Could extra bright lights save the lives of SoCal cyclists?

A few months back, Mark Goodley nearly lost his life in a left hook while riding in Corona del Mar.

Since then, we’ve exchanged a few emails as he continued to recover from his injuries and return to riding. Most have focused on the subject of safety, and how to keep more riders from suffering his fate. Or worse.

Lately, he’s settled on a bold campaign to put multiple bright lights on the backs of bikes to demand attention from motorist, and overcome the common SMIDSY (Sorry Mate, I Didn’t See You) excuse that too often serves as a Get Out of Jail Free card for killer drivers.

To be honest, I can’t say I agree with the approach, for a number of reasons. But I thought it was worth letting Mark explain his program and let you decide.

……..

SAVE YOUR Life, Ride Ultra BRIGHT, Day AND night

I’m not going to get into the political/legal quagmire and entanglement of the who’s right and who’s wrong debates… I AM going to try and make a strong case for how you can greatly increase the odds of NOT being killed (or seriously injured) while riding your bicycle in our streets.

TODAY/ NOW; we will determine and ENGAGE; the quickest, cheapest, and most effective solution to avoid the horrific carnage of cycling’s fatality collisions… This letter applies to both cyclists and drivers. Today… not days, weeks, months, or years into the future… Everything else can/will come with time… safer roads, better drivers, smarter cyclists…

But we’ve GOT to start stemming the tide against the collisions, fatalities and injuries, NOW, TODAY…

I’m becoming more and more convinced, with each day, that the only expedient, practical, affordable, and immediately effective means to reduce the terrifying carnage on our streets is for cyclists to “Ride Ultra BRIGHT, DAY and night.” That is, ride with Multiple Ultra Bright FLASHING LED lights, DAY and night… This is not the ‘ole’ school’ approach of which I have been a staunch advocate in the past. But you’ve got to ask yourself a very real and important question: “which is more important, to look cool or stay alive?” The older (and wiser) we get, the more the response sways to the latter…

It is said that a smart man learns from his own mistakes… while the brilliant man learns from the mistakes of others… So PLEASE, PAY ATTENTION.

BRIGHT FLASHING LED lights are highly visible a minimum of 200 yards away during the DAY TIME! That’s TWO Football fields away… allowing ample time for a driver to spot, identify, move and avoid a cyclist... that’s many, many seconds of time to react, rather than mere fractions of a single second for a driver to see, and avoid YOU which is often otherwise the situation… IMPORTANT Note: Almost EVERY single driver interviewed by the police after a bicycling fatality makes nearly the same exact statement:I never saw them”… (I would add…until it’s too late)… This is no coincidence as we’ll see below. I am absolutely convinced that most often they are telling the truth.

If we want to be completely honest, ALL of us drive comatose at times, our IQ’s barely register, and what is EQUALLY true, is that often times cyclists ARE literally invisible; we’re in the dark shadows of tall trees on bright sunny cloudless days, riding directly into a sunrise/sunset, behind a wall or building, hidden amongst  the cars and trucks in traffic, etc… Combining these two factors together in any proportion is a recipe for DEATH. Half of the world’s population has a below average IQ, increasing a drivers reaction time.  (This is not being rude, nor a sociological commentary, but a simple statistical fact). The visual cortex is in the back of the brain, not the front, where it really should be, also lengthening response time. Our eyes’ pupils take a long time to adjust to changing light and dark conditions…. MOST drivers that hit cyclists are not bad people, they ARE human. You get the point… We, as cyclists MUST help them see us.

What’s the answer?

Ultra BRIGHT FLASHING Lights provide and communicate an effective Early Warning Defense System to the driver, giving them time to adjust to our presence. It also subconsciously tells the driver that “we care about our own life and welfare,” a surprisingly powerful and real human response/reaction.

SAVE YOUR Life, Ride ULtra BRIGHT, DAY And night… Attach at least three Flashing BRIGHT LED rear lights to you and your bike… Why three? That is the minimum number of distinct reference points in ‘space’ that our brain’s visual cortex needs to quickly and immediately “lock on” to detect distance, direction and speed… There is no time consuming overhead for the brain to waste many seconds triangulating a position or calculating paths, direction, speed, etc… as with a single point source for example. Why lights on the rear? Because hit from behind collisions outnumber all other fatalities 2-1, and we have to start somewhere. Would it be best to mount more on the front for example? Certainly; but START somewhere.  I recommend starting with one on the seat post, one on the left seat stay, and one on your person, the left jersey pocket if possible.

When you go fishing, do you fish with a dark black lure, or do you use a BRIGHT FLASHING LURE?  Imagine ALL drivers are just stupid fish, you have to get their attention first, to avoid you…

Ask yourself, why are ALL government/city trucks required by law to have multiples of flashing lights?  And THEY’RE HUGE TRUCKS… not easily missed relatively small cyclists…

So far I have only been able to find one rear hit, fatal collision accident (the jury is still out as the  Freedom of Information Act info trickles in) where a rider was hit from behind while cycling with light(s) ON (I don’t yet know  the brand/model)… (That was Danae Miller on San Joaquin, Newport Beach, last year). Therefore the overwhelming number of fatalities have happened WITHOUT Multiple FLASHING Lights ON… We had two in one weekend here last month! That seems VERY IMPORTANT to me…

Helpful Tips; Light Selection 1. If you can look directly at a flashing light at arm’s length, it’s NOT BRIGHT enough. 2. Get rechargeable batteries and you will quickly form the habit of always turning them on without worrying about “wasting them”… (Costco sells cheap packs). Isn’t your life and health worth more than a package of batteries? (I did it too).

Personally, for the moment, I’m not trying to change the roads, laws, public mindset, driver/cyclist education or habits, etc… and I really don’t care who’s at fault… (from personal experience, I can say with some assurance, that no one lying in the street in their own blood does)… for the moment, I’m trying help you save your own life and that of your family and friends… by preventing horrible accidents like mine… today/now!… and this “solution” clearly seems to be the lowest hanging fruit that’s quickly reachable…

Sometimes, “Might IS RIGHT,” and 2,000-10,000 pounds of hard, fast moving steel is ALWAYS going to be “right” against a cyclist.

Until we live in a perfect world, with perfect drivers, and on perfectly designed and built roads, this is the BEST, EASIEST, FASTEST, and CHEAPEST way to push and skew the odds HIGHLY in your favor.

Keep the rubber side down.

Ciao,

Mark

Note; I was in a near fatality accident on PCH in Corona del Mae three+ months ago, which was outlined in this blog. I ride about 10,000 miles/year, mostly with my wife on PCH. I went to France to see my first TdF in 1976. We’ve ridden stages of all three Grand Tours. I’ve been hit and thrown in Huntington Beach.

Professionally, I am an industrial product designer and teach design/engineering at IVC, but I am also a licensed USA Cycling Pro Race Mechanic and serve on the local Amgen Tour of California Stage Planning Committee in charge of the VIP tents. I studied pre-med at USC with one of my majors being Bio-Psychology, today’s topic.

15 comments

  1. jg says:

    I agree whole heartedly with Mark. Since I put a Dinotte 300R flasher on the rear and a generic white flasher on the front, vehicles have been giving me a wider berth while passing and no left hooks. I’ve been pestering Dinotte to bring out a white 300 series for the front, because my cheap front flasher isn’t bright enough. They said they were testing the idea, but it hasn’t met their standards for brightness or burn time yet. Dinotte, if you see this, market a 300 series front flasher. It will help cyclists and it will sell.

  2. Chris says:

    I use two lights on the rear/front of my bike each. The rear has a one watt flashing cherry bomb from NiteRider on my seat post & a solid Cat Eye on my left back pocket. The front I have a 400 Lumen NiteRider that will blind on coming traffic plus a bright flashing Serpa just in case another person taking a left turn trying to beat on-coming traffic can’t say he didn’t see me again. Funny thing is he did see me he just thought he could beat me thru the intersection.

  3. Gene says:

    Well, I don’t agree that “I didn’t seem him” is ever a valid excuse for hitting someone on a bike, but hey anything that might help is worth trying in my book.

  4. Allan says:

    The Dinotte 300R looks like it’s a nice light, but it seems like you have to be married to their system. I doubt you would have lots of peeps on board. IMHO a far better light for the masses is the 1/2 watt SuperFlash or what I like, the 1 watt SuperFlash Turbo. They both run on two AAA batteries. Sure you can get the super packs at costco. If you had a RGD-CT505 charger from Newegg, you be set for life with batteries since this charger charges alkaline, quite well too I might add. Sadly I think Rosewill caved in under pressure from the big battery hawkers in the world. So good luck with that.

  5. Wes says:

    I run lights day and night. Cygolite Hotshot is my rear light of choice. NiteRider MiniNewt 600 up front on blinking during day and high traffic bright areas like West Hollywood. I’ve had many drivers comment on how bright they both are.

  6. Dan Murphy says:

    Thanks 100% to hearing Mark talk at a Newport Beach bike safety meeting last month, I am now riding with three flashing lights- day and night. (Planet Bike- Blinky Super Flash) One on my helmet and two on my bike. Yes, I’m finally over the cost of batteries.

    Like “jg” I feel that I have been getting a much wider berth from drivers. Not a single angry horn blast either. Maybe just coincidence, but I have gone ahead and purchased additional lights to install on my daughter’s bikes.

    In the meantime, Ted, I am interested in hearing your opinions on this approach.

  7. Opus the Poet says:

    The solution is not to engage in a lumens arms race in an attempt to make the bicycle so bright that only a blind driver could miss it. The solution is to permanently ban drivers from ever driving again when they use this excuse. Think about it, you have a large object, frequently covered in bright colors (the glow-in-the-dark clown suit that so many think is required by law) that is raised up from the road to a point as tall or taller than the driver in the seat. Then you have a stripe of paint on the road surface that is 4″ wide and 6′ long that marks where a driver is supposed to keep their vehicle to prevent it from running into another vehicle. If you can’t see the large object raised from the road surface in bright colors, how can you possibly see the stripe of paint that has miserably low contrast against the road surface?

    If you can’t see a cyclist, how can you possibly manage to see the stripes on the road that keep you from running into other vehicles. Unless of course you did see the cyclist and just hit him or her on purpose… But that logic will never get through the car-centric jurors of this country.

    • Wes says:

      While I agree, there are basic issues with how humans see and process their surroundings that sometimes cause issues like this. I ride commute by bike 30miles day and am very keen at looking out for other cyclists and pedestrians. However, i was driving the other day and came to a complete stop a a stop sign. There were some people on the sidewalk across the intersection that caught my attention. I lifted off the brake to start to make my right turn and what appeared to come out of no where was a man crossing towards me along the cross walk I was about to turn across. I was looking right at him but had my focus behind him on the other pedestrians and my brain did not perceive him as someone crossing the street. I easily stopped and there was no issue. That type of situation can happen with worse result though.Experiments like the famous gorilla perception video/tests have shown that its easy to miss something when its right in front of you. So I’ll stick with my really bright light, to grab the attention of those people who otherwise might not have seen me.

      This also helps with pedestrians walking into your path, so there are upsides not related to motor traffic.

  8. [...] specific reference to the type of equipment worth checking out please visit the BikingInLA post and check out the comments section. These guys know their equipment much better than anything I [...]

  9. Gene says:

    Sorry, I didn’t realize you weren’t even making the case for “I didn’t see him.” Mark, I agree wholeheartedly that something like a bright flashing light is much better at grabbing attention than just a reflector. I applaud your cause for getting riders to take safety into their own hands! You inspired me to write my own post, if you care to read: http://www.ftpersonalinjurylawyers.com/blog/could-extra-bright-lights-save-bicyclist-lives

  10. Qrys says:

    I completely agree with this post. I’ve ridden with a daytime flashing rear light since I got back into cycling. It just made sense to me, because I live in a neighborhood with many tree-lined streets (ample shade) and just assumed I would be invisible to drivers under those conditions. Never used the front flasher during daylight, but I’ll take the suggestion. Both my lights are not extremely high-beam, but they’re not pleasant to look directly into at close range either. My rear light is a Cat Eye TL-LD560-R set to it’s biggest most obnoxious strobe-flash pattern, so it’s hard to ignore.

    The multiple light recommend is a good one too.

  11. Mark, a small correction: Danae Miller was the young driver who hit and killed Amine Britel, a local business owner and triathlete. The road where it happened is wide, with clearly marked bike lanes, the kind of road where cyclists feel safe. But Danae Miller was both drunk and texting. Can a bright blinkie be seen by a driver who is not paying attention at all? Sadly not this time, but to me it’s cheap insurance. I’m using a Superflash Turbo in daytime now.

    Lights aside, the state failed Amine Britel by allowing Danae Miller to keep driving. already caught five times for speeding, and twice for texting, on top of an apparent drinking problem.

    • mark goodley says:

      Hi Matt; TY for the comment… Yes I know that Danae Miller was the driver. Her names lives on here in infamy in Newport Beach… My goal in mentioning her, rather that Amine, was to make an example of everything putrid and insidious about our system of law. How a 17X!!! loser can be on the roads is Horrifying, and until the public SCREAMS LOUDLY, it will be repeated… In my book, EVERY judge that let her go should be joined by her and her parents in a pot of RAPIDLY boiling, smoking, and burning HOT oil… the second point is that MOST of the drivers (NOT ALL) are not necessarily bad people. Bad things happen to Good and Bad alike… and that WE NEED to make EVERY attempt to BRIGHTLY call attention to OURSELVES… not depending upon police, laws, judges, roads,,, for our own Self Defense and/or protection… This IS NOT to say that the drivers are not culpable and responsible, only that they are human…. and I would rather be alive…

  12. Michael says:

    I also completely agree with this post. I was involved in the right hook accident last month at Sunset and Kenter when a 75 year old female just didn’t see me, and put me into the windshield. I believe the main contributing factor was that the driver had her handicap placard hanging from the rear view mirror. I think I may have been hidden from full view at some time when she was behind me, and when I did pop into view the urgency of the imminent collision wasn’t evident. I now believe my best defense would have been to have had multiple rear flashing daytime lights. Now I won’t ride with less than 2. As has been mentioned elsewhere, the absolute killer back light is the DiNotte 300R. It has spactacular off-center visibility. And an earlier post is incorrect, it is a stand alone light only requiring a USB charger. My other rear light is a Cygolite Hotshot. It is more directional, but mounted to the back of a shirt or helmet works very well. It is much lighter than the 300R, and is also USB rechargable. I use a Cygolite Expillion 400 white light up front and it too is killer. This is how good these lights are: Earlier this week I was headed home with my wife coincidently coming up the road from behind me. She said that from 2 blocks away the red lights were so bright that she thought she was coming up on a fire truck. She got quite a chuckle when she realized it was me. Another example shows the value of the front light. I was up at Laguna Seca Raceway during the Historic races. I had to run an errand at 5PM when racing was done, and there were hundreds of cars in line leaving the track at a snails pace. I was riding on the narrow right shoulder at a reasonable clip, and with the exception of 3 cars, every other car moved over to the left and opened up the shoulder for me while I was still 100 yards behind them. It was positively amazing. I am convinced that BRIGHT flashing lights will save lives, alot of lives, and right now.

  13. [...] back, OC cyclist Mark Goodley wrote a guest post calling for cyclists to ride with ultra bright bike lights both day and night for increased safety, [...]

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