A Light Reflection on Side Visibility
Chose to make a new thread on this. Confession: this video was cobbled up from the test run trying to figure out how best to do it, but can stand in until I do it right!
Rebuilt helmet light and converted low beam unit for a dyno light. Both are 4-500 lumens so total a weaker halogen car headlight, but they cover less area. The helmet light got an amber hood to add a side marker light.
Helmet light sans amber hood:
With the hood side and front 3/4 views (front view is a burnout).
By brianmcb at 2011-02-23
I wanted to know how well it worked and I had not videoed the tail light setup, the dyno light, or reflectors. We often do not show up as well as we think we do to motorists who actually are looking and driving carefully. I wanted to know how well this stuff works or how badly it doesn't if I was riding by a road/drive and a vehicle was approaching on a cross road. The distance is close to that travelled in 1 second at 50 mph. I will need to redo this since I accidentally took the camera out of focus setting up in the dark among other bad choices. A daylight version will be valuable, too. The video, and then my take on it:
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To understand what you are and are not seeing:
Reflectors: Not as extensive as some of you have. But not too shabby either.
Clothing: Well faded blue jeans, ANSI vest. I wore about the darkest jacket I'd select..
Tail lights: A planet Bike Superflash on helmet (see above), SUV height. The Princeton Swerve Is on the left seat stay about a MIata driver's hieght, and the Radbot with a wider output is on the back of the rack, a typical mounting but lower than optimal. All are in flashing mode. The Radbot and Swerve are close enough vertically to look like a single larger light from straight behind even form this angle in some frames.
Head lights: A narrow angle high beam on the helmet with the side output and a spot-flood on the front of the front rack. Both seem to have minimal glare,
I doubled the speed to save time viewing except for one section repeated at normal speed. The first seen through the trees, shows that the helmet light's amber side output works better than the side output of the blinky tail lights. A little weird and ghostly. But a pedestrian should see that coming even if not carrying a flashlight.
I was going to cut the launch out as my butt end isn't too scenic, but you see the hot spots of the headlights on the pants. New meaning for the term 'hot pants'.
These are surprisingly low. The drive slopes down at that point AND the camera is atop the truck cab about a foot above the driver's viewpoint. When I redo this video I will break out the tripod to set the camera at driver height and also put the highs on for a pass. The truck will be level. That said, this angle of headlights will happen sometimes. The ANSI vest would light up as if one fire if it caught some beam here.
The lack of overhead street lighting greatly cuts down the ANSI vest and the reflectors return. Vehicles approaching in either direction would also light me up like a Christmas tree. So my riding dark roads and wanting more lights makes sense as the reflectors are mostly AWOL for lack of light here. The reflective stuff shows up for the brief time the bike is directly in the headlights. Just in time to tell the driver what he has or is about to hit a cyclist if he or the cyclist runs the stop sign.
The beams of the bike's headlights hit the intersection well ahead of the bike and add a saftey factor. It was easier to see this on the camera for some reason. The lane in front for the truck should be headlight bright, so I may not have brightened the video enough.
The truck high beam and daytime videos will be interesting. Rain in forcast for a while so don't hold your breath!
Last edited by BrianMc; 03-21-2011 at 07:04 AM.
Interesting, Brian! It looks like some drivers would be inspired to slow down just to see what kind of spacecraft the little green men actually pilot. If you have a chance show a still pic of the helmet with the amber light...I don't really get what you have there.
Edited original post. There is a very slow very low flying aircraft feel about the bike when only the lights show up. As lnog as no one panics and starts shooting, that will work!
Quite a setup you`ve got now. Have all your DIYs been solids and all the blinkies been off the shelf?
Well, I started at square one. Day time ride bys where evreything should be easy.
1. Camera is cr....er...inadequate to this task.
2. I will try again with a different camera.
Conclusions even the sh....er low resolution provided:
1. The dark jacket was beaten by the one with white and light blue sections.
2. The ANSI vest on the jacket with the slashes of light color on sleeves was best.
3. Lookiing at the camera (cross traffic) with the flashig helmet light was very effective.
4. It needs to be started early: not many flashes in time to go by.
5. The white front and rear panniers increase side visibility a lot.
6. BUT I can't see 2" wide 6" long red reflective tape on them? The front side facing white tape on white I understand but RED on white?
Lucky I could confirm the obvious.
So this is what a near sighted person who went out to the mailbox without their glasses would see.
A differnt camera and a daylight practice run:
Starting with a Day Ride By Shooting:
[More videos from BrianMcB]
Flashing lights are great attention getters, BUT... OK let's say your light flashes twice a second with a pulse of about 1/32 of a second, a camera can miss it at 16 frames a second even with no dropped frames. Also, at 15 mph, in that half a second you travel 11 feet or almost a traffic lane. So traffic on a side street that doesn't scan properly doesn't get many flashes to see you in the straight ahead area if they are approachng at speed. I looked at several single frames and found the helmet light flash fairly often, the others rarely. The motion of the bright vest trumps them even on an overcast day.
This was exactly the kind of overcast day where lights might be thought to supplement bright clothing well and help visibility. Front and rear, they did. On a sunny day, the ANSI vest seems to glow. I did not do a dark jacket versus ANSI vest and light colored jacket with this camera. Trust me. even with the near sighted camera, the difference was huge. A slam dunk.
I expected the weak side output meant for night use on the Radbot, Swerve, and Helmet mounted PBSF no be AWOL. You don't even see it on the side firing PBSFs as the bike moves away from the camera. Just not enough lumens to compete with that much sky light. I was surprised that the side firing PBSF's even when not eclipsed by my legs did not show up very often, though I caught a couple of frames where they did. They have very narrow beamy output which make a spot of only a few pixels. As the helmet light showed in the behind view, if you are in their beam they are pretty impressive given their low output.
So the side firing PBSF's need to be remounted preferably at about my waist/driver's eye height. They might actually be worth the effort, working at that height. If mounted to the vest, they'd transfer between bikes.
The Helmet light NEEDS full power in the day or it's all but useless. Looking at cross traffic would help this light's visibility. I did that in some passes riding to the right, and you can see a flash or two. I placed the camera so that when I rode by at the end, it would be "too close". If a drivers eyes were where the camea was with respect to the bike, the vehicle's door is about 1 foot away, the mirror, closer yet. Except when I turned the bar and aimed lights directly at the camera, I saw no issues with excessive light. All lights show well from front/rear except the aforementioned side firing ones.
This camera has no low light capability. So it won't do the no lights ride-by. I suspect the near sighted version of the dark ride-by is accurate, just out of focus. So we know the errand/commute bikes lights work fine to be seen by. There is video to support the same conclusion for The Duchess in "Another Commuting Thread About Lights." and the headlight is brighter now.
So now I need a threepeat with the camera set betwwn the car's headlights wiht the car level, high and low beams. I could use some of mechBgon's reflective tape on the jacket and bar bag, and as leg bands. Be interesting to see how well the light weights show up.
I saw a guy riding past a few times in a safety vest. Then I saw a guy riding past in a safety vest with what appeared to be garbage cans strapped to his bike. It was strange so I closed my eyes for about 3 seconds and rubbed them with my fists to clear my vision. Probably a bad idea because in that time I hit something. Might have been him, might have been a mailbox.......
I don't have any suggestions for side lighting, but since there is so much homebrew going on I thought I'd throw out an idea for tail lighting. You mention heights and directional pointing of the tails to be visible most effectively to certain drivers. How about a cluster of blinkeys mounted on a bobblehead type spring? Might be possible to spread the hot spot of the beams out more by just spraying the area with an ever changing pattern.
Rodar: No problemo. Laughing all the way to the bank. They cost $14. Add mounting hooks and reflective tape and they are 'Ghetto Panniers'. When I pay off the upgrades I have, I may splurge on something with more Cycling style (less than 300 miles to go).
With regards to effects on drivers, I am treated like I am contagious - given WIDE berth with the panniers on. Suits me fine. I likely push their weirdometer off scale. Flowers poking up out of a front pannier gets me the full courtesy treatment. Sans panniers, a rear mounted briefcase would likely earn more points, as a front one is not seen until they are already crouding me. Spandex earns lesser treatment again.
I wonder what bme107 would have said if I had mounted the big orange Thermos (c) Brand cooler on the front rack, too? It's great for frozen food in summer grocery trips and sensitive sallad and fruits in winter, but is as aero as a barn door. Being ORANGE it is very visible. I was curious about how well the panniers increase visible mass and being white, do they show up well? And they do both well. Nice to know what drivers see. Also I want to see how their tape shows up at night. So needed a daytime baseline. Wanted to shoot tonight but it took too long to reset the timer/date stamps. Oh well, it seems to get dark on a regular basis, doesn't it?
bme107: Goal: to help neighbors not hit me. A win-win if ever there was one, right? This is just a bit more complicated than I first thought: You don't just slap a light on and assume it is visible.
1. We are seen at different angles as a motorist pulls up to an intersection or by our approach, or both at the same time.
2. We travel the width of most intersection in one or two seconds giving a very short time to be seen compared to traffic overtaking us or oncoming.
3. We are small relative to what the motorist is used to seeing/looking for.
4. If they do see us, they often misjudge our distance and speed.
5. We have to protect our night vision so broadcasting a lot of light indiscriminately is counter productive.
Twain said scientists get too much conjecture out of too little fact, so I will make changes and get new day and night video. Then add more conjecture!
All in good fun. No?
We ride in different locations for different purposes with different styles.
I've re-read #5 several times and each time I pull a different subtle meaning. Can you expand?
Yes, all in great fun. Am in the midst of the attempt to keep the party rolling!
The cyclist needs to see danger because his greatest asset for safety is manoeverability. A light which diminishes night vision helps passive safety at the expense of active safety. That said, refer to discussion after the recent video because I think some of the concept of reaching out to the cars at an angle, fits.
So new test:
Well, I expected confirmation on the last run that the side firing PBSF's helped some and that the side output on cloudy days of the blinkies wasn't completely swamped. A couple of pats on the back, pack it up, and job well done. No joy.
Even allowing for legs obscuring them, and angle effects as I apporach, AND the fact there are only a few flashes to see in such a short time, the side firing blinkies had little impact. And the side output of the blinkies? Only the helmet PBSF showed and it required frame by frame checking. Underwhelming.
The camera has about a 30 fps rate in daylight, could be faster but it will capture most of the flashes. It is a little near sighted not being HD (720 x 480). So after a couple of attempts I determined that what I see on screen is about what I see in person when twice as far away as the camera was. So moving the camera 50% closer is an approximation for what the driver likely sees. Good enough for amateur work.
Secondly, I can remove the angle effects and judge mounting height issues without riding by, in fact without a bike, but a stand as a stand-in. I wanted to see if the Radbots were equal out of both sides and I wanted the actual bike mount heights or close. That led to an issue of not being able to shoot both Radbots straight on at the same time. I didn't want to do it all over again. So if you play the trail of the bottom one flashing into the lead of the top one flashing, they can be compared well enough.
I did get the time stamp dates changed last night not realizing the cameras internal clocks gain about 48 hours in 24. Now I understand long duration timer instablility. So the dates are still in the future but this week not near the end of the decade and the time is close.
This is all building needed expertise to rerun the night video. So here is the latest test:
I have to conclude that for support of an ANSI vest in the daytime, the PBSF's even when mounted high, don't cut it. They never claimed day use but I'd hoped cross traffic being a lot closer would still see them before the crunch was unavoidable. Higher is better but the effect is larger closer and for the PBSF. Which speaks to its tighter beam. The intensity of the Radbot 1000 is higher when seen in larger thatn my editing format. So you move more into the higher intensity part of the beam. The Radbot has a longer 'On' part of it's cycle and that reduces it's run time but makes the chances of seeing it's flashes much higher. The lovely funky and wildly attention getting patern of the PBSF isn't seen unless the motorist is too close for comfort if not imminent on stopping. The side ouput of both lights is for all practical purposes non-existent on a cloudy day.
When the cyclist is far enough away and approaching an intersection with a driver stopping his vehicle or already stopped, the bike's headlight(s) if powerful enough, serve well in addition to bright clothing. If the cyclist is exiting the intersection as the motorist approaches, then the tail lights, if powerful enough, supplement the light colored clothing to reduce the left hook into the back of the bicycle. So it is the brief time from when the beam of the bike's headlight is past until the bike has cleared the front of the vehicle's path that is of interest.
Such a light should be angled toward the front, or shoot straight out to the sides from near the front of the bike. A direct blinky at least as powerful as the Radbot 1000, if lower than saddle height, aimed slightly up. Law says it can't be forward of the mid point of the bicycle in most jurisdictions, if it is red. Yellow/Amber aimed at 45 degrees from bar height? Or on the front corners of the helmet? Green though legal, I think is confusing. At night, even with the poor quality video, the amber hood on my helmet light obviously does very well. I can also aim that light at one vehicle, and have done so to good effect. So maybe I can up it's side output for day use in a switchable manner.
Food for thought, but it looks like I need to dismount the side firing PBSF's as a waste of weight to haul around and of rechargeable AAA's and replace the one on the helmet with a Radbot.
Made a baffle to reflect the light of two of the three LEDs to the side. It likely loses about 20-30% of the output, but the directionality is mostly straight out the sides. A higher efficiency setup won't fix it though.
Considering that we ride toward the cross traffic, the angled brightness is more important than the right angle brightness in terms of being seen sooner and as a percentage of the trip to and through the intersection. The unbaffled light at 45, 30 and 0 degrees is pretty darn bright. What the ride-by daylight video missed was the rotation of the driver's head and the interception of light from those other angles as the bike approaches. Of course, this assumes that the driver ACTUALLY turns the head to check for cross traffic. Someone who missed the stop sign and is blowing the intersection is only going to pick a cylsist up in peripheral vision and likely too late. No lights, bright clothing, or reflectors will help you then. Looking at drivers on cross streets certainly ups the visibility with this helmet light sans baffle, so I can only pray they are looking AND seeing.
The pulses are fast and minimal time down between so shouldn't be missed because they are too few or too brief in duration.
Looks like I need a camera person to pan the next video shoot of ride-by at night to do justice to lights and reflectors. Kathryn is a bit of a technophobe so I will need to recruit a bit farther afield.
Bri, I was waiting for you to pedal by,and then realized you were using a stand. The lights don't look very impressive by day,it looks like bright colors (helmet, jacket, etc.) would have more effect during the day.
^ This is about what I see at about twice the distance. It is not what you'd think standing next to the bike and looking at the lights flash. The helmet beam head-on is brighter, as are the headlights and tailights. But side visibility? Even with clouds, the bright clothes win. Full sun, or better a lowering sun shining at your back or front if on the tops or straight bars? You glow like you're radioactive.
So this exercise was worthwhile. Vehicles approaching from the sides do not get as bright nor as long a warning of my presence. Add the fact that they are usually preparing to go rather than stop and not looking nearly long enough, and I had better not leave the ANSI vest at home, which I accidentlaly did once - never again.
I tried riding by the keyfob camera at night throgh the light from the car headlighs. It looked like a moving time lapse of speed lines. I was a blur. Warp speed. Not what I needed. So to slow it down so the camera might tell me something, I walked the bike:
Blinkys love the night. "I didn't see you" won't cut it.
The frame rate is likely about 6 fps so the camera can gather enough light. So I walked slower than it appears. The focus suffers light hand holding a 1/8 second exposure on a still camera. Maybe I should have done the bridal step and stop. Though the video isn't what I wanted, I think that it met the need (barely).
Even at night, the side firing Planet Bike lights don't add much. Very happy with the rest. The video doesn't show much reflective material above mid body light up in even the high beams. I think that is largely artifact. To get enough light for the camera, the car headlights were right behind it and not twice as far away where my eyes match the camera. Highs flare out higher with distance. The beam won't flare so much on the wheels and crankset, either. Also, low beams have a sharp cutoff and the car was still tilted down a bit, but not a lot, and certainly there are lots of intersections with more grade near them.
Now I need to sort out the shades on the headlights. I can cut the beams off above car door handle height, and need to. And yes, they are maybe a bit brighter than the car highs at 1.4 A, and the lows at 0.7 A. I wonder what the 3 amp output looks like? ? For trail use on the 3rd bike I don't have. (Yet.)
Enjoy. Back to the lighted piece of street where the keyfob cameras work better to play with the headlights.
Brian, these are great, but now you're making me more paranoid.
I had to ride into a sunrise this morning, and I knew that my blinkies and reflective stripes couldn't possibly be cutting it. And as soon as it warms up a bit more I'll be ditching my reflective jacket. I think I finally have to get one of those vests.
^ Newfangled, I prefer to think of it as improving the odds, rather than paranoia. I also know most of these drivers are neighbors who DON'T want to hit me or have all the hassles that ensue if they are not that concerned about me.
I think it is good to know how easy/hard it is to see you on your bike from the driver's perspective to better predict their behavior and act accordingly. Also to decide on safety related purchases for your commuter. It is amazing how bright lights can appear up close in daylight and yet they can't compete with skylight at useful distances. It is also amazing how much easier light/reflective clothing is when it doesn't appear that much better up close. We need to remember the attempt to be more visible is very well received by most drivers (at least here). A sort of sharing the road where we have gone more than halfway and they want to respond to that in kind.
Riding away from a sunset/lowering sun washes out blinkys, and dark clothing is poor, but the ANSI vest lights up with light at those angles. Riding into a lowering sun/sunset is the worst situation. The bright low rays blind drivers coming up on us and our lights have little contrast, and hiviz clothing is in shadow. At low angles but not Sunset yet, I found that the Radbot 1000 is visible, not great and two are better, that my 200 lumens of tail lights (and by inference, the Dinnote 140') show better. Leoplold Porkstackers taillights are 3-5 times brighter if you want more. The 140-200 lumnen lights better work: they are brighter than car brakelights! Driving, I see brakelights through the glare. Power counts riding into a sunset.
My favorite spot to test tail lights under low angle sun has a school building that will eclipse the sun at the horizon, I tested with the sun about 30 minutes before that eclipsing. But at the end of that 1/4 mile I might get a good 'riding into the sunset test', as there is a slight elevation, plus the better angle being farthest from the school. Videos made to date on tail lights in low angle sunlight are in the Another Commuting Thread about lights second last page. Another look closer to sunset would be worthwhile in both directions. Trying to get a better camera for this.
Paranoia is good.
And yeah, it will be low sunrises for at least a few more weeks. This morning I could barely see, and if you combine that with all the potholes, water, and snowpiles on the roads I don't have a lot of faith in the drivers around me.
Any opinion on a mesh vest like this? I like the idea of a mesh for staying cool, but because of that it's not high visibility, it's just reflective. It would still probably leave me (and my dark jerseys) with the problem of not being visible during the day?
And so from all your tests, it looks like the radbot is definitely preferable to the superflash?
There is a small percentage of drivers that should not ever be driving or on any given day at the time you are cycling, they are not fitr to drive. That's not paranoia, it's reality.
The lack of faith is a good thing as it means you are paying attention and assume you are invisible to them.
I wondered about the Carhardt ANSI vest but it is meant to go over the work clothes of construction workers working near hot tar. It fits nice over my winter coat and loosely over my jerseys so air flows well. I gave it a whirl over my cycling jerseys last summer. I did not have an issue even at temps of just over 100 * F. They make a mesh version in traffic/neon yellow-green, too. But I found no need. Maybe if you are laying hot asphault it is necessary, or it you are a person that runs on the hot side, or cycle in 110 * F Arizona Summer, like Solrider.
Radbot 1000 wins. I am buying two more Radbots so I don't need to swap one bike to bike and replace the Planet bike Superflash on the helmet, though I'll need to fashion a new mounting system. Radbot 1000: levels out at 25 lumen output, the Planet Bike Superflash at about 12 lumens both are about higher on fresh cells and drop over about 1/2 hour close to their steady output. The pulse duration is longer on the Radbot 1000, but the crazzy Superflash pattern is wonderful at night. The first video here shows twin PBSFs versus twin Radbot 1000s at night. If you look at the intensity of the Radbots in the day in the 3rd video up from this post, you can see they are more intense there too and that translates into being seen farther. The day video needed higher resolution to be more definitive, but the Radbots show better further down the road,
Hope that helps.
Do the radbot and superflash have different mounting brackets? The replacements sure look the same:
I've got a bunch of the planetbike brackets, and I'd love to be able to use them if I picked up a radbot.
That's another thing they got right. 100% compatible with PBSF light brackets!
The Planet Bike Turbos and PDW DangerZones are waiting for new fenders to come in and complete the order. I also have plans to increase the side output from the 100 lumen tail lights. I wanted some baseline video and needed more experience with the new camera. I share it here to clarify my earlier attempts and hope it is of interest.
The reason for my interest is that traffic data show that vehicle-bike collisions (in Canada and the US) hitting the cyclist from the sides including both left and right hooks, are more than twice as frequent as being hit from the rear and front combined. A certain percentage of the drivers in such accidents will be people who would hit an ambulance with lights and sirens on, so will be unavoidable, but the majority are people who are trying to drive safely and need a little help to do so and avoid us. A definite win-win.
The following video has the camera 100 feet from the nearside of the road and 120 from the far side. About 1 second at 68 mph, 2 at 34 mph with no slowing to an imaginary stop sign. Figure 1.5 to 2 seconds away for the faster speed, and 3 to 3.5 seconds at the slower. Two seconds is a normal reaction time. In some jurisdictions, the driver has not stopped legally if the wheels are not stationary for 3 seconds at the stop to allow the driver looks each way at blind intersections. Local interpretation is that if a driver has paused more than 1/2 a second they are yielding to vehicles rolling up through the stop sign or stop line. This means most drivers are spending far too little time looking and yielding to traffic including cyclists. Add to that the fact there are few cyclists, so drivers are not used to looking for a cyclist, and we have a recipe for the cyclist to get hit.
Taken due south about quitting time or rush hour on the last sunny day we had in mid April (before we got 5.65 inches of rain in 24 hours), (Lat & Long: 39.3 / -85.5) Daylight Savings Time at the very western edge of the Eastern Time Zone, NA so about 3:00 sundial time. Tables will supply the solar position if you want it. The ANSI vest shows well. It is even more visible on the more upright position Schwinn. Deep in the drops on a road bike I suspect it is almost worthless. ANSI shorts would be better. My next helmet will be more visible. Both the headlights and tailights show well when the camera is in their beams. This would be the case with the driver approaching and stopping at the 'intersection' and the bike approaching or receding from the 'intersection'.
I will need a repeat at the 50 foot point and stopped positions (the latter looking both ways) to confirm what I think I learn from this. It appears that the headlights and taillights on this bike show well even at a fair distance in bright sunlight IF the driver is in their beams. The Planet Bike Superflash light on the helmet is not carrying its weight, though. The ANSI shows very well and once the bike is close enough that the driver is no longer in the headlight beams, it is all that shows well unless the cyclist rotates the helmet to shine the helmet light at the driver (last pass left to right). The frame is small diameter steel tubes, and the wheels and tires are deep Vees and 32 mm, but there just isn't much 'there', there to see. Classic falt rims and 28 mm tires would be even less noticeable. A smaller cyclist won't have as much ANSI vest, either.
I used the lower output level for the helmet light and it is not enough in bright daylight. If there isn't a lot of other traffic and driver attention overload, the movement of the bike itself is an attention getter. This makes me wonder what proportion of cyclists were hidden from view by traffic such as being in a dedicated bike lane along side regular traffic. It argues for looking for problem intersection on a commute and taking the lane if that seems to be safer.
If catcalls from the maturity-chalenged younger drivers' passengers are any indication, I am being seen by those drivers using their eyes when they have a clear sight line to me. I also have some good reports back to me.
Given I have twin headlights and tailights on this bike, I can pivot the individual lights out to cover a wider angle in the day. Looks like I should. A flashing mode on the DIY tail lights would not hurt, either.
There is a new King of the under $30 AAA blinky tail light.
This thread is a review of the Planet Bike Turbo compared to PDW DangerZone, Radbot 1000, Planet Bike Superflash, and Princeton Tec Swerve.
In output it is 50% brighter than the Radbot 1000, 200% brighter than a Superflash.
I have also tested a bubble to add side output to my DIY tail lights:
My video of the mod was sideways, so I need to redo. But it was impressive at night. At 100 feet away the Radbot 1000 and Planet Bike Superflash side output were negligible.
The new PB Turbo will be interesting to compare with it
Keep you posted.