It seems like common sense: Road bike lights or flashing bike lights attract more attention, so use them all the time. But in truth, rear flashing lights should not be used constantly. This is a great guide to help you determine when to use flashing lights and when to opt for a solid light.
Most modern road bike lights operate in a number of modes and can easily be adjusted to both flashing and steady lights. Flashing lights save on battery power and are easy to detect, so it seems like they would always be the best choice. There are many times, however, that flashing lights should not be used.
The biggest problem with flashing bike lights is that they make it difficult for drivers to determine your rate of speed and location. When you are riding on a busy road at night, this can lead to tragic consequences. A solid, steady light makes it easier for others on the road to clearly tell your location as well as your rate of speed. In addition, flashing bright lights, especially some of the modern, super-bright lights, can cause confusion, disorientation, and migraines for others on the road.
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Instead of riding with your flashing rear light at night, use a steady light. It allows for clear visibility during evening hours and will not disorient others. If you DO choose to use a flashing light at night, use one that is 300 lumens or less (not exceptionally bright), and use it along with a solid light. The steady light allows other operators on the road to determine your location and speed, and a flashing light of 300 lumens or less should not cause vision problems or disorientation in others.
Check the angle of the lights on your bike. Be mindful of the direction your lights are aimed. Lights that shine straight ahead may blind drivers and other bikers. This can put you at a higher risk of being involved in a collision. Some lights shine as bright as 3000 lumens, and this can easily impact the vision of oncoming road users. Instead, angle your lights so they are pointing slightly downward. This will allow you to clearly see the road in front of you while not impacting the vision of others sharing the road with you.
Helmet-mounted lights offer a great alternative that allows you to quickly adjust the light away from others. You can angle the light based on the conditions, and because it is on your helmet, you can quickly maneuver it when needed.
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Road bike lights should be used during daytime hours, as well. More and more vehicles on the road use daytime running lights. This is because they have been proven to reduce the number of crashes by increasing visibility. The same applies of bikes! During the day, your flashing lights will allow for easier detection without blinding others, so it’s a great time to use them! Again, be sure your lights are not so intense as to cause discomfort for others. Since you are clearly visible during the day, others on the road won’t be confused when gauging your distance or rate of speed.
Rear bike lights glow red and are generally less bright. They are less likely to cause disorientation or vision problems in others due to their color and minimal intensity. It’s best to use both a flashing and a steady rear light during evening hours for maximum visibility.
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Side bike lights that attach to the spokes of your bike allow a funky, fun way of lighting up your bike. These lights flash constantly and sometimes create designs and patterns. Since these are tiny LED lights, they will not blind others on the road. These lights are fun and unusual, but should never be considered your primary bike light.
When investing in a bike light, consider the mount, the modes, and the lumens. The mount allows you to determine where the light is attached. Some mounts are stable while others are adjustable. Most lights allow you to adjust between steady, flashing/pulsing, and strobe modes. Lights come in a range of brightness, measured by lumens. Brighter is not always better, however, as lights that are too bright can cause temporary blindness, confusion, and headaches in the vision of oncoming drivers and bikers.
At Kass & Moses, we take bicycle safety seriously! We have seen the results of bicycle crashes, and we urge our fellow cyclists to ride safely and cautiously while still enjoying this great sport. If you have been involved in a bicycle crash, call us to speak with an experienced bicycle crash attorney today.