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Forum: Lighting

Dynamos vs battery, chargers, experiences

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#1: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By George Garber on Fri 5 Oct 2012 06:40 (US/Pacific) Edit Delete   Reply (16)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
It seems every taillight and headlight on the market these days offer both blinking and steady modes. Almost all the cyclists I see using a taillight run it in blinking mode. About half of the cyclists I see using a headlight have it blinking, too.

I never use blinking mode, front or back. In front, it's an easy choice. I can't imagine wanting a headlight that blinks. In back, I'm not so sure. I find a blinking taillight irritating when I have to ride behind one, and I imagine other road users feel the same way. That's why I use steady mode. But maybe irritating the people behind you is exactly what you want a taillight to do, so they will notice you and not run into you. And maybe other people aren't bothered by blinking lights as much as I am.

I'd like to hear other opinions on this.

George Garber
Lexington, Kentucky, USA

      
#2: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By Dave Butansky on Fri 5 Oct 2012 06:50 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Blinking is annoying and hence easier to notice but is illegal in some places except for emergency vehicles.

      
#3: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By John Meiners on Fri 5 Oct 2012 06:55 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
First of all, battery life is significantly longer in blinking mode.

I use headlights in blinking mode when I'm using it as a "be seen" light, and in steady mode when I'm using it to see.

I always use my taillight in blinking mode. It is much more noticeable, and I don't find it annoying when I see others using it.

      
#4: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By Don Weinell on Fri 5 Oct 2012 07:03 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (2)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Blinking lights, so I've read, are illegal in most European countries. I think the law varies throughout the US. I personally use the blinking mode in the daylight hours when I'm more concerned about my own visibility. As it gets dark, however, I change to the steady mode. A bright blinking tail-light can be a distraction to drivers behind me, and some studies even suggest that blinking lights lure drunk drivers towards you (kinda like bugs to a zapper). Likewise, a blinking headlight after dark is an annoyance to not only the oncoming traffic but to the rider as well.

      
#5: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By Al Cyone on Fri 5 Oct 2012 07:16 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
You'll find additional discussion under the Forum category "Lighting", including this one:

Message on Forum "Lighting": "Rear Tail Lights (Winter is coming fast!)" posted by James Thurber on Sat 2 Oct 2010 21:28 (US/Pacific)

      
#6: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By iain c on Fri 5 Oct 2012 08:15 Edit Delete in reply to #4     Reply (3)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Blinking lights, so I've read, are illegal in most European countries.

You may be mistaken. They are certainly legal in the UK. I believe they are legal elsewhere in Europe as most road traffic law is similar. Flashing lights weren't legal in the UK a few years ago but the law has caught up with reality

Front Lamp

One is required, showing a white light, positioned centrally or offside, up to 1500mm from the ground, aligned towards and visible from the front. If capable of emitting a steady light it must be marked as conforming to BS6102/3 or an equivalent EC standard. If capable of emitting only a flashing light, it must emit at least 4 candela.

Rear Lamp

One is required, to show a red light, positioned centrally or offside, between 350mm and 1500mm from the ground, at or near the rear, aligned towards and visible from behind. If capable of emitting a steady light it must be marked as conforming to BS3648, or BS6102/3, or an equivalent EC standard. If capable of emitting only a flashing light, it must emit at least 4 candela.

http://www.ctc.org.uk/desktopdefault.aspx?tabid=4071

I prefers to use my lights in flashing mode as in urban areas where I do almost all my night riding there are many other competing light sources. As for annoying drivers? I can't see it. Drivers pass a bike either direction in a few seconds and are never that close to my lights. At least they shouldn't be. I would only put my rear lights on steady if I was riding in a group of cyclists.

Annoying lights? That's when the driver in front of you at the traffic lights sits with his foot on the brake because he/she is too lazy to put their handbrake on.

      
#7: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By Brent Walker on Fri 5 Oct 2012 08:18 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Flashing mode all the way especially on my helmet light and the rear as I ride a lot at night or in the early morning. The flashing mode draws drivers out of their car induced stupor. Don’t really care if it is annoying or not. There are lot of things drivers do that I find annoying but live with. Safe riding.

      
#8: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By George Garber on Fri 5 Oct 2012 08:28 Edit Delete in reply to #6     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
"As for annoying drivers? I can't see it. Drivers pass a bike either direction in a few seconds and are never that close to my lights. At least they shouldn't be."

True, on the open road. But in town it's common for a motorist to be stopped right behind us, often for several minutes, waiting for a traffic signal to change. A flashing lamp might annoy in those conditions.

It crosses my mind that motor vehicles have flashing lights too, in the form of turn signals, and I've never minded them even when I'm lined up right behind them. But they typically flash much slower than bike lamps, and that may make a difference.

      
#9: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By George White on Fri 5 Oct 2012 08:30 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Hi,

Night:
Rear - one blinking, one steady. I find it difficult to judge distance to a light in blink mode so always have one in steady mode in case other drivers have the same difficulty. Front - depending on circumstances/speed one or two steady.

Day:
Front and rear: one blinking.

George

      
#10: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By Jerry Harp on Fri 5 Oct 2012 10:17 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Don't do much night riding, but when I do it's blinky rear on helmet, steady front. Except at dusk/dawn or when there is sufficient street lighting. Then it's blinky front too.

Blinky for the reason you mentioned. To irritate drivers enough to get their attention.

      
#11: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By Eric Weisz on Fri 5 Oct 2012 10:35 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
My primary lighting as of a few months ago is a Busch and Muller dynamo system, headlight and taillight. It doesn't blink. (I think Germany is one country in Europe where blinking lights are illegal.) But it is very bright and more than visible enough without blinking.

I still have my other lights from before I got the dynamo-powered lights. I occasionally run them in blinking mode to increase my visibility to motorists, but generally I feel safe with the steady mode of my new lights.

That said, before I got my B&M lights, I ran most of my lights in blinking mode, with the exception of my tactical LED flashlight that used to serve as my primary headlight.

I can see it both ways... with one caveat: if your light (esp. headlight) is REALLY bright, it doesn't need to blink. (I'm looking at you 1000 lumen strobe headlight on the MUP guy.)

      
#12: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By Durrin Hynes on Fri 5 Oct 2012 10:43 Edit Delete in reply to #6     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
blinking bicycle lights are illegal in Germany, and I think in Sweden as well. They are not in Denmark.

      
#13: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By Phil Hughes on Fri 5 Oct 2012 10:54 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
I have the Busch & Muller 4D Toplight Permanent Battery Taillight on my Tubas rack. It is a steady on light and is very visible. I have a Superflash mounted on the seatpost and run it in blinking mode during the daytime and steady mode at night. I think the blinking is too distracting to drivers and actually cause them to stare at the light making it very likely they will veer towards the bike rather than steer away from me. I think the light is plenty visible at night when steady.

      
#14: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By Al Cyone on Fri 5 Oct 2012 14:26 Edit Delete in reply to #6     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
"Annoying lights? That's when the driver in front of you at the traffic lights sits with his foot on the brake because he/she is too lazy to put their handbrake on."

It may be different across the pond but I don't know of any driver who uses his parking brake at stop lights. Or, for the most part, anywhere else. In fact, I'd bet most drivers in the U.S. have never used their parking brakes.

      
#15: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By Don Weinell on Fri 5 Oct 2012 17:04 Edit Delete in reply to #14     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
The US is one of the few places in the world where automatic transmissions are the norm. When I used to drive a standard shift, I often used my parking brake (handbrake) when stopped at a light on an incline. Otherwise, you have to keep the clutch released just enough to engage the pressure plate to keep the car from rolling, but not enough to move the car forward. That's hard on the transmission.

      
#16: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By Al Cyone on Fri 5 Oct 2012 17:56 Edit Delete in reply to #15     Reply (2)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
"When I used to drive a standard shift, I often used my parking brake (handbrake) when stopped at a light on an incline. Otherwise, you have to keep the clutch released just enough to engage the pressure plate to keep the car from rolling, but not enough to move the car forward. That's hard on the transmission."

Couldn't you just shift into "neutral" and keep your foot on the brake?

      
#17: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By John Meiners on Fri 5 Oct 2012 19:25 Edit Delete in reply to #16     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Couldn't you just shift into "neutral" and keep your foot on the brake?

I thought that's what everybody did.

      
#18: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By Chris Zacho on Fri 5 Oct 2012 20:40 Edit Delete in reply to #9     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Same here, I haven't done any night riding in a long while, the only time I did was when it was necessary for commuting, during which time it was one steady & one blinking in the rear, and on bright steady in front. Although I did have a blinkie in front just under the main headlight for one particularly nasty night time commute when I was competing with a lot of car headlights for attention.

On my tour though I had two ultra bright LED tail lights blinking during the days I felt steady wouldn't be noticed in the bright sunlight. on the one occasion where I had to ride until dusk I turned one to steady once it started to get dark though.

      
#19: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By [deleted] on Sat 6 Oct 2012 06:37 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
This is really a pet peeve of mine because I've seen several bikes with the blinking headlights. Maybe I'm more easily distracted, but to me it's like I'm trying to drive/ride while looking into a strobe light. If you're on a road, then you're blinding a driver who should be way over on the other side. If you're on a trail, then you're blinding another biker. I am thinking of getting a good blinking headlight so that I can show the ones who use them on the trail what it is like to look into one.

      
#20: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By Jay Swenberger on Sat 6 Oct 2012 17:43 Edit Delete in reply to #1     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Daytime - front and rear blink
Nighttime (my commute home around midnight) - both steady

      
#21: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By iain c on Sat 6 Oct 2012 21:45 Edit Delete in reply to #16     Reply (1)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
Couldn't you just shift into "neutral" and keep your foot on the brake?

Yes, but at night this means your brake lights dazzle the driver in the queue behind. Inconsiderate driving IMO. Correct technique is to use the handbrake if stopping for any length of time. Going into neutral also reduces wear on the clutch, again only significant for long stops, not stop signs or traffic lights where you expect the green light soon.

      
#22: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By Al Cyone on Sun 7 Oct 2012 05:47 Edit Delete in reply to #21     Reply (2)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
"Correct technique is to use the handbrake if stopping for any length of time."

If by "any length of time" mean any length of time (e.g. at a stop light) then you'll have a hard time finding anyone in the U.S. who practices the "correct technique". I also suspect you'll have a hard time finding anyone who feels "dazzled" by brake lights. Actually, I find it reassuring to know that the driver in front of me has his foot on the brake.

      
#23: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By iain c on Sun 7 Oct 2012 06:23 Edit Delete in reply to #22     Reply   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
you'll have a hard time finding anyone in the U.S. who practices the "correct technique"

Don't worry. There are plenty bad drivers in the UK as well :-) Actually driving automatic gear boxes might account for much of the difference. The manual box has no park position so the handbrake may need to be used more.

I also suspect you'll have a hard time finding anyone who feels "dazzled" by brake lights

I don't see why. Posters on this thread have said they are dazzled by bike lights which are a similar power or lower brightness to rear brake lights on cars. I can be sitting 10 feet away from two BRIGHT brake lights for a minute or more at lights. Overtaking a bike I'm within 10 feet for about 2 seconds as I pass. Might be an age thing as well. I find bright lights more irritating than I did 25 years ago.

It's not just me though.

Be aware that brake lights can also cause dazzle. Don't keep your foot on the brake pedal if waiting at a junction or queuing in traffic, except in fog.

http://www.driving-test-success.com/driving-articles/driving-at-night.htm

      
#24: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By George Garber on Sun 7 Oct 2012 06:31 Edit Delete in reply to #22     Reply (2)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
I'd hate to see this turn into a thread on the use of car brakes, but I can't help myself. One of the biggest differences between North American and UK driving techniques (after the obvious one of which side of the road to drive on) involves the use of the handbrake. UK drivers use their handbrakes more. When I took my driving test in the UK, after driving for years in the US and Canada, the examiner faulted me for "misuse of the handbrake". I'm still not sure what I did wrong, but he didn't like it. The issue of brake lights dazzling the people behind is one I've never heard raised in America, before this thread.

My current car, a Honda CRV made in Canada, doesn't even have a handbrake. It just has a second brake pedal with a ratchet so it can be used for parking. To release it, you have to push it down a second time. I would no more use that brake when stopped at a red light than I would hop out and put a chock under the wheel.

But whatever you think of dazzling brake lights, there is a connection here with bicycle lighting. Lighting isn't just about being seen or showing the road ahead. Whether we are driving or cycling, we should consider how our lights affect other road users. There's a reason why the specifications for car headlights include not just a minimum brightness, but also a maximum. And there may be a good argument against blinking lights on bicycles.

      
#25: Re: Lights -- blinking versus steady (thread)
By Robert Niece on Sun 7 Oct 2012 11:28 Edit Delete in reply to #24     Reply (2)   Printable Relation | Link | Bookmark | Report
This thread reminds me of a funny story from way back when I was stationed in South Korea. At every traffic light, when stopped, the drivers would turn off their headlights. At first I thought it was just plain courtesy so as to not blind the drivers in the opposing lanes. One night in a taxi I finally asked and was told by the driver it was to save the battery from being used up! I was a little too drunk at the time to explain about alternators and such. Then again, maybe he was just having fun with me...


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