Tag Archive for Mark Goodley

Guest post: A review of high-intensity rear lights for improved safety, day or night

Awhile 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, following his own near-fatal riding collision

At the time, he mentioned he was working on a review of some of the brightest lights on the market, which would be easily visible in daylight. So I offered to post his review once he got it finished. 

And here is it, representing an exceptional amount of work and out-of-pocket expense.

……..

STAY WELL LIT and You Won’t be HIT!!!

In other words

SAVE YOUR Life, Ride Ultra BRIGHT, DAY And night”

A Bicycle Light Review

By Mark D. Goodley

Introduction: As a quick start; I was hit and almost killed last year by a car making an illegal turn… I was a lucky survivor. Many are not so fortunate. Even though I ride an average of 10K miles/yr., I’d never been a bike advocate or activist before; but seeing your own blood draining onto the street changes you. Within weeks of being released from the hospital, I started looking for a solution to the carnage. We had two more fatalities the next month further raising the stakes. What was the most expedient, reliable, and cost effective mechanism to preventing/stopping the fatalities?

You can say and preach all you want about driver and rider safety and education, but the truth is, you’re never going to get to every driver or rider. There had/has to be other options. I looked in all directions and researched numerous possibilities, and one statistic I found leapt out against all the others… To date, I have not found one, not a single fatality, hit from behind accident, (which out number all other cycling fatality accidents 2:1), when the cyclist was riding with today’s ultra bright rear lights turned on… that started me on the trek…  If you can give the driver 5-10 seconds (.1-.2 tenths of a mile at highway speeds) advance warning of your presence, you will not (at least statistically) have problems. In fact, from my and many others reported experiences, most every driver that passes you will appreciate the simple and effective “heads up” warning.

Cutting directly to the chase scene: Wear multiple ultra brite lights, day and night..  As a good rule of thumb; If  you can look directly at the light, it’s not even close to being brite enough. All the lights in this article are retina searing, some, more  than others.

The bottom line is, that after many months of searching police and sheriff records following my accident this past June, I still can’t find one rear end cycling fatality where the rider had ultra-bright rear lights flashing at the time of the accident. That is an impressive statistic to say the least; and one that no cyclist should ignore, take lightly, nor not heed.

Abstract:

Determining which rear end lights were most effectively seen, day and night by drivers. There are many dozens of lights to choose from. Which lights can be seen most easily? Which are the best Price/Performance options?

The minimum lighting standard I set for inclusion in this review was the light must be clearly visible flashing, in the daytime  .1 mile (one-tenth of a mile). At highway/road speeds, that represents between 10 and 20 seconds warning to the driver. An eternity in reaction time, and an early warning system to drivers.

A total of only 11 lights met this criteria, many more did not. Any of these lights will greatly enhance your chances of staying alive on the road. But there are profound differences between Good, Better, and Best, as you will see.

Prices ranged from $25-$200.

I intentionally did not make it easy to meet this standard. For the visibility tests, I chose early morning, around 8-8:30AM, bright cloudless days, when the sun was low on the horizon. The lights were placed roughly only 10 degrees east (North) of being directly into the sun. This is exactly the time when most cyclists have been killed, early morning or late afternoon, riding towards the sun.

Determining which is the best light is impossible. It would be the same as saying which bicycle is the “best.” Everyone has their own needs and budget. What works best for Fred doesn’t for Wilma, etc.

Please note, that as a matter of practical usage, ALL lights/batteries tested were rechargeable, in one manner or another. The intent was/is to take the typically heard excuse for not using lights, “I didn’t want to run my batteries down”, completely out of the equation.  Some lights were tested with rechargeable AA/AAA batteries, while others were USB rechargeable… In any case, no one can use that excuse again. Lights that did not have a rechargeable option were not tested, and in fact, are being erased from the market.

A power meter

A power meter

One light characteristic and function that becomes important to note to the reader is “lensing.” A light can appear to be extremely bright from one angle, but quickly loses effectiveness only a few degrees off this primary angle. To further complicate matters, more LED’s in a light may or may not be perceived as brighter, depending upon the relative photon count coming out from the individual LEDs. Therefore every light is a compromise of LED brightness, lensing focus brightness, viewable angle brightness, # of LEDs, and battery runtime.

P1020098

Testing LED lights is technically challenging. Numerous methods have been used over several decades. For this study I roughly followed the Modified Allard method for effective intensity. This calibrated protocol was combined with visual comparisons at .1 mile and .25 mile. The  empirical results of these protocols, were averaged.

Newport Corporation Optical 1918-R Power meter for determining overall light power, and Newport Corp optical table

Newport Corporation Optical 1918-R Power meter for determining overall light power, and Newport Corp optical table

Next, while the flashing color red denotes a heightened state of awareness in our minds, red lenses typically reduce overall perceived power by a significantly large factor. Again, everything is a compromise. Lastly; runtime of each light was tested and noted. The minimum was approx. 2 hours, which is usually acceptable  for a commuter who can and will recharge their lights at work, but not so good for the road cyclist who’s putting in 4-6 hours, and will be left unprotected.

Lastly,  note that all lights were paid for. None were “donated.” I wanted to eliminate any potential or possibility of the results being questioned or perceived as “bought” or “mailed in.” When multiples of light from a given mfg were tested, some were purchased at a discount which was appreciated to save my personal wallet a bit, but all were bought. Many of the lights were purchased at retail, multiples from some mfg’s.

  1. Best Overall Combined Brightest Light
  2. Best Price/Performance Light
  3. Brightest Single Angle tested Light
  4. Most Innovative light (and likely to be copied by competitors)
  5. Best Commuter Light

So, due to the large number of variables in testing, it seemed fairest to set several categories to list the order of finish, and “award” the winner, and hence for you to choose from: Each light has its own Strength and Weaknesses. What’s important to note is that all lights in this review passed the most basic of tests: Can the light be clearly seen flashing by a driver from a minimum of .1 mile (one-tenth of a mile)?

This is a non retouched pic showing a light at .1 mile distance.  You can see even from this singular, non-flashing photo that the light is clearly visible.  The pic does not do the flashing, justice.

This is a non retouched pic showing a light at .1 mile distance. You can see even from this singular, non-flashing photo that the light is clearly visible. The pic does not do the flashing, justice.

Quickly (skip this paragraph if not interested in testing protocols).

How do you test for brightness? This is not as EZ as it map first appear. There are numbers of industrial, military, auto, and FAA lighting standards, and none for cycling. I chose to loosely follow the Modified Allard method which is the most common, and augment the approach with visual confirmation. This incorporates very high end testing equipment such a Lab spheres, CCD spectrometers, Optical power meters, and finally, after the numbers were in; good ole’ eyeballs. Lights were tested by observers at .1 mile and then at .23 mile, both directly line of sight, and then approx.. 30 deg. off axis center line. All lights were tested with full charges, either from their own USB batteries, or fully charged Li+ rechargeable purchased from Costco. Lights and mounts were weighed and noted in grams.

For a complete analysis description, protocol, data taken, etc., please see website or write.

Newport Corporation

http://www.labsphere.com/products/light-measurement-systems/led-ssl-systems/lcs-led-characterization-systems/default.aspx

LabSphere

http://www.labsphere.com/products/light-measurement-systems/led-ssl-systems/lcs-led-characterization-systems/default.aspx

1.  The Top 11 lights tested (in OVERALL combined viewpoint- Brightest order)

  • DINOTTE 300L $200 USD This light is very bright (though not the brightest) from all possible viewing angles.  It also has the longest battery life, USB rechargeable, and nicest flashing pattern. It suffers in cost and weight.
  • SERFAS TL-60  $60USD WOW doesn’t seem to do justice to this little dynamo. Placing first in brightness both on the meters and visually, USB rechargeable, decent runtime, weight and EZ mounting options for frame and helmet. This guy was the surprise entry. Suffers only in viewing angle. Ride with two or three and you’re set.
  • NIGHTRIDER Solas USB http://www.niterider.com/ This is a Great Light. A Very Bright, and Very Well built light.  This  was the third brightest light. The light angle spread is wider than most of the others, including the TL-60 above it. The design works well on both helmet and frame. I used electricians tape to cap off the end when using it on my helmet. Can’t go wrong here.
  • PLANET BIKE Turbo Super Flash $30USD I’ve bought at least half of dozen of these over the years… They’re reliable, bright, good flashing patter, affordable, run forever, and EZ to mount. Close on the Price/Performance curve, but not in the same brightness category as the two above it.
  • CATEYE Rapid 5 This all-time favorite is historically one of the best lights ever manufactured and set the standard for many years, and can still holds its own.
  • NIGHTRIDER Cherry Bomb  Another strong entry from NightRider, not in the same briteness category as the others above, but a good light nonetheless. A very nice light, extremely well built, you can feel the quality of everything about this light.
  • BONTRAGER Flare Nothing wrong with this guy,  good briteness, just not in the same category as the first few… Good mount and EZ to use.
  • PLANET BIKE Super Flash My defacto standard for many years and still a very reliable, long running worker… Briteness has been passed in the last year by it’s Turbo sibling and the others above.
  • SERFAS Thunderbolt Yellow; SERFAS Thunderbolt Red These two lights have taken the world by storm. Instead of a string of singular, tightly focused LED bulbs, the Thunderbolts utilizes an entirely different technology emphasizing a new Wide Beam approach. Although not as intrinsically bright as the top entries, the Wide Beam pattern really gets your attention as you get closer… and it’s the only light tested that is meant to be attached to the seat stays and forks… This light is a revolution. It suffers only in runtime, about 2 hours, which is more than enough for most commuters, but not in the running for road cyclist needs.
  • CATEYE Rapid 3 A decent light in a pinch and fine at night. But nowhere in the same category as the above top Escalon. It just barely made the minimum criteria.

2. Best Price/Performance Light

3. Brightest Single Angle tested Light

4. Most Innovative light (and likely to be copied by competitors)

  • THUNDERBOLT Pair of RED/YELLOW

5. Best Commuter Light Conclusion:

  • THUNDERBOLT RED/YELLOW COMBINED
  • TL-60
  • CATEYE Rapid 5
  • ALL the ABOVE
Pic below; from top left clockwise: 1. Dinotte 300, 2. Serfas TL-60, 3. Planet Bike Turbo 4. Planet Bike Flash, 5. Nightrider Cherry Bomb 6. Blue Test light (not reviewed), 7. Night Rider Sola, 8. Serfas Thunderbolt Yellow, 9. Serfas Thunberbolt Red, 10. Cateye Rapid 5, 11. Bontrager Flair

From top left clockwise: 1. Dinotte 300, 2. Serfas TL-60, 3. Planet Bike Turbo 4. Planet Bike Flash, 5. Nightrider Cherry Bomb 6. Blue Test light (not reviewed), 7. Night Rider Sola, 8. Serfas Thunderbolt Yellow, 9. Serfas Thunberbolt Red, 10. Cateye Rapid 5, 11. Bontrager Flair

While any of these lights will greatly increase the odds of avoiding mishaps on the road and help to SAVE YOUR Life, there is a definite pecking order…  Buy the best that your wallet can afford. Increasing Brightness means early warning distance, and distance means time to avoid you.

I highly recommend riding with multiple flashing lights. You will not be missed. One on your helmet, one on your seat post pointed level, slightly to the left towards traffic (to the right in UK), and at least one on your back seat stay. If you wear a backpack, at least one if not two more.

 List Review Spreadsheet  
  Mfg Model BRITENESS Retail Weight Battery Runtime
    RATING 1-5 $ USD      
DINOTTE 300L

4.5

200

  USB 4 hr+
SERFAS TL-60

5

60

  USB 4 hr+
NIGHT RIDER SOLA

4

45

  USB 4+ hr.
PLANET BIKE SUPER FLASH TURBO

3

30

  AAA 4+ hr.
CATEYE RAPID 5

3

30

  AAA 4+ hr.
BONTRAGER FLAIR

2.5

30

  AAA 4+ hr.
SERFAS THUNDERBOLT

2

45

  USB 120 min
NIGHT RIDER CHERRY BOMB 1 W

2

25

  AAA 4+ hr.
 
Mark D. Goodley
USA Cycling Pro Race Mechanic
markdgoodley@aol.com

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.

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