The Great Bike Light Problem

Elly Blue

[This article was written by contributor Elly Blue. You can read more from Ms. Blue here.]

“Do not ride at night,” urges the Huffy Bicycle Company website. “Have someone pick you up if you’re out after dark or walk your bike home.”

This attitude is fortunately not the norm in Portland, where ever-increasing numbers of cyclists ride year-round and bike light education and/or giveaway programs abound.

You’ve got to have bike lights here. This becomes more obvious every time you encounter an unlit biker at night.

Lights out.
(Photo J. Maus)

Bike lights are also the law in Oregon — white in front, red in the rear, both reasonably visible. (A red reflector is legally adequate in the rear, but in practice it isn’t visible to anyone on bike or foot, or in a car that’s approaching from the side.)

Lights are still a problem, though, even for those who already have them and are committed to using them.

Battery-powered, plastic-encased blinking lights (a.k.a. “blinkies”) are the norm, but maintaining them can be a real headache.

You get caught out at night without them. You forget to turn them on. Someone steals them when you run into the grocery store and you have to spend $20-50 bucks on a new set. You drop them and the casing shatters. The bulbs burn out. The batteries fade in the middle of a long ride. Or they run out after being on in your bag all day.

“Lights should be built into bicycles as a matter of course…not as accessories, but as indispensable, functional parts of the bike.”

We’ve all figured out ways to get around this, like investing in rechargeable batteries, sturdier lights, and better mounting systems, or attaching the lights to your helmet so you never forget to bring them — but the costs still add up, and keeping the batteries fresh and the lights handy is a constant pain in the neck.

Recent public education efforts about the importance of lights are important (and effective). But these campaigns will be an uphill battle until we have a shift in attitudes about bike lights that includes the industry and bike shops as well.

In the United States, bike lights are still perceived as an accessory at best; at worst — like on Huffy’s web site — their existence is not even acknowledged. Lights should be built into bicycles as a matter of course, or at least sold along with them in the way that wheels, brakes, and handlebars are — not as accessories but as indispensable, functional parts of the bike.

Reelight front.

In my quest to solve the Great Bike Light Problem, I recently sprang for a set of Reelights (available locally Clever Cycles on Hawthorne). They’re powered by magnets that you attach to your spokes, so there are no batteries to contend with, and they mount on with your wheels so you don’t need to ever remove them or even turn them on and off. The basic model is $45, which is comparable to what you can spend on a set of battery-powered blinkies, minus the batteries.

The Reelights aren’t perfect — they’re too low to the ground and not as bright as I’d like, so I’m thinking about attaching a second set of lights to my helmet again, or at least carrying a spare red blinky for the worst rainy-dark-trafficky nights. I’d like to look into hub-powered lights in the future.

It’s surprisingly relaxing to be able to just get on my bike and go without thinking about lights.

Most of us probably just see bike lights as a necessary but minor daily annoyance. But now that I’ve discovered this genre of built-in lights, I’m amazed that solutions like these aren’t the norm in this country.

Huffy Bicycle Company may not yet take it for granted that their products are used by adults for transportation, at night as well as during the day. But attitudes are beginning to shift among the general population and in the rest of the bike industry.

I hope that a similar change happens with our attitudes about lights. With more people riding (often unlit) than ever before, and with the dark season upon us, it’s a change that can’t happen soon enough.


What are your experiences with various lighting set-ups? Do you have tips for readers that are new to riding at night?

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bahueh
bahueh
13 years ago

rode home last night around 7pm…saw a LOT (large majority) or riders either without lights or with lights so dim you couldn’t see them except for a few feet behind as I passed…

batteries are cheap. hospital bills are not.

please remind your friends and even strangers as you pass that they’re not visible…

maintaining them really isn’t a “headache”…taxes are a headache..it a 60 second battery change job that could very well save your life…

Fredlf
Fredlf
13 years ago

I agree with the Huffy website. You definitely should not ride a Huffy at night. Or in the daylight. That’s the safest thing to do.

Paul
13 years ago

Although I personally enjoy riding after dark, I disagree that lights should be built into bikes. Too many options to choose from, and it’s an area you don’t want to cheap out on. I’d rather choose the aftermarket light I think is brightest and best.

Moreover, not all my bikes are for riding at night, and I’d rather not have lights on the bikes I only will ever use for day riding.

I agree that IF you are going to ride at night you should take every precaution to be as visible to others as possible, which includes plenty of light. However, I bet the percentage of riders who venture out after dark is still very low out of the total bike population.

paul

E
E
13 years ago

I saw a motorcycle officer pulling over unlit bikes on Williams the other night. There were a lot of them, and it wasn’t dusk either – it was totally dark and had been for some time.

My headlight batteries died in the middle of my ride this morning. (I got on the bus.) I’m now considering a set of Reelights myself, if only as a backup system. In my world there is no such thing as too much light – as long as you’re not blinding oncoming traffic. 😀 I also like the built-in feature; I am prone to forget things, so I’d like to have lights that are always on my bike, just in case. Can anyone else offer input on this system? are they easy or hard to install? Has anyone tried the ones that keep blinking after you stop? Are there other, similar systems out there?
🙂
thanks!

Velo Vanguard
Velo Vanguard
13 years ago

Because people who ride without lights will suddenly buy lights if they hear about it from some random stranger? Right. Tell them to vote for OBAMA too – can’t hurt, I guess!

It really *is* a headache to remember lights, remember to take them off, check for when the lights are getting dim (you often can’t tell up close). And I have broken three lights by dropping them from only like 3-4 feet. Yet, as you say, they are a necessity and not an accessory.

I think I’ll invest in a set of Reelights, if there are any left after this article. Any amateur (or pro) engineers know how to use a more powerful magnet or something to up the power of those lights?

A more systemic approach really is appropriate. I had an interesting experience when I bought my Trek Portland. I really like the bike, but I looked at the stock fenders and they were crap. I asked the guy about it, and he said that the full fender set just wouldn’t sell elsewhere in the country, so they went sorta half-way so there would be nationwide appeal. Are we going to run into the same problem from manufactuerers who propose to make lights stock?

Another interesting point: How many people do you think are riding around Portland these days without lights? How many of them have been clobbered so far? Any? These people really *are* ninjas.

A-dub
A-dub
13 years ago

I ride with lights on regardless of the time of day. There is a reason that Canada requires cars to have daytime running lights. I want to do everything I can to be seen by others. My front light is a fairly inexpensive, battery powered LED but I augment it at night with a rechargeable light.

Elly
Elly
13 years ago

I ran into a problem with my Reelights the night after writing this, actually — I hauled my trailer across town in the afternoon and realized before heading home, after dark, that the trailer blocks the rear light. My trailer has a reflector on the back but this still didn’t seem ideal — fortunately a friend was headed the same way and agreed to haul the thing. (Thanks Lindsay!)

So I guess I’ll be getting one of my blinkies out of retirement and keeping it in the trailer’s pocket disguised in a paper bag or something. Sigh.

Rithy
Rithy
13 years ago

I have a set of reellights on my bike and I love them. While yes, I feel they are a little bit low on the bike and wish they were brighter they are great! It’s nice not having to remember to have your lights all the time. While I usually use another light to blink that is higher up it nice not having to think about where did I put my light when I took it off.

Val
Val
13 years ago

Dynamo hubs rule! Whether Sturmey-Archer, Shimano, SRAM, or Schmidt, these marvellous devices will insure that you never have to worry about light again. Bolt the actual lights on securely (LEDs are fantastic, but there are some good halogens out there, too), and just ride. No worries about batteries, charge cycles, run time, opportunistic theives, or unreliable quick detach mechanisms. The initial cost may be high, but the peace of mind can’t be beat.

Jeff
13 years ago

really? I don’t understand the problems here. I have three lights now that it’s getting darker sooner, I have a serfas HL1 led which I run blinking on the front, a cateye HL-EL520 I use for solid on the front, pointing down towards the road, and a planet bike super flash (which I want to replace / add to with a princeton tec Swerve possibly helmet mounted). All you need to do is carry an additional set of rechargeables (not for all but enough of each size to make due if one dies).
I think the problem here is same typical problem, people don’t care- they don’t stop for lights, don’t signal, don’t care if they are using lights or not. I am only concerned with my not getting hit- everyone else is on their own- until I’m driving, then I care that you are or are not using lights.

wsbob
wsbob
13 years ago

Germany is way ahead of the U.S. on the bike lighting issue. We’ve been discussing this in the forums(go to ‘headlight shootout’ in the ‘tips and advice’ category. The German government requires exacting bike light specifications for bike lights sold there. I’ve been told that bikes sold there are required to have lights.

Unlike many of us in this country, people there seem to understand the importance of good lighting for bikes. Many people riding in the Portland metro area, bike lighting seems to be an afterthought or a grudging compliance with the law (there’s too many people riding with the smallest possible, most difficult to see tail lights and headlights on their bikes).

Some people around the Portland area are getting it though. I’m even seeing more people running day lighting on their bikes, like motorcycles in Oregon are required by law to have.

Drewid
Drewid
13 years ago

For decades, the bike light problem has frustrated me at every tunnel or setting sun. I have tried every possible solution, and been more impressed with their limitations than ability to produce light.
The solution has finally arrived, fairly recently, with the resurgence of generator hubs and LED headlamps and tail lamps. I leave my lights on ALL the time, day and night. The lights don’t ever fade, and aren’t likely to fail for decades. They are on whenever the bike is rolling, and for 5 minutes after it stops.
LED headlamps like the B&M IQ fly can really light up the road, and are engineered to not blind oncoming traffic. Generator hubs like the Schmidt and Shimano are quiet and always provide the power in the rain, ice and cold. LED taillights like the Busch and Muller are super bright, making you VISIBLE. It’s very refreshing to not have to think about battery life, or if it’s dark enough to warrant turning on the lights. The future of LED bike lights is even brighter, but what you need is already here. It just costs a lot. It involves and investment of $300 to $600, plus another $60 to get the generator hub built into the front wheel.
I envision that someday all bikes will be sold with lights built in; even “racing” bikes. An economy of scale could really bring the price down, although I consider the $600 I invested in my system to be more than worth it.

Argentius
13 years ago

The Huffy website is the unfortunate product of litigation, no doubt.

My Raleigh’s owner’s manual doesn’t outright, ahem, BAN riding at night like Huffy, but it has this to say: “Children should never ride at dawn, at dusk, or at night. Adults who chose to accept the GREATLY INCREASED RISK [of night riding] need to take extra care both riding and choosing specialized equipment…” (emphasis added)

A piece of litigation a while back essentially cost a major US bicycle manufacturer quite a bit of money because a rider was at night, without lights, and was seriously injured in an accident. Somehow the manufacturer got fingered for liability…

It’s a sad world sometimes.

Matthew Denton
Matthew Denton
13 years ago

Yeah, the reelights are a great concept, but kind of dim and too low to the ground. I prefer a real headlight that doesn’t blink but everyone expects bicycles to having blinking headlights, and so I got a pair. And for what they do, (make me look like a bicycle,) they are great, but I wouldn’t recommend that people use them exclusively.

I sometimes see [what looks like] a cop in SW Portland way after dark on a bicycle without any lights (or a helmet.) I’m guessing he is some sort of private security guy, because the real police have lights, but still, when he can’t do it, what are our odds that normal people will?

Hart
Hart
13 years ago

I was stopped at the Hawthorne bridge a couple weeks back for not having a front light (new bike, didn’t want to put a plastic mount on the front), and the officer wrote me up for a warning and gave me a plastic bag with a red/white light, mounts, a guide to safe cycling in Portland, and a cycling map of the city. All told it looked like about a $30 bag of goodies. I read an article here a few months back that answered this question, but who is actually paying for these kits that the police are handing out?

red hippie
red hippie
13 years ago

As a year round commuter, I considerd permanent solutions such as the Reelights and hub powered lights. Even with fenders, I get a pretty severe coating of grime on everything and opted not to mount an axle level light. I like the thought of the hub mount, but did go there due to the expense and avaialability of disk specific hubs.

I ended up geting a light and motion vega. This is an all in one rechargable light that is about 120 lumins with 2 light intensities and a flash mode. There are no wires and when I get home every night I just plug it in on the bike. It was expensive at $120 but I have used it almost every day for the past 2 years.

I recently also bought a helmet mounted light. I really like having a light at eye level and use it to reach out to drivers to make sure they see me. Same thing her, I bough a really small rechargable where everything fits on the helmet. I just plug my helmet in along with the bike every night and I am ready to go in the morning. My fianl comment, is that some one should make a commuter specific helmet with light mounts built in fore and aft. Bell went half way with the metropolis, but discontinued it.

Cheers

PdxMark
PdxMark
13 years ago

Generator hubs are the best option for anyone who rides at night. I’ve had the fancy rechargeable systems and the smaller battery-powered systems. The brightness of the smallest battery-powered systems is too low and the optics of the bigger battery-powered systems are marginal. The fancy rechargeable systems don’t have a charge unless you are recharging it every couple days.

Hub generators provide power whenever you want it. You are never left without light because you haven’t recharged your fancy system recently. In addition, the optics of many generator-powered lights are superb, and the newer LED-based lights are quite bright and have great reliability.

Anyone who rides much in the dark should seriously consider a hub generator system.

Adam
Adam
13 years ago

Reelights are a great idea, but they do have their problems. As said earlier they sit pretty low on the bike. Tilting them to a more upward angle can help a bit. I would still recommend another set of lights higher up, helmet or handlebar/seatpost. The other issue with Reelights is that depending on the model they may only be active while you are rolling. I suggest spending the bit more for the model with a capacitor so they have a short amount of charge for when you are at a stop light. Dynamo lights are great, way to easy to install. If you have ever taken off a wheel and installed a cycling computer then you can do it. Great article and everyone please use lights!

Jeff
13 years ago

Hart— “new bike, didn’t want to put a plastic mount on the front” that sounds like the laze excuses that prolong this problem. I mean, come on- really???
I run bliking serfas on front day and night and same with the planet bike super flash. This is on a new cannondale caad9 5- What’s the problem with “put(ting) a plastic mount on the front”???

Dennis
Dennis
13 years ago

Dynamo lights are incredible. I had a Shimano Nexus, with a standlight, that worked wonders. I’ve since restored a vintage french bike, that had integrated lights, and uses a side mounted dynamo. I changed the light medium from standard incandescent bulbs to a four LED fender light (also available from Clever Cycles), and replaced the bulb in the front with a halogen/standlight combination.

It’s quite nice to have the lights permanently attached to the bike, and no batteries to deal with at all.

Anonymous
Anonymous
13 years ago

We’ve done a bike light giveaway program for a couple of years now and people who filled out surveys noted three primary reasons they didn’t have lights:
1. lights were stolen
2. couldn’t afford lights
3. batteries died

In all of these cases, the common denominator is $$.

People with lower incomes will have bigger barriers to bicycle safety. It’s a quandary.

Alison
Community Cycling Center

Hart
Hart
13 years ago

Jeff—-Plastic looks like shit on an all metal bike, but it’s there now, so chill yourself out.

mmann
13 years ago

The ideal Portland year-round bike commuter setup would include:
Generator hub wired to front and rear non-blinking lights. The hub would need to be disc-brake compatible because disc brakes are better for wet weather commuting. (Schmidt SON 20s or 28s hub – about $300-350)
Full fenders. Real ones like Honjos or Berthouds, with a front mudguard to keep your feet drier and a rear mudguard out of respect to your fellow cyclists.
This obviously doesn’t come cheap, and compromises work too. LED’s are a big improvement over incandescent bulbs, thank goodness for rechargeable batteries, and I’m glad I never have to go back to the sidewall-eating days of the tire generator light I started with. If Interbike was any indication, the industry is starting to get it – people want bikes that are practical vehicles for everyday transportation. Hopefully the workable options will only get better and more economical.

mmann
13 years ago

ps – I put Reelights on my wife’s bike for her birthday. They won’t light your way, but they do get you seen and you don’t have to ever think about them. Plus pretty theft-proof. I recommend them for city riding.

Vance
13 years ago

Disclaimer: I STRONGLY ADVOCATE THE USE OF LIGHTING, AND REFLECTIVE MATERIAL AND DEVICES WHILE RIDING IN LOW-VISIBILITY CONDITIONS! With that said, food for thought – I can’t resist the presented opportunity to make a point. Sure the lack of a dinosaur-burny engine makes bicycles different from other modes of transpo. Sure the lack of sheet metal makes a bicycle operator more vulnerable in traffic. Bikes are just different, and some of those differences make them inherently more risky to operate on a public right-of-way shared with motorists.

There is one difference between cars and bikes, however, that frequently gets overlooked on this site. Which is that bicycle operators have the ability to become pedestrians in the blink of an eye. It’s a hair-splitting difference of perception, I’ll grudgingly admit, but I will make the assertion nonetheless. In my mind there is no difference between telling me I HAVE to use a light on my bike, and telling me I HAVE to fasten a light to the hip-pocket of my pants.

If I am obligated to use special safety equipment on a bicycle, why not the same obligation while I’m a pedestrian? Ludicrous, right? After-all, can’t I just dismount my bicycle while in the presence of law-enforcement, and then re-mount once the coast is clear, and avoid the obligation all together?

Requiring a pedestrian to don a helmet, and lighting should seem ridiculous to you’all. It should seem just as ridiculous to be told to do it on your bike. My point is that bicycles are an extension of the human body. To regulate them is to ostensibly regulate that same body. I complain about regulation. Not because I don’t agree that lights are safe, but because there exists a golden opportunity to advance bicycles as a mode. If mandates are to be issued, why not demand motorists look-the-heck out for us, instead of the other way around?

Pedestrians enjoy a special status in the event of an accident in civil-court, and within the public perception. This special status has been tacitly extended to bicyclists until the numbers began to expand. Accepting regulation is sort of like admitting guilt. You all want a, “Bicycle Movement”, and I feel that means we should be out there whether anybody likes it or not. Motorists should be carefully watching for cyclists. Bikes are the vulnerable user, the onus for their safety should be placed upon the person in the 4 ton death machine, not the other way around.

Lights are simply a good choice. I just wish that the clamor was for increased penalties for drivers who mow-down vulnerable roadway users. Serious, severe, penalties. I further wish that everyone would remember that bicycles are attached to them, and not the other way around.

Gabriel McGovern
13 years ago

Last moth i was contemplating “The Great Bike Light Problem”and came to a different solution.

I built a daylight-visible strobe and retrofitted it into my helmet. The light puts out over 100 lumens, and runs off 2 rechargeable AA’s. I haven’t had to switch the batteries yet. Cost was less then $10 and now I know it is always there when I need it.

I also upgraded an old headlight using white LEDs. If someone hits me – it is not going to be because they didn’t see me!

bahueh
bahueh
13 years ago

Velo Vanguard (#5)….really? changing batteries is really that much of a headache? remembering your lights?

you get what you pay for..invest in a good set, mount them, and forget them.

or…enjoy the ticket that you have coming.

I think Adams has warned the cycling community that stricter enforcement is well on its way…like it or not.

toddistic
toddistic
13 years ago

Blame the industry, rechargable packs are in excess of $200. That’s insane for something that costs pennies to make! Further, if you have to remove your lighting system because of risk of theft it gets even more outrageous!

Well, I guess I can use that Bike Commuter tax break to buy a nice light set!

Coyote
Coyote
13 years ago

I recently acquired the “Taillight of Doom” as my office mates have christened it. 18 LEDs in a 4″ by 6″ weatherproof case. $12 at Bi-Mart in the automotive section, it is sold as a emergency light for cars. It took a couple of hours to make a mounting bracket that mounts to rear rack. In blinking mode it is simply too obnoxious for a normal night riding. I save that for foggy mornings. (I am not sure, but I do not think blinking tail lights are technically legal in Oregon)

Batteries are kept hot by rotating a set of rechargeables on a bi-weekly basis. It is a hassle, but so is being dead.

Duncan Watson
13 years ago

I will be getting a hub dynamo system for my next bike. A SON hub and the Schmidt E6 headlight. Currently I am using a jetlite system with a water bottle battery.

Argentius@13 – I doubt it is the product of litigation, rather the product of insurance companies. The demonization of trial lawyers has been the ad campaign of insurance companies for 25 years.

Velo Vanguard
Velo Vanguard
13 years ago

Really.

I have fantastic lights, by the way. I highly recommend the MiNewt series. You and Adams can shove your bike light enforcement up your a$$ and get some real enforcement priorities.

joel
13 years ago

i typically run a generator hub on most of the bikes i regularly ride at night – either a schmidt (awesome. the ruler of all generator hubs. totally hands-down. utterly reliable – i have 75000 miles on one with no problems) or a shimano (the cheaper version. about 20000 miles on it, trouble-free. notchier, more friction, noticeably, than the schmidt, but cheaper). ive run lumotec and schmidt headlights. some bikes i run a dynamo-powered taillight, with or without a standlight (capacitor keeps the light on even when the bikes not moving). other times i run a battery-powered taillight. the cargo bike has a battery headlight for now, but will be getting a tire-drive “bottle” generator, which is a good option for bigger bikes, as you wont notice the higher drag all that much.

there are a TON of fantastic lighting solutions out there, one for almost every bike and price range. and its totally worth it – as someone who spends a fair amount of time riding around in traffic in the dark, i can say with conviction that lighting your bike, *especially* with good headlights, changes *everything* about how drivers interact with you at night. for the better.

Jeff
13 years ago

Give me a break Vance, there are obvious differences between riding a bike and walking down the road. Your viewpoint on that is skewed. Sorry, but it is. Also, if someone is wearing dark clothing and not running lights and shoots out of a side street blowing through a stop sign and I hit them, is that really my fault? Come on… “the onus for their safety should be placed upon the person in the 4 ton death machine, not the other way around” – I don’t think that’s fair. When I occupy the same space that vehicles drive on I’ve got to take my own responsibility- if I don’t I deserve everything I get. Sorry, it’s not all the car’s fault. I dislike those who blame vehicles for everything, I all too often see bikers not doing anything righ, even worse, everything wrong.

Duncan Watson
13 years ago

Coyote – blinky rear red lights are legal in OR

(C) The lighting equipment must have a red reflector or lighting device or material of such size or characteristic and so
mounted as to be visible from all distances up to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of
headlights on a motor vehicle.

K'Tesh
K'Tesh
13 years ago

Personally, I feel that bike lights are like tattoos, you can’t stop with just one.

For year round commuting, I strongly recommend multiple taillights (I have 1-2 on the bike, one on the backpack, and one on the helmet). The PB Superflash is an awesome taillight for the money.

I personally tend to go for overkill with headlights, but I’d recommend a rechargeable battery powered helmet mounted light (LED best, HID/Halogen next). And for the bike, a rechargeable battery powered system, with a alkaline powered LED system as a backup. LED flashlights (with flash feature) are a great option.

I use my alkaline systems only when I need to keep the rechargeables fresh for darker riding, or after they have been drained. Typically on a flash setting.

Alkaline (or rechargeable) powered halogen lights that use AAA, AA, or C sized cells are a waste of money. Remember those flashlights you played with as kids… Ok in the house (for a while), useless outside.

I strongly recommend against using any kind of battery powered light that requires a tool (except for a coin or flat head screwdriver) to access the batteries, or any kind that uses a button cell or any kind of battery that you couldn’t find at a convience store (ask yourself this: If fails at the wrong time, how are you going to get batteries into it?)

TriMet and other agencies sometimes will give away lights that use button cells. As bike lights they are only as good as what you paid for them.

Ride Safe!
K’Tesh

Icarus Falling
Icarus Falling
13 years ago

Petzel headlamp.

And not the cheap ones, the Advatikk XP.

Very bright, but at $69 dollars the brightest option for under $100.

Vance
13 years ago

Jeff #31, Oh I totally agree with you. Please don’t get me wrong. I’m simply trying to elevate awareness of ALL the ramifications of regulation, and not just the positive one’s. I simply cannot support the assertion that lights are a bad idea, or that being personally responsible on the public right-of-way isn’t obligatory. You’ve cherry-picked a worst-case though, and I stand by my statement. The onus of vulnerable roadway user’s safety should be on motorists, and not the other way around.

Lights – good. Regulation – bad.

Paul Hanrahan
Paul Hanrahan
13 years ago

I got a red blinkie at Fred Myers, sold for walkers, for $8 and zip tied it to my helmet, so I always have it, it’s nice & high where it can be seen. My little Cat Eye on the front runs in blink mode usually, and it comes off easily when I go to the store so it does’nt get stolen, like what happened to my son’s. Most of my ‘night’ riding is at 5:30am, and I am always amazed at the number of people I see, or barely see, who don’t use lights. They usually don’t have helmets on, ride the wrong way, smoking a butt, etc. Some people don’t want to learn.

patrick
patrick
13 years ago

my wife and I run generator hubs with Inoled LED lamps up front. As they create next to no drag, and the bulbs will likely never burn out, we just leave them on all the time. It helps even during the day to get noticed. The Inoled can be run with a battery pack instead, if you prefer. The generator hub/lamp system is an expensive option up front, but when I add up all the $30 to $40 blinkies I’ve gone through in my lifetime, it actually seems incredibly cheap.

On the backside we run RealLites. These require a few sets of rechargeable AAs, available at Fred Meyer. No one misses us with these taillights. They are visible in all conditions without being too bright. I recommend them highly and am mystified as to why no local shop carries them. $40 each from:

http://www.reallite.com/RLHome.htm

beanpdx
beanpdx
13 years ago

Dinotte Lights are AMAZING. They are rechargeable, compact, lightweight, and made in the USA. They hold a charge really well and I leave the battery pack on the bike while I charge. Sure they are expensive, but if they save me once, I can justify them.

Jeff
13 years ago

Vance, are you saying cyclists have ZERO responsibility? If not, then where’s the line? I think equal responsibility, each has 100%.

Bill
Bill
13 years ago

Regardless of the light you choose, AIM IT CORRECTLY!!!!

I see a ton of people with blinky lights attached to their backpack. When they are riding on the bike, they are leaned over and only airplanes can see the light.

I highly recommend attaching the light to the frame. Once attached, have someone hold the bike, and walk behind the bike at least 50 feet or so. Make sure the light is aimed so you get the bright blast there.

I’ll second the PlanetBike Superflash. The staccato blink pattern grabs attention like nothing else I have seen.

–Bill

Michael M.
13 years ago

Is there an informed, reasonably comprehensive overview of common bicycle lighting options anywhere? I looked through BikePortland’s links and didn’t find any obvious candidates.

I am making due with a Cat’s Eye light on the front and a Blinky on the back, but it’s not much. I don’t even know what half of you are talking about with all the jargon being thrown around — dynamo hubs? generator hubs? LED headlights/headlamps? I guess you need an engineering degree to ride a bike in Portland after dark! At least I know what Reelights are now, so thanks for that.

SkidMark
SkidMark
13 years ago

“Lights should be built into bicycles as a matter of course, or at least sold along with them in the way that wheels, brakes, and handlebars are not as accessories but as indispensable, functional parts of the bike.”

This would be fine if every bike’s only purpose was commuting. On a mountain bike or a BMX bike it would be the first thing that gets smashed. Add to that that most lights look ugly and just add clutter to an otherwise beautiful bike, like a track bike. Sorry, I like my bikes to look cool. At night it doesn’t matter how ugly your lights are, you can’t really see the bike. That is when they serve their function and when they are necessary. It is also one more thing that someone can steal off your bike when it’s parked up. Most of us have a backpack or messenger bag with us when we are biking to carry our lock, tools, beer, etc. and there is usually room for some lights.

Christian
Christian
13 years ago

I run with lights. A good bright red blinker on my backpack and a headlamp that I clip to my bike when it’s dark.

I appreciate some light on a bike. I ride the springwater corridor from the sellwood to downtown and back. I’ve had lots of close calls with unlit bikes, pedestrians and wildlife.

Unfortunately I’ve had almost as much of a problem with over-bright headlamps on bikes heading the opposite way. Last night I almost hit a pair of unlit pedestrians (in dark clothes with a black dog) because the oncoming bike’s headlamp was blindingly bright and I couldn’t see a thing.

These ultra-bright lights are a point of frustration for me, but honestly, they are better than bike ninjas…

alan routier
alan routier
6 years ago
Reply to  Christian

In an attempt to avoid blinding drivers and other riders, I use PVC pipe caps attached to the fork fender mounting holes with an M5 bolt and a spacer as mounts for the lights I use to see with combined with a small, handlebar mounted white blinker (aimed down about 30 degrees) to let people see me.

I’ve also had good luck with using an LED road flare as a seat post mounted tail light because it can be seen from both the back and side.

My bike mechanic did ask me not to show my handiwork to other customers because then he wouldn’t be able to sell the anodized aluminum mounts that replace the QR skewer nut.

Coyote
Coyote
13 years ago

Darn it Duncan you made me go look: ORS 816.350 Prohibitions on number and kind of lights for certain vehicles.

(12) Except as otherwise allowed under this section, all flashing lights are prohibited on all motor vehicles on any street or highway except for turn signals, hazard lights and headlight flashing systems described in ORS 816.050.

There are exceptions noted for emergency vehicles and work vehicles, but no exceptions for any private vehicles, except headlight flashers on motorbikes. However, the above specifically does say motor vehicles. Prolly not worth time to figure out. Blinkies have become ubiquitous, and road users instantly know a self propelled person is ahead – that is a good thing! The Taillight of Doom is simply too bright to consciously expose others to it’s wrath for mere darkness.

BURR
BURR
13 years ago

Battery lights are wasteful and environmentally unfriendly. Most european cyclists use generator / dyno lights; but these bright, easy to use, always mounted on the bike, no batteries required lights seem to have disappeared from the American landscape for some inexplicable reason.

el timito
el timito
13 years ago

Hart, # 15: OODT’s paying for the lights. Read all about it: http://bikeportland.org/2008/09/25/bta-police-bureau-launch-latest-incarnation-of-bike-light-education-program/

And ODOT’s getting a deal. Figure 100 light sets at $3000 (less, really, due to Planet Bike discount). How quickly could one crash cause $3000 worth of expense? Police on the scene, ambulance, hospital time, insurance companies, lost wages…

mabsf
mabsf
13 years ago

….and if front and back lights are not already enough to take under consideration – I was blown away how invisible bikers are from the side…

Matti
Matti
13 years ago

For those wanting to investigate different bike lighting systems, or create their own, here is a thorough site with a lot of information: http://nordicgroup.us/s78/
I ride with a LED system– powerful AA-powered flashlight in front/AAA-powered Planet Bike Super Flash in back. They are light and compact. With rechargable NiMH batteries freshened every couple days, they are always bright.