it is shaped; when it points properly ahead, it doesn’t blast in driver’s eyes, but instead sweeps a wide rectangle from side-to-side and down. I’ve actually had complements from drivers, which is a little weird, but hey.

      Battery tip if you do use them: regular or rechargeable AAs suck donkey balls. Energizer makes a new “Ultimate Lithium” AA that lasts FOREVER — months and months and months. I’ve gotten almost a year out of my current pair (my commute is pretty short). They don’t crap out in cold weather, either. They cost more but are so, so worth it.

      1. Tom Fucoloro

        There are too many choices in the bike light world. Some too bright, some too wide, some too dim, some take stupid sizes of batteries (like hearing aid batteries) that are expensive and sometimes hard to find. It’s a problem since most people just want to be safe, but not think too hard about it.

      2. Allan

        If your lights use #18650 lithium batteries you can carry a lot of power with you. If you can get old laptop batteries, break them down and test for the good ones you find inside, you can get them dirt cheap, otherwise a couple of dollars each on ebay. I have about 100 of these batteries charged and ready to go. Laptop batteries are $1 each at RE-PC on 6th Ave S. It is a crap shoot what you will find inside, sometimes 8 good ones, sometimes 6 bad ones. Most flashlights and bike lights from China use these batteries. Lithium batteries stay charged much longer than ni-cad or metal hydride batteries. Lithium also weigh a lot less.

    2. RTK

      Blinking head light may be annoying on the road but are down right dangerous on darker sections of bike trails. I with everyone would switch to steady mode on the trail, some of these are blinding.

      1. josh

        Would be interesting to know whether this has come up in any accident liability cases… If you’re riding with only a flashing light in front, you’re riding without a legal headlight.

        RCW 46.37.280
        Special restrictions on lamps.

        (3) Flashing lights are prohibited except as required in RCW 46.37.190, 46.37.200, 46.37.210, 46.37.215, and 46.37.300, warning lamps authorized by the state patrol, and light-emitting diode flashing taillights on bicycles.

      2. daihard

        I see some motorcycles with flashing headlights during the day. From the RCW, they are obviously illegal, though I do remember reading a federal law that permits the flashing lights for motorcycles, which should override the state laws. I wonder if a similar federal law regarding the blinking lights exists for bicycles.

  2. RTK

    I strongly agree with the statement about reflectors, reflective tape and reflective clothing. These are a large component of the total picture of being seen by other road and trail users. I have a variety of reflective gear and believe it helps with the 360 degree visibility. As I bonus I never have to worry about the batteries going dead!

    1. Sea

      Going up 12th on the hill last night, dark as it gets out, fog setting in, I see a guy with a hi vis yellow jacket on and not a single light on the bike. Derp. There are also a lot of hip folks on the hill who are “too cool” for things like lights, helmets, reflective clothing, paying attention to the fact that there are other people in the world, and boy do they love their headphones too. I can only hope as we get further into the season people will start remembering to bring lights with them when they leave home in daylight, and that the hipsters stay inside.

  3. bill

    I have dyno hubs on all my bikes (holy F that’s alot of money, come to think of it, and this is the first time I have).

    Death to strobing headlights! Who the h*** needs a strobe on bike trails? Some day I am going to throw my water bottle at one of those f-ing (flashing) nimrods.

  4. Allan

    I like evil alien attack lights for going down hill. I like it when cars back rather up than even think about pulling out in front of the monster that is coming at them. I also like to be able to see glass on wet pavement at night before I ride over it. You can always turn the power down when you don’t need it. That is a lot easier than turning it up when you don’t have it. In any event the minimun light I will use is a single T6 Led from China on EBAY. You need a light, charger, spare batteries and a handlebar mount, around $25 all in. The Chinese lie a lot about the lumens, they kind of double whatever they really are. Most of the lights have multiple settings for hi, med, low, flash, sos. I figure my 1300 lumen light is probably 650 to 800 actually. Still, that is a lot of punch for $25, re-chargeable with several batteries. My 7600 lumen light is probably around 4000 real lumens. I think you should also have lights that blind drivers cannot miss on a sunny day, while they are talking on the cell phone and intermittently peering through a dirty windshield. I got hit by one of those while waiting for a red light to change. I should have had a super flash tail light, it would have prevented it. Bright flashing lights really do a lot to prevent cars from pulling out in front of you day or night. But than again, slow riders won’t have as much need to do that. Also, on another note, flashing lights get the attention of pedestrians before they stroll out in front of you. So before you get the cops to ticket flashing lights, lets get them to ticket speeding cars.

  5. Doug Bostrom

    What a timely post!

    Just the other night I encountered no fewer than four cyclists after dark, not only devoid of lights but also reflectors. Of course it was Friday night, so maybe these were some kind of special subset of part-time cyclists.

    If you’re tearing down 65th or 35th or Ravenna any of the other fun hills here in the dark and with no lights and find yourself t-boning with a car, point the big finger of blame at yourself; the responsibility for the carnage will be squarely your own. With all the other lighted objects visible in the scene and little old you all dark, you might as well be completely transparent.

    In any case, driving at night with no lights or even reflectors blows my mind, especially when we stop to think that all bikes are sold with reflectors. A bike with no reflectors means somebody actually took the time to remove them. Yeah, reflectors are not perfect but they do at least have the first and most marvelous virtue of existence; an otherwise unlit cycle is at least more a bit more visible with reflectors than not, if a car’s headlights are pointed somewhere in its general direction and the car has a driver behind the wheel, in line with the vehicle lights and cycle reflectors. We can get all religious and “those are not the right shape of handlebars” on this topic but at the end of the evening even reflectors are better than nothing.

    So I resolved to ask Tom to do a reminder post and lo, here it is, after I forgot to ask.

    Hats off to Tom.

    “The US never developed a bike culture where standard city bikes are sold with wheel-generated dynamo lights…”

    What we developed instead was a culture where we have a romantic notion that people have common sense and never have to be fined and penalized into using their noggins. Many dark mystery cyclists are the outcome of the experiment. :-)

    1. Allan

      I too am shocked by all those bikes without lights. I see them every night. You can get really descent lights on ebay but you can get something even at the dollar store. $1 3 led flashlight, $1 for batteries, $1 for a Lance Armstrong rubber band to put it on the handlebars. That’s $3 all in. You can get tail lights almost that cheap on ebay. You can get reflectors cheap at recycled cycles. And I’ll bet if I advertise cheap lights on craigs list no one will come. You know what really shocks me is when I see an expensive bike moving fast without lights. It is a little more understandable when it is a $50 bike moving slow.

      1. Allan

        One more thing for now. Putting a 5 lb hub on an 18 lb bike seems really like a dumb idea. And they are pretty dim compared to good battery lights. There are two kinds of lights, those for being seen and those for seeing, or maybe lights should be rated, 3 mph, 6 mph, 10 mph and so on. So if you are going to go 30 mph downhill it would be really nice to have a strong enough light to avoid obstacles at 30 mph besides telling car drivers to watch out for what it coming towards them. Actually there are rare occasions where I hit 45 mph down hill. I have lights for that and I could care less if weenies whine about my lights. Next, if you are going to go 17 to 20 mph on the flats sometimes the last thing you need is resistance from a generator stuck in your front wheel. I think generators are for weenies who can’t figure out how to charge battery or carry a spare.

      2. Doug Bostrom

        Allan, you’re going to ignite a sectarian bicycle equipment war!

      3. Andrew Squirrel

        “I think generators are for weenies who can’t figure out how to charge battery or carry a spare.”

        I surmise you haven’t investigated (or even tried?) a modern hub dynamo Allan. These hubs have made leaps and bounds in the past decade and present virtually no drag when used in conjunction with modern LED dynamo lamps. Many modern lamps also have great stand-light functions for waiting at stoplights, some use super-capacitors while others now have small lithium cache battery that can hold a pretty hefty charge for stationary periods.

        It has nothing to do with being a weenie, in fact it sounds like you, my fellow cyclist, are the weenie who can’t deal with a negligible addition of resistance. I’d wager that your tires are probably causing more resistance to your ride than a dynamo hub would.

      4. Eamon Nordquist

        Allan, the weight of typical modern dynamo hubs is about a pound to a pound and a quarter – hardly 5 pounds! Bicycle Quarterly did a good test of the resistance of hub dynamos (last winter’s issue?), and even the inexpensive (under $50) Sanyo faired quite well. The Schmidt Edelux and Busch and Muller CYO headlights provide excellent beams that are up to the task of illuminating a high speed descent, and as a bonus, focus all of that light right where you need it on the road, rather than blinding oncoming traffic. They also provide very even illumination, where the ground at the end of the beam is nearly the same brightness as the ground in front of you. You are clearly misinformed about modern hub dynamos and their headlights. You might be pleasantly surprised at the giant leap the technology has taken over the last decade!

  6. Gary

    On the trail, yep those bright flashing lights suck. On the road in traffic they stand out and that’s why I use them. There were some tests done for Motorcycles with flashing headlamps during the day and it reduced the number of accidents. So let them ticket me, and I have yet to hear of a cop citing a bicycle for a flashing headlamp.

    As a car driver, the solid lights don’t stand out during the day. At night if you have two, one on your helmet and one on the bike then the over and over light is a clear signal you are a bicycle and I will give on coming traffic room to pass you. ie, I shift to my right.

    I have considered those hub generators, but it’s difficult to figure out from Peter White’s web site what the lumins are. And for a tail light http://www.dinottelighting.com still has the best.

    1. Fnarf

      I disagree with you on blinking headlights on the road.

      I drive as well as bike, and I can tell you that on a busy street the news that “there’s a bike” isn’t that valuable. I already assume there are bikes; what is valuable to me is knowing where they are. Blinkies tend to conceal that information, giving just the general impression that somewhere back there is a bike, maybe in my lane, maybe somewhere else, gaining, falling back, turning, who knows? And blinkies get lost in wet streets with all the headlights and streetlights doubled on the pavement. A steady, bright light is best for being seen.

      1. Gary

        Fnarf, I can guarantee that if you see me on the road, you’ll know exactly where I am. I’m not using those “blinky” lights, it looks more like an Firetruck. And when it’s dark, I’ll be illuminating the interior of your car. Which is exactly how much light I need to be seen in the city. Out in the burbs where it’s darker I turn them down.

      2. Allan

        Gary, you have it right. Nobody ever runs into a firetruck. All those bright lights make you look bigger than you are and I can guarantee people know exactly where you are.

    2. If it’s dark enough that all you’ll actually see is the lights, then a blinking headlight is a terrible idea because it makes it hard to judge distance. In the dusk or dawn, or at high noon on a dim, grey winter day, a blinking light helps a cyclist be noticed, while the cyclists’ solid body is used to judge distance. Maybe that isn’t necessary if your light is approaching the brightness of a car headlight, but if it isn’t (most people’s aren’t) that seems reasonable to me.

      1. Gary

        When it gets that dark I switch to a non flashing for the headlamps.

      2. daihard

        I agree. I use my headlight in steady mode when it’s dark.

  7. Kirk from Ballard

    Ah, the light debate. It’s just mind boggling seeing bikes at night without them. And pedestrians on the paths dressed all in black with no reflectors. And then there’s the jackalope cyclists that have to yell at me that my light is too bright. Um, it’s not as bright as a car’s lower beam, let alone modern HID or LED auto lights. Tip: don’t stare at it.

    I love my super bright headlight set on flash mode, because it really announces me to the front and rear as a bike coming through. Pedestrians in front of me at night on the Ballard Bridge always notice the flashing reflective street signs and usually turn around to see me, long before I honk the horn. And autos behind me notice all the flashing street signs too.
    A flashing white light in the front is technically illegal, but flashing yellow lights are legal. I’m surprised no one makes bright flashing yellow lights for bicycle use.
    I’m running an Alfine dynamo hub now, but haven’t gotten a great headlamp yet. I’m on a waiting list for the Busch & Mueller Luxos U, which will be awesome to get and can even charge the phone while riding. The dyno is great, but I feel I still need a lot more lights than the one front and rear. Especially a blinker in front.
    My favorite lights on my bike are my MonkeyLectric M232 Monkey Lights. They fill the whole front wheel with light, and can’t be missed from any angle. And they look awesome; I get comments every night.

    1. Sea

      +1 for the monkeylectric wheel light, quite an improvement over just front/back lighting.

    2. Gary

      I considered those Monkey wheel lights but… while driving I can’t see them until I already have seen the bicyclist. They just don’t project enough light away from your bicycle. Yes they are eye catching, but they are expensive & heavy with the weight in the worst place, out on the wheel.

      Best for the least cost is a Highway class III vest. The reflective tape on it can be seen from all angles and doesn’t rely on any power sources.

      I tried that luminesnt wire, and you can’t see it behind my regular lights. I tried a Planet Blinky and it’s also hidden by my other lights. I tried a man overboard light and it’s also hidden by the other lights…. Seriously if you own a set of decent lights that’s all you need, plus the vest.

      I’m currently waiting on a green laser…. http://www.blaze.cc

      1. Q

        It’s scary you don’t pay enough attention while driving to see the wheel lights. Almost every time I go out I get thanked by drivers at stoplights who saw my wheel lights and appreciate the additional visibility. (They’re to be seen from the sides, not front and back, if you couldn’t figure that out on your own).

      2. Gary

        No it’s that your Monkey shine lights aren’t brighter than your headlamp and reflective gear and jacket in my headlights. I see you as a bicyclist well before I see your wheel lights that’s all. The wheel lights don’t help.

      3. Q

        Pay more attention when you drive or stay off the road, please.

      4. Gary

        Q you aren’t reading what I wrote. It’s not my fault that these monkey lights suck.

      5. Gary

        Q: Let me explain why wheel lights, or other side only projection lights are nearly useless.

        In order to be safe, you need to be seen before you are directly in front of a vehicle, unless you plan on stopping in the middle of the road while crossing.

        Think of this as geometry, with a right angle triangle.
        B —->(distance to crossing in front)
        \ |
        \ |

        The further to the left that the driver of the car can see you, the more time they have to stop and avoid you.

        My experiments with this tell me that wheel lights don’t give me more than 5 to 10 ft more distance to the left to see you before I also see the bike. That’s like no time at all driving 25mph.

        Hence for the money wheel lights are not a saftey item.

      6. Kirk from Ballard

        Let me explain why side lighting is a highly desirable feature to have on a bicycle. Think of this as geometry, with an automobile approaching at a 45 degree angle. Or you can think of this as a real world scenario, as in the high speed merge that I take every day getting onto the Ballard Bridge sidewalk northbound. The car approaches from the right at a 45 dgree angle. The car can’t see my headlights, they can’t see my tailights. A reflective vest would be worthless in this situation as I’m not in their headlights (even though my clothing and bike are heavily outfitted with reflectors in every direction). What they can see are my MonkeyLights. They get driver’s attention every single night at this time of year, like nothing else can. You see, not all intersections are a blind 90 degrees. To be the safest you can be, you need to cover every direction, both with reflectors and active lighting.
        And like Q, I hear it all the time from both drivers and cyclists – the MonkeyLights get you seen.
        By the way, I’ve seen those exact laser beam projections for bikes, and other pavement marking lasers. Of all the places a driver will be looking for a cyclist, very low on the list would be on the ground 25 feet in front of where you actually are.

      7. Gary

        Ok, I’ll grant that at this merge, a side light is helpful.

        However on my commute, no such intersection exsists where a side light will show before my headlights do.

        I have an armband “man overboard” white flashing light with a “five mile” flash. It’s not five miles unless you are in total darkness. But if I’m using my headlamps (2) and taillamps (2) in high flash, they actually project to the side more light.

        When I first looked at these wheel lights they had regular AA batteries without an easy way to recharge them. Now the current version appears to have a USB charging port and Lithium Ion batteries sealed in.

    3. Jessica

      Your light may not be as bright as a car’s lower beam, but car headlights aren’t angled directly into my eyes either. If other bikers are telling you [I’m using the generic “you”, not necessarily you personally] your light is too bright, it probably is impairing their ability to see. When I was riding toward the part of the Burke that splits in two, an oncoming rider’s light was so bright that it was all I could see, so I couldn’t see where the split happened and just followed the light and I ended up on the wrong half of the trail there. He was freaked out.
      The Burke is so dark that a really bright light there will impair others more than it will help you. Maybe you need a really bright light to stand out on busy streets with lots of other lights, but when you get to the trail, please turn down the brightness and/or angle it toward the ground.

      1. Doug Bostrom

        Lighting technology seems to have exceeded our capacity judgement, as Jessica points out by example.

        Sane places such as Germany (where cycling is also more successfully deployed than here) that regulate bike lighting also generally regulate where the light ends up. Regulations are a substitute for missing good judgement. Rogue light in the eyes of people driving bicycles or other vehicles is reflective (sorry!) of poor judgement and shouldn’t be permitted.

        In general we’re pretty amateurish about bicycling, compared to other places with more successful bike deployment.

      2. Allan

        When two bicycles with powerful lights pass on the trail, they can both see where they are going before and after. When a bike with a bright light passes a bike with a little pea shooter loaded with a pair of AA batteries, well, the pea shooter is blinded. I really don’t feel sorry for the pea shooter, in fact he is rather comical, whining, when he should just go out and buy a descent light or slow his speed to reflect what he has got. He is like the guy who brings a knife to a gun fight, he gets shot.

      3. jessica

        but in response to Allan, why should a daily commute on a bike path have to be a “gun fight”? I don’t feel like it’s comical whining, I feel like it’s a request for deescalation of what doesn’t have to be an arms race.
        I do go slower when I’m riding in the dark than when I’m riding in daylight.

    4. Fnarf

      Your light is bad if it’s angled up into drivers’ eyes. Same with cars — if your car headlights are incorrectly angled up, or you drive on city streets with your brights on, you’re blinding other drivers and reducing, not increasing, visibility. Bike lights are no different.

      Headlights, though, are not the most important for being seen. The most important lights on a bike are in the rear. I run TWO taillights, both Niterider Solas 2-watt lights on steady mode. Side visibility is also ultra-critical, for cars turning or pedestrians crossing your path from the side. I have reflectors and a couple of those spoke clip-on lights that turn with the wheel and make a circle of light. My raingear is also safety yellow and reflectored. Yes, I’m paranoid — I’ve been hit.

      1. Gary

        For side turning, I’m hoping that my “on the way” green laser does the trick by projecting an image of a bicycle on the street in front of me.

        We’ll see.

        Also wheel reflectors,… as a car driver, if your wheels are in my headlights it’s too late, as you are right in front of me. I’m either going to hit you or not. You need to be seen before you get to that position.

        Also flamers…. I’ll see you even if you are dressed like a ninja. I’m looking for a black shadow moving along the street. I’m saying those side reflectors are useless.

    5. I’m not bold enough to yell at people on the Burke, but I’ll say it here: on the darker parts of the Burke, I can look off to the side or whatever, but super-bright headlights are blinding. They just are. Last night one of these jerks running OMG-NIGHT-BLINDAR-9000 lights came toward me as I was approaching a pedestrian from behind. I looked away from the beam (toward the pedestrian and the edge of the trail to his side); as the cyclist approached and passed I was completely blinded to the pedestrian and the edge of the trail. I only knew where the pedestrian was by having seen him previously.

      Please turn down your lights as you approach people on dark parts of the Burke. Don’t go off on some, “Every cyclist must carry automotive-quality lights to ride on a bike trail at night,” thing, please, no place with a mass cycling culture requires this of its cyclists. The situation is really quite different from the situation for cars on most urban roads. The Burke needs better lighting (many sections have unlit surfaces while distracting light spills in from adjacent roads, often from above… near UW it’s much better), but until that happens we need to exercise some basic courtesy at night.

      1. Doug Bostrom

        Amen. Folks who claim we can “see through” a bright light if we’re only equipped with sufficiently bright lights ourselves simply don’t understand how our eyes work. -If- we could somehow project enough light to make returned light even brighter than Joe Fusion’s headlamp then to a certain extent we might be able to see past. But that in turn would require our headlamp to be even more absurdly bright itself. There’s a name for that: MAD, or Mutually Assured Destruction.

        There’s a part of cycling that ignites some of the same impulses that drives men to purchase their own designer handbags in the form of huge, aggressive-looking SUVs and the like. Cyclists are not immune. “My lumens are more than your lumens” is part of the same lizard.

      2. RTK

        Being an old guy I started out in the days of incandescent bike lights. I upgraded to a 10W halogen with a brick battery when they came onto the market. These were fairly bright, but tended to have reflectors that spread the bright light. Back at that time there were significantly fewer riders out in the dark. Almost 100% of halogen users on the BGT at that time would stick a hand out to shade the upper portion of the light as they passed trail users. With the increase in riders and light technology common courtesy seems to have gone by the wayside. As many have pointed out in this thread, be courtesy to other users on the trails. This tends not to be an issue on the roads I ride since there is a lot of light all around.

      3. Fnarf

        And yet automobile drivers manage to drive straight past cars with car headlights without being blinded every day.

        Bike lights that blind oncomers are not “automotive quality”. Automotive-quality lights are aimed, and do not blind people whomo they pass. Your higher-quality bike lights are too — but, because they are not fixed in place but held by little clamps, it’s easy for them to get slightly out of adjustment to the point where they do indeed blind people. Conversely, the brightest bike lights in the universe are not blinding if they are aimed correctly and have proper beam cutoff — like my Ixons. If you have good lights, you don’t need to shield the top half with your hand.

        Just point ’em

    6. Allan

      Thanks for the info, I will look for yellow lenses for aircraft landing lights. Hey, check this pic of one of my lights.


      or go to ebay and search… NEW 5 x CREE XM-L T6 LED 7000Lm Bicycle Light

    7. greg

      Actually DiNotte makes steady/flashing yellow lights for bike use. I’ve been using one (tend to only run flashing mode while going fast downhill on the road – steady the rest of the time) as a be seen light (especially during the day) for years and its been great. Highly recommended.

      And I agree with the folks who don’t like bright flashing lights on the trail. Makes the Burke practically unusable in the busier sections at night.

  8. Tonya

    I like having mega lights on my bike for 1. safety but 2. because I get mad props from neighborhood kids. “Hey lady, your bike is awesome!”

    If that’s not enough motivation, I don’t know what is! :)

    1. Andrew Squirrel

      While I appreciate your desire for being seen, it isn’t a simple binary Bright Lights vs Dim Lights argument. It’s a bit more complex than that. Too much of anything is bad, same goes for bike lights, especially when you waste those precious lumens lighting up the top of a trees and buildings (The trees aren’t dropping branches because they can’t see you). You should read some of the comments above to better understand the subject. A good bike light has many important properties that should be weighed.

      Unfortunately the manufacturers of these devices have let the cyclists determine what the most important qualities instead of engineers, psychologists, scientists and well-informed government transportation bodies. These are the groups that have determined what makes a good car headlight and for the most part, they did a great job standardizing that mode of transport.

      For the interm my suggestions are:
      1. If you don’t have a light, find one with an asymmetrical lens & a good beam cut-off at the top of the lens.
      2. Properly adjust the light on a dark street so the light doesn’t shine above the horizon, find a flat street and aim the main portion of the beam so it is below the windshield of a car (don’t worry, cars can still see it just fine)
      3. Keep the light on steady mode, no strobe flash, humans are unable to judge distance of bright flashing lights which can cause cyclists & cars to misjudge your location.
      4. You get to graduate to smug Seattle cyclist status. (hi, welcome to the club, your certificate and badge are in the mail)

      1. Tonya

        How on earth did my simple comment about neighborhood kids liking my lights elevate you to the position of talking down to me about bike lights? I did not profess my ignorance or desire to be informed.

        I simply said that having awesome lights was pretty fun for the neighborhood kids too. Lights are serious but they are also good times. Goodness. Obviously I have lights of a spectacular variety if the neighborhood kids are commenting on them!

        You jumped to a condescending conclusion and you sound like one of the patronizing jerks in the bicycling community that I try very hard to avoid.

        For your information, I used to commute to Columbia City from the ferry, leaving the ferry terminal at 12:40 a.m. I have a NiteRider Lumina 650, two Monkeylectrics (previous to those I had SIX NiteIze Spokelits), two helmet lights (front and rear), additional front and rear lights for my frame and tons of reflectors for good measure. I look like a Christmas tree and that is why STRANGERS are commenting.

        I shouldn’t need to explain myself to avoid patronizing comments in the bike community, let alone on a great bike blog.

      2. Tom Fucoloro

        I always forget how controversial bike light conversations can get, especially on the Internet.

      3. Sea

        Ah the internet. Where everyone is an expert, everyone else is a moron, and all issues in the world are in black and white.

    2. Andrew Squirrel

      I apologize that it came off patronizing and condescending. Honestly I was having a grumpy day yesterday and most of the things written above weren’t directed towards you (obviously, I know nothing about you). I think when I was writing it I was attempting to speak to a general audience (hai internet!) about frustrations with, what I see as, some issues with how American approach bicycle lighting. I’m glad to know that you are staying safe and having a great time doing it. Hope to see you on the road someday and give a friendly smile and a wave.

      1. Jon

        I don’t think Andrew was really trying to attack you so much state the easy misconception of “brighter = better”.

        Although it comes off as a little condescending he did jokingly imply that he was in the smug club.

  9. Gary

    Looks like my “constant flash” lights are legal. vs the low power on/off… still I have yet to hear of anyone getting a ticket for this.


    1. Allan

      wow, thanks for that, I just figured out that my newest powerful lights are modulating, not strobing. But can my bicycle be considered a motorcycle for lights as I have a motorcycle light on it? Than I would be completely legal while modulating?

  10. […] Tom at Seattle Bike Blog reports on an event tomorrow for bike lighting. […]

  11. Allan

    I really enjoyed getting y’all so riled up. I am certainly not going to put even a 1400 gram hub on a 1600 gram wheel set. Might as well have Wall Mart wheels. However, I don’t want to be the first one busted for a blinking light as useful as they are in getting attention and conserving batteries and alerting cars and pedestrians to my presence. I guess I will tone down the blinking a bit, running a smaller light when I am blinking. However, there is nothing like the joy of running several thousand lumens in a dark lonely place except maybe having studded bike tires on fresh snow and ice and having people wonder why you don’t fall down.

    1. Doug Bostrom

      Attitude can weigh you down pretty heavily too. ;-)

  12. biliruben

    What are these lights you speak of? I just sing ABBA really loudly, and the others on the Burke use their sonar to determine my speed and distance.

    Works fine for me.

  13. KC Lewis

    I rode 4 miles in the fog last night before I realized my rear light was turned off :(

    1. daihard

      At least you had a reflector, unless you had removed it in place of the rear light. :)

      I have a battery-powered rear light that has a built-in reflector. Two birds with one stone.

  14. Steve Campbell

    With all the back and forth about the RCW and the legality of blinking front lights, I thought it was important to make sure everybody knows that RCW 46.61.780 requires a rear red reflector. Red taillights in addition to the reflector are allowed. but every bike is required to have a red reflector.

  15. Doug Bostrom

    Tom: I always forget how controversial bike light conversations can get, especially on the Internet.

    Any bike equipment discussion will go elliptical, given a half-dozen posts and more than one person in the conversation.

    “Your [fill in any component choice] is wrong And here are a whole bunch of edge cases that might happen some day, thereby proving how wrong your choice of [component] is and how wrong you are. You are a lamer noob.”

    It also helps to have a personal anecdote unhinged from physics and/or statistics and most especially any trace of wisdom to prove the case that [component] is wrong. “I was bombing down a trail one day and the weak [component] you think is so great spontaneously failed when I caught air, did an endo off a rock, tumbled down an embankment while still clipped-in and landed on the freeway in front of a speeding truck.”


    1. bill

      Dude! You saw me? Did you get video?

  16. RTK

    I stopped by on the way home, good crowd and a number of things to look at. Picked up a few extra reflective stickers. Thanks to everyone that helped make this happen.

  17. Doug Bostrom

    Then there’s the downside. Spouse’s extra-expensive “waterproof” cycle lights made by a company that also makes dive lights and thus would presumably do better are in the oven now, drying out. Not even one full Fall of NW weather and they’ve gone all foggy and are freaking out.


    1. Gary

      Sounds like a company whose terrible lights I used for 2 years before I gave up and sold them for parts on ebay…. Nite rider… which charged me $30 each time to tell me that their lights were broken and would I like to spend another $80 on a battery that lasted one year, and that the chip in the headlight was bad. $250 for the lights, $150 in parts and labor.. (twice like a fool I sent them in for repair.) sold on ebay for $30….

      May they go bankrupt.

      1. Gary

        If you want high quality lights that IMO are worth the money, check out http://www.dinottelighting.com (excellent customer service btw.)

        There are cheaper light’s out there that claim to have the same amount of lumins but if you check out this chart, the real output is all over the place.


      2. Allan

        Back in the ni-cad, nm-h days I fixed my own lights and re-assembled and repaired my own batteries and it was cheap that way. Now, in the LED, Lithium era I have buckets of that old stuff sitting around and I don’t know what I should do with it but it is there in case the grid goes down.

  18. […] good folks at West Seattle Bike Connections read our October post about bike lights (and how some are too bright to put on strobe mode on a bike trail) and noticed something missing: […]

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