It’s getting dark earlier, so let’s talk about bike lights

Biking at night is one of my favorite things to do. As we wrote in our 2013 bike light story, “a nighttime bike ride can turn a simple errand into an existential experience.”

It’s true. The pace of the city slows way down at night. All the wooded areas come alive. The magnificent vistas transform. The experience forces meditation and self-reflection, a vital part of a healthy life that is so easy to neglect in a busy city.

But you gotta have lights on your bike to ride at night. The law requires a headlight and a rear reflector, but a rear taillight is highly recommended.

Unfortunately, bikes in our country don’t just come standard with proper lights, and there are a huge array of confusing bike light options available out there. This is a frustrating legacy of the U.S. bike industry treating bikes as recreational sports equipment rather than practical transportation machines. Most people just want whatever lights they need to be safe and legal, and then they never want to think about their bike lights ever again. Can you imagine if cars were sold without lights? Of course not.

Here is Seattle Bike Blog’s advice for buying and using bike lights:

  • Buy lights. That’s the most important rule of all.
  • Make sure you have a way of keeping your lights charged. This is the most important bike light feature for avoiding frustration later. USB-charged lights are great. So are lights that can take AAs or AAAs, since those rechargeable batteries are common and cheap. Avoid lights that require annoying (and expensive) watch batteries.
  • Bring your lights with you at all times. Sundown will keep creeping earlier and earlier, and you don’t want to get stuck out without them.
  • Keep your headlight on steady instead of flashing. Flashing headlights might make you feel safer, but they may actually disorient other people and make it more difficult to pinpoint your location. Some people with epilepsy can be harmed by strobing headlights. A flashing headlight is also illegal (makes you wonder why they even have a flashing mode, doesn’t it?).
  • Don’t point your light in people’s eyes. It can be very easy to not realize that you are blinding oncoming people. A lot of people just don’t realize how bright their lights are. You should angle your light slightly down so most the beam hits the ground somewhere in front of you. This splash of light on the road will make you more visible to people driving than shining the beam in their eyes, and it will help you better see potholes.
  • Use your lights whenever it rains or when the sun is low in the sky, not just at dark.
  • Don’t leave your lights on your bike when you lock up. They will get stolen.
  • Use your common sense, and do what feels safe to you. Some people prefer to get decked out in reflective gear and light up their bikes like a Christmas tree. If that’s you, then go for it. Others, like myself, feel comfortable with a set of good front and rear lights.

If you have a few hundred bucks, dynamo lighting (powered by the spinning of your wheel) is probably my favorite bike upgrade. You will need a new front wheel, and the lights themselves aren’t cheap. But once installed, you almost never have to think about your lights or charging batteries again. They turn on automatically when you start biking and turn off automatically after your bike has been stopped for a few minutes. And the headlights are typically focused to illuminate the roadway very well without blinding other people, similar to a car headlight.

While not that long ago dynamo lights were pretty weird in the U.S., many bike shops around town do dynamo light upgrades these days. You should swing by or call your local bike shop and ask if they sell and install them. If not, I’m sure they will have a shop to recommend.

Bike lights are one of those topics that seems to consistently start fights on the Internet. Some people get so mad at people who use blindingly-bright lights or have bright flashing headlights. While I understand why such light use is frustrating, I think it’s also important to consider that the person with the blinding light may not realize how blinding it is. And they only bought such a bright light because they are trying to be safe and visible while biking. It makes sense, on a certain level, to think that a brighter light is better, and blinking in more visible than steady. That’s how emergency vehicles do it, after all.

So instead of getting mad or yelling at people, being calm and helpful might be more appropriate for the situation. If it’s easy to mention to them that their light is shining in people’s eyes, then that’s great. It’s not their fault that the bike light market is so open-ended and confusing. Not everyone is interested in reading an 800-word blog post about bike lights.

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61 Responses to It’s getting dark earlier, so let’s talk about bike lights

  1. David Feldman says:

    Consider a dynohub! Yes, they’re heavy, they’re expensive and you have to pay a real bike mechanic to build you a wheel with one but it’s the end of worrying about batteries, the lights that they can drive are amazingly good and if you remember the old tire-sidewall bottle generators that made you shift down three gears, forget it, on even the least expensive models the drag is damn near nothing. I switched ten years ago–NEVER using a battery light again if I can help it!

    • Andres Salomon says:

      This. Dynamo hubs are the best, and newer ones (like Shutter Precision) aren’t even that heavy.

      However, if you can’t afford that – mount some lights on your helmet. I have a Niterider Solas zip-tied to the back of my helmet, and a small, cheap MetroFlash Ignita ($15) attached to the front.

      A helmet-mounted rear light is superior to frame-mounted, in my opinion. Frame-mounted rear lights get blocked by racks, panniers, backpacks, or even long coats. The visibility of a helmet-mounted rear light is only ever blocked by a overstuffed (on top) backpack (unless you ride super-aggressively on drop bars or something).

      A helmet-mounted front light should be a low power light, because you *will* shine it at people and accidentally blind them. I wouldn’t rely on a low-power front light for all situations, but the helmet-mounted front light is a nice backup for when I forget to bring a higher-powered front light and I’m out after dark.

      Instead of having to worry about lights getting stolen or lost, or having to unclip lights to charge them, you just bring your helmet inside with you.

      • Stuart Strand says:

        I rode with both frame and helmet lights for years, until I began to think about what effect that light would have on helmet performance in an accident. I worried about the likelihood that the light would snag on the pavement and torque my neck. Ditched the helmet light soon after.

      • Buzz says:

        Most people I see riding with a helmet light have way worse visibility issues than frame mounted. Back of the helmet points at the sky when riding.

        Backpack mounted also tend to be an issue.

        Put it on your frame or seatpost. Consistent angle of view is very important to visibility.

      • Nate Todd says:

        Helmet lights point where your head does, which helps you see but on a bike path or trail will blind oncoming riders.

    • Josh says:

      Dynamo lights don’t even have to be expensive, it’s just that in the U.S., they’re mainly marketed to enthusiasts instead of utilitarian riders. Not fancy hubs for racers, but check out the hubs on bikeshare machines.

      I use a Schmidt on my touring bike, but for my commuter I don’t need the precision or the incentive for theft. My Sanyo dynamo hub was under $35, and Shimano now has decently-efficient models that cost even less than that.

      • Clark in Vancouver says:

        In this continent very few stores even carry dynamo hubs. The ones that do tend to carry only the high end ones like the Schmidt SON which are great but can be $300. Meanwhile over in Europe they sell basic Shimano dynamo hubs between 30 and 100 Euro and are available all over.
        The same with lights. Over here you go to the bike store and all of them are just single point super bright LEDs pointed right at the eyes of those in front of you and behind you. Again, because of German laws, they must have a cut off, and can’t blink.
        I agree that the industry in this continent should set up some guidelines before some oppressive laws are forced on them. It’s all been figured out how good lights should be both by the auto industry and by Germany’s StVZO regulations. They could just adopt the principles, start making lights that follow them and have them for sale as another option on the shelf.

      • Clark in Vancouver says:

        Oops, the second sentence in the second paragraph should read more like:
        Again, over in Europe, because of German laws, they must have a cut off, and can’t blink.

      • Josh says:

        If you can’t find what you want in your local shop, eBay and Amazon have decent selections of StVZO lights available in the U.S.

        Cateye, for example, makes StVZO-compliant versions of many of the same lights sold in the U.S. market, only slightly more expensive to buy the better versions from Europe if you can’t find them locally.

    • Bob Hall says:

      Nobody ever mentions these downsides to dynamo hubs:

      1) They cannot easily be transferred to another bike. I have three bikes: each bike has its own mounts and then I can swap out one set of lights.

      2) If/when your bike gets stolen, you’ve now lost all the money spent on the dynamo light setup. Normal clip-on lights are not only cheaper, but are easy to unclip and put into a bag.

      3) Depending on your setup, dynamo lights make it harder to remove the front wheel when you want to stow your bicycle on top of a car or inside of a sailboat.

      Also, am I the only person who doesn’t find plugging in some USB lights at work to be that big of a hassle?

      • Duncan Watson says:

        You aren’t wrong. I took a dynamo off one of my bikes for that reason. I would also add the connectors from hub to light are a weak point for failure and have caused me issues in the past.

  2. Jim Jomea says:

    A low level led flasher is not blinding and can increase visibility. It’s particularly good for day time avoidance of getting doored. I understand the objection to super bright flashers but not so bright ones —fleas and other low wattage play a purpose as flashers

    • John Stewart says:

      For those of you who are familiar with strobe lights (flashers) on the dance floor you may remember how disorienting they are. The human eye’s reaction to depth perception is severely compromised by a flashing light therefore the argument that a flasher enhances visibility goes out the window. If you can’t tell how far away the object is, how is that helpful? The gentle swaying of the rider’s motion with a solid light is far more visible.

      • William Wilcock says:

        My experience is that riding with a moderately bright flashing or modulating lights reduces by an order of magnitude the number of times when drivers cut in front of me other otherwise do things because they do not see me. They are particularly effective at dawn and dusk.

      • John Stewart says:

        Pretty scientific research I see. When was the last time you used a steady headlight and a steady visor lamp to make a comparison? When was the last time you asked a car driver what they can see or not see?
        Again, I return to the premise that a flashing light interrupts the human eye’s ability to perceive depth and therefore is not a contributor factor to safety. And unless you have not been reading this post, they are illegal.

    • R says:

      Your opinion of flashing headlights doesn’t matter, they are illegal on bicycles in Washington State under all circumstances. Your legal option is a modulating light that doesn’t shut off all the way.

      How would you like being deposed by the attorney representing the driver who hit you about why you chose to use illegal lighting on your bike?

      Furthermore the humans have physigilogic challenges tracking position and motion of flashing lights.

  3. GlenBikes says:

    Pro Tip: Also, when driving a car, drive slowly enough that you can avoid running over people on foot or on bicycle even if they do not have lights or hi viz clothing.

    • ragged-robin says:

      Good tip, but drivers around here tend to think it’s their god given right to have the right of way in any and all circumstances.

      Literally 10 minutes ago I was walking up to QFC and a driver did not want to stop/yield for me to cross and was visibly upset that they had to hit their brake.

      • Duncan Watson says:

        On my morning commute near Beardslee in Bothell I wait for a traffic light. When it goes green I ALWAYS have to yell at traffic turning right on red into me. This is right by the Seattle Times building in Bothell. I have my headlight on, the traffic light just turns and yet every time some driver tries to stick his car through the bike line while I am crossing.

  4. Marko says:

    Consider solid taillights over blinking. Much easier for cars to judge distances.

    • Josh says:

      That’s one of the reasons you’re still required to have a red rear reflector in addition to a tail light. At a distance, the tail light will be more conspicuous, but as the car’s headlights get closer, a proper red reflector will provide a bright, *steady* light for judging distance and direction.

      • ronp says:

        Good suggestion, I had not considered that factor.

      • jay says:

        “but as the car’s headlights get closer, a proper red reflector will provide a bright, *steady* light …”

        Only if the headlights are on. I work second shift so I ride in the dark every day, and about once a day I’ll see some idiot driving without lights. So, one should have good active lights on both ends of one’s bike.

        Being a night time commuter I’m a big fan of hub dynamos and German lights. While I did have to pay extra to have a bike shop build the dynamo wheels for four of my bikes, three of them were actually factory equipped with hub dynamos (and crappy headlights which had to be replaced)

      • Josh says:

        Yes, I’d never go reflector-only, even though it’s legal.

        If you’re on a budget, you can buy prebuilt dynamo wheels online for under $100 if you’re looking for utility-grade equipment. Not pretty or light, but reliable and durable. (I know I *can* replace the bearings on my Sanyo, but it barely has 40,000 miles on it so I haven’t needed to do any maintenance yet.)

  5. Alkibkr says:

    It’s also good to let people buying bike lights know there are different types of white bike lights. Some are only for being seen and do not illuminate the ground in front of you very well. You need to ask for a headlight that does both if you want to avoid hazards on the street/trail. Street and trail lighting is often very poor (or is it just my senior eyes?).

  6. tony says:

    I would probally need 2 high powered lights for my eyes!

  7. kDavid says:

    THANK YOU for this post! :-D

    I love my dyno lights and they are not that hard to set up. Purchase a dyno hub pre-built wheel, and a good head & taillight combo and you never have to remember to charge or take them on/off again!

    Also, for the love of RETINAS please dim or angle your lights down on Bike Trails!
    This oncoming cyclist thanks you!!

  8. Paul Brookshire says:

    And PLEASE, when on bike trails, set headlight to lowest and angled-down setting. You do not need to illuminate the trail to a distance of 100 meters. Blindings are especially problematic when trail traffic is high and you are also trying to detect walkers in all black amongst the shadows.

    • Jonathan says:

      Yes – don’t be the person on the Burke-Gilman with a super bright white flasher on their helmet, as they look around approaching the intersection. Everybody else might as well close their eyes and navigate by feel for a few seconds.

      The value of a yellow vest is also hard to overstate. I always wear the yellow vest, except that one day a year ago when I forgot it, and had the first collision I’d had in 30 years. An oncoming car didn’t notice me and pulled a snap U-turn.

    • David says:

      Except then there are people who take that to the extreme. I started biking home on the Sammamish river trail last year, and some riders want you to completely cover your light for 5-10 seconds as you pass each other. I’ve gotten yelled at for not doing that, despite my light being angled down (hitting the ground 30-50 feet out).

      I refuse to take a hand off the handlebars in the dark where I’ve almost run into beavers crossing the trail and I refuse to shut off my light every time I see another biker.

      • Josh says:

        Completely covering your light is illegal anyway — you’re required to have a headlight visible to someone 500 feet ahead of you, so they have time to notice you before you’re passing each other. That law applies on trails as well as roads.

  9. Josh says:

    Part of the problem with the bike light marketplace is that there’s no equivalent of Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to set a single, national definition of acceptable bike lighting. Most states haven’t updated their headlight regulations since the standard bike headlight was a 2.4W incandescent, not even halogen. The only real concern was having a light bright enough that drivers could see it — glare really wasn’t an issue.

    Now that Amazon will sell you a $50 headlight that’s brighter than the low-beams of a car, eventually state legislatures will start changing the rules. (Car headlights weren’t seriously regulated until they topped 500 lumens and glare started causing crashes.)

    Personally, I think the bike industry would be wise to get ahead of legislators and suggest model regulations for the modern world — simple rules, not as complex as German StVZO, more like the rules for motor vehicles with single-beam headlights — aim them to avoid glare, and they should be bright enough to illuminate people at a reasonable distance. (Bicycles aren’t as fast as old cars, 200 feet is probably excessive. But other than that, this is a simple rule that would be easy for bike headlights to meet.)

    RCW 46.37.240 Single-beam road-lighting equipment.

    Head lamp systems which provide only a single distribution of light shall be permitted on all farm tractors regardless of date of manufacture, and on all other motor vehicles manufactured and sold prior to one year after March 18, 1955, in lieu of multiple-beam road-lighting equipment herein specified if the single distribution of light complies with the following requirements and limitations:

    (1) The head lamps shall be so aimed that when the vehicle is not loaded none of the high intensity portion of the light shall at a distance of twenty-five feet ahead project higher than a level of five inches below the level of the center of the lamp from which it comes, and in no case higher than forty-two inches above the level on which the vehicle stands at a distance of seventy-five feet ahead;

    (2) The intensity shall be sufficient to reveal persons and vehicles at a distance of at least two hundred feet.

  10. ragged-robin says:

    If we had better infrastructure, perhaps people wouldn’t feel the need to get x-hundred lumen lights, but the marketing ploy to convince people that more lumens == better is probably more to blame here. It is quite frustrating to bike past someone who has absolutely blinding front lights.

    There a section of the i90 trail going over Mercer Island which is particularly (and dangerously) dark–the downhill going east up to the transit center. This makes it especially dangerous when this time of year there are a lot of debris on the trail and pedestrians will walk it without any reflective gear or lights (not to mention the tendency to walk either in the wrong side of the trail or in the middle).

    The rear reflector law is silly. It should be changed to requiring a reflector or a light.

  11. ronp says:

    Great post! Thanks!

  12. Goretex Guy says:

    I’ve been a year round bike commuter and I notice that lots of riders clip good tail-lights on their backpacks, then when they wear the backpacks the lights are pointed into the sky. Not so good for the car behind you but great for the planes landing at Sea-Tac. Check yourself out in a window somewhere to see what you look like from behind.

    • kDavid says:

      …and yet there seems to be no incidences of planes crashing into those cyclists from behind.

      Coincidence, hmmmmm???

      ;-)

  13. Stephen says:

    I use a flashing helmet light during the day only. I find that it’s not disorienting and makes me visible in the shadows where a steady light doesn’t.

    Also, I would argue that a flashing helmet light is technically NOT illegal. The RCW refers to lights that are on the “vehicle”. Rider and vehicle are two different things.

    • Josh says:

      RCW 46.37.280 part (1) limits itself to motor vehicles during hours of darkness; (2) limits itself to vehicles or equipment of any sort, without a time limit; (3) doesn’t address what the light is *attached to* at all, it says “flashing lights are prohibited except …”

      RCW 46.37.280 Special restrictions on lamps.
      (1) During the times specified in RCW 46.37.020, any lighted lamp or illuminating device upon a motor vehicle, other than head lamps, spot lamps, auxiliary lamps, flashing turn signals, emergency vehicle warning lamps, warning lamps authorized by the state patrol and school bus warning lamps, which projects a beam of light of an intensity greater than three hundred candlepower shall be so directed that no part of the high intensity portion of the beam will strike the level of the roadway on which the vehicle stands at a distance of more than seventy-five feet from the vehicle.
      (2) Except as required in RCW 46.37.190 no person shall drive or move any vehicle or equipment upon any highway with any lamp or device thereon displaying a red light visible from directly in front of the center thereof.
      (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.

      • Stephen says:

        WAC 204.21.30 “(5) Flashing white lights are prohibited on any vehicle other than authorized emergency vehicles, law enforcement vehicles, school buses, and emergency tow trucks as defined in WAC 204-21-020.”

        Is there precedence between RCW and WAC?

      • Kirk says:

        RCW 46.37.215 – Hazard warning lamps. (1) Any vehicle may be equipped with lamps for the purpose of warning other operators of other vehicles of the presence of a vehicular traffic hazard requiring the exercise of unusual care in approaching, overtaking, or passing. (2) After June 1, 1978, every motor home… (3) Vehicular hazard warning signal lamps used to display such warning to the front shall be mounted at the same level and as widely spaced laterally as practicable, and shall display simultaneously flashing amber light: PROVIDED, That on any vehicle manufactured prior to January 1, 1969, the lamps showing to the front may display simultaneously flashing white or amber lights, or any shade of color between white and amber. The lamps used to display such warning to the rear shall be mounted at the same level and as widely spaced laterally as practicable, and shall show simultaneously flashing amber or red lights, or any shade of color between amber and red. These warning lights shall be visible from a distance of not less than five hundred feet in normal sunlight.

        The flashing hazard lights are a great way to go. I’ve rigged up a set in amber, but I guess my 1965 Schwinn Racer could legally run white flashing hazard lights.

      • Josh says:

        WAC is the regulations drafted to implement the RCW.

        In this case, the RCW has a blanket ban on “flashing lights” in general, except as listed in the statute. But the listing in the statute includes references to other statutes, which doesn’t make it a quick and easy read.

        The WAC takes the various exceptions that allow flashing white lights and lists them together, but they’re essentially the same list of exceptions.

      • Josh says:

        Hazard warning lights would be an excellent alternative to flashing headlights.

        I don’t think I’ve ever seen a commercial set of compliant hazard lights for a bicycle, but it shouldn’t be hard to have widely-spaced, synchronized lights, and the broad, diffused beam of hazard lamps is much more appropriate for flashing than the focused beam of a headlight. Plus the amber color causes a bit less glare and night-blindness than a bright white light.

    • Goretex guy says:

      Personally I think that flashing headlights are obnoxious no matter what it’s connected to. One thing to remember though is that your head moves while you’re riding, so the movement attracts attention. When I’m riding at night I wear a Niterider 300 on my helmet. I just look at cars merging from side streets and they see me just fine.

  14. Gary says:

    I’d also like to give a shout out to a local bike light manufacturer, orfos.bike They make a very good “wide” bike light that is bright while not blinding.

    I’d also like to point out the benefit of a bike and helmet mounted light sets:
    1) No other vehicle has an over and over set of lights, so you are instantly recognized as a bicycle, and not a one light car or motorcycle.
    2) The helmet light lets you look into a corner as you turn, thus you can run lower lumin lights and still see where you are going.
    3) dual redundancy, nothing like having your one light fail before you are home. And with tail lights you are not likely to notice that it’s out.

    Also whatever your rig is, I suggest a night time test. Park your bike with lights going, and walk away from it. See what you look like from a driver’s point of view. Do this at dusk as well. I consider dusk the most dangerous time to be riding as your lights don’t stand out like they do in the dark

    • Scott A says:

      To add to your #2 point – my helmet Viz 360 is great mounted to my helmet. I keep it on the lower of the two steady light settings and make sure it’s actually lighting the road. This morning I did what I occasionally need to do – get the attention of a driver who is about to pull out in front of me while barely slowing down to see what’s coming down the road. Just a quick, slight turn of my head gives them a reminder someone is closing in and they should put on their brakes.

      • John Stewart says:

        Scott, this is perfect! And exactly what catches my attention as a car driver! Thank you for your thoughtfulness.
        I carry a flashlight when walking at night and let cars know when I’m crossing the street with a quick point to let them know I’m here.

  15. Pat says:

    Question: What exactly is considered “flashing” or “strobing”? I have a Light & Motion Urban 350 and it has a mode where it sort of fades in and out between two of the lowest settings, with a period of about half a second. I wouldn’t consider it to be “flashing” the way my rear red light is flashing. Should I not be using this? It’s sort of my default setting just to conserve battery, and the manufacturer claims it’s more visible.

    • Josh says:

      If it goes all the way black, it’s “flashing”; if it always has output, but at varying intensities, it’s “modulated”:

      WAC 204-21-020 Definitions.

      (9) “Flashing” means any lamp which emits a beam of light which is broken intermittently and regularly by use of an electronic or electric switch, a rotating reflector, a rotating lamp, or a strobe lamp; or a lamp which emits a steady beam of light which is intermittently and regularly directed away from any viewer by means of a rotating or oscillating reflector or lamp assembly. Flashing lamps are not to be confused with modulated lamps which intermittently and regularly decrease the power to the lamp filament so as to dim the light output but do not cause a total break in the light beam.

    • Duncan Watson says:

      I absolutely hate flashing or modulating forward white head lights. HATE. Like why are you doing this. Rear lights are fine with lower frequency modulating. But I strongly prefer solid. I also run at least 2 to provide parallax.

  16. Dave says:

    I don’t use a flashing front light but can understand why some riders do–American drivers are dumb animals who need the metaphorical brick over the head to get their attention. It’s easy to believe that polite lighting is a luxury that we can indulge if drivers someday become human.

  17. Kirk says:

    I think one of the best tactics for navigating the night biking is to wear a bike hat or a helmet with a visor. It’s then easy to block out with the visor any oncoming light you might find bright. Also, avoid looking directly at that bright light, keep it off to the side of your retina. If you imprint it on the center of your retina, you’ll be blinded. I also make sure I have eye wear with an anti-glare coating.

    • Ben P says:

      I turn my head right, shut my left eye, and watch the edge of the road with my right eye. Mostly for car lights, but some bright bike lights too

  18. Breadbaker says:

    When I drive and see bikes with lights that illuminate the frame I see the bike far better than when unconnected to a headlight or taillight. I have on one on trike.

    • Gary says:

      The question is, “when did you see the bike” If it’s after it’s passing in front of you at an intersection, it’s really too late. Bicyclists need to be seen far enough away that a driver can do something about it.

      Hence, reflection is also useful as it uses the lights of the car to illuminate you. I like category III Highway vests as they have 360 degree bands of reflective tape.

      On flashing vs steady beams:
      In WWII airplanes used their landing lights to hide in the sky, because the light they emitted helped them blend into the sky!
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aircraft_camouflage#Active_camouflage

      So at dusk, running steady lights is actually worse than nothing if your lights aren’t brighter than the ambient light.

      For my own non scientific study, I looked while driving to see how far away I was before I recognize a bicycle on the road, and noted the type of lighting. Your mileage may vary, and I won’t tell you what I do, as I’m not about to start a flaming lumin war.

      • Scott says:

        Agreed, I wear a safety vest day or night. They’re absurdly cheap, and they’re readily available online. Just search for “category 3 safety vest.” They’re also much more visible than biking gear that is marketed as being visible.

        Here’s an explanation of the categories from one seller:

        https://www.safetygearonline.com/explaining-ansi-safety-vest-classes

        Half-sleeve vests are useful at night because when you signal a turn the sleeve points in the direction that you’re turning. (I signal right turns with my right arm.)

  19. Gordon says:

    State law already allows modulation (slowly glowing) for motorcycle lights. Let’s just extend this regulation (assuming it’s based on good research about how to be visible and now blind folks or cause seizures) to bikes and be done with the blinking issue: https://app.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=204-21-040

    • Josh says:

      Modulation is already legal for bicycles, and some of the better light manufacturers already do modulated modes instead of flashing.

      Motorcycles have extensive regs on modulation. For bicycles, it’s simply that “flashing lights” are expressly defined to exclude “modulated lights,” so modulated lights aren’t covered by the ban on flashing.

  20. John says:

    Forward facing helmet lights, if not used in conjunction with a bike/frame mounted light, might help the rider see, but can give the driver of a car an inaccurate idea of the proximity of the oncoming cyclist due to parallax effect. In the dark, the lower to the ground a light is, the closer your eyes/brain tends to think the source of the light is, and conversely the higher the light the further away. Car drivers are used to seeing a light and thinking it is mounted low down. Have a friend hold a light a few feet off the ground at a distance at night, then hold the same light up at head level – you will see the effect I am describing. I moved my light from my helmet to my handle bars after I drove into a turning car (that said he thought I was far enough away for him to pull out) and later almost hit an oncoming cyclist (head mounted light only) on the BG trail thinking they were a distance away.

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