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Trek thinks it's time cyclists started using bike lights even in bright conditions. Do you agree?

Should we ride with a rear light on during the daytime? Or perhaps we should go further and ride with both front and rear lights on even when the sun is shining?

We had a forum topic about this issue on road.cc a couple of years ago and what you might call a heated debate when Bontrager announced its Flare R rear light, designed specifically for daytime visibility, earlier in the year.

The reason we’re thinking about it again is that we went to visit Trek last week and the brand is really keen to promote the use of rear lights during the day. It even had the members of Trek Factory Racing ride the prologue of this year’s Tour de France on time trial bikes fitted with the Flare R “to promote awareness of the most important cycling accessory available today”.

Daytime light.jpg

Daytime light.jpg

Of course, your cynical side thinks that Trek wants to encourage the use of lights in the daytime because Bontrager, it’s sub-brand, produces that Flare R rear light. It’s simply a way of boosting sales.

Trek acknowledges that, of course, it has an interest in selling lights, but says that the key motivation for launching the Flare R was to keep cyclists safe.

“About two years ago, I was in San Diego, and I’m driving along during the day, and I see a biker, a road cyclist, and he’s got a blinking light on the back of his bike, and I thought, ‘That is a great idea,’” says Trek President John Burke. “The only problem is you could barely see his light.

“When I got back to Trek, I put together a team of engineers, and I said, ‘Listen, what I’d really like to see is a light on the back of a bike that can be seen during the day.’ If we could do that, I think it would significantly enhance the safety of cyclists everywhere.”

The result is the Flare R. Here’s John Burke’s short video presentation on the light.

Trek argues that using a light during the day makes sense because that’s when about 80% of cycling accidents occur.

Well, yeah, says your cynical side, but what percentage of cycling takes place during the day? Maybe that figure simply reflects the number of people on bikes during the daytime compared to the number who ride at night.

Trek also argues that, “Studies on accidents resulting in the fatality of a cyclist show that in 40% of all bicycle vs. car accidents, the victim was struck from behind.”

That statistic is from the US. Put a light on the back of your bike, the argument goes, and you’re less likely to be one of them.

Bontrager Flare R City Tail Light.jpg

Bontrager Flare R City Tail Light.jpg

“We think products like the Flare R allow a rider to have more control over their safety, putting us in both offensive and defensive positions on the road,” said Trek’s Chris Garrison. “We want to get people talking about increasing their visibility not just at night, but also during the day.”

Chris cites a recent AA-Populous poll as evidence that more cyclist visibility is required. In that poll 91% of drivers said that it’s sometimes hard to see cyclists while driving

John Sullivan, an RAF pilot and keen cyclist, advised in his paper A Fighter Pilot’s Guide to Surviving on the Roads, “Aviation research shows that contrast is the single most important factor in determining the likelihood of acquiring an object visually – this is why military aircraft camouflage is designed to tone down their contrast.

"On the ground, dark coloured vehicles or clothing will result in reduced contrast against most usual backgrounds, and this is why high visibility clothing (for pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists) and/or bright lights are so important, in the daytime as well as at night.”

Back at Trek, John Burke says, “People should be able to see you all the time. And when they do, you’re going to have a better riding experience. Get a new Flare R, or buy something else. What I care about is making sure you have a really safe cycling season.”

Exposure Trace TraceR set

Exposure Trace TraceR set

Of course, Trek didn’t invent riding with a rear light on during daylight. Some people have always done it and USE, for example, has been advocating it for years. The British lights brand says that its Exposure Flash front light and Flare rear light (yes, the same name as the Bontrager light) are designed specifically for both daytime and nighttime use (you could argue that USE, like Trek, has a vested interest in promoting more bike light use).

Our man Dave says, “I’ve used the Flare R rear light a lot and I’d say it makes a noticeable difference to the passes you get. Drivers tend to give you more space.”

Of course, that’s anecdotal evidence. If anyone knows of any scientific research that has been carried out, we’d be interested in hearing about it.

So, why do so few of us use lights during the daytime? We guess that most people don’t think it’s necessary, although some oppose the idea in principle.

“When a vehicle has lights on it makes any in front or behind without harder to see,” said Simon E in that road.cc thread mentioned earlier. “Every vehicle that runs with sidelights/LEDs/DRLs [daytime running lights] in the daytime is furthering the idea that you have to have lights on to be seen, so all the sheeple do the same. Baaaa! This means drivers to look only for lights, not other vehicles or people.

“Lights are NOT needed in daylight, whether on bikes, motorbikes or cars.”

In a comment under our story announcing the launch of the Flare R, McVittees said, “Whilst it is perfectly reasonable to want to run as bright a rear light as possible either during the day to warn cars or at night when riding on unlit country roads, I hate being stuck behind someone who is running a high output rear light at night during my urban commute. I find it distracting and obscures my vision of the road (and thus traffic) ahead.”

andyp said, “[Bontrager are] pouring money into something which will make them more money, not into solving a problem.”

What do you reckon? Do Trek’s arguments convince you that you should use a rear light during the day? Let us know what you think.

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over 20+ years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for eight years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.

150 comments

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gazza_d [472 posts] 3 years ago
3 likes

Most collisions occur as drivers don't look, either long enough or at all.
This is bullshit from a company that makes and sells lights and wants to sell more.

Where is the evidence that daytime lights save cyclists lives?

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babybat [28 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

My commuter bike has hub dynamo lighting, and I leave it on all the time. The front light probably doesn't make much difference in daylight, but I like having the rear light set to always on; that way when it gets cloudy or you go under a bridge, you've got that extra 'notice me' element. I agree with Gazza that the main problem is drivers not looking, but having the option of daytime running lights is one that I appreciate.

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Pointbroken [28 posts] 3 years ago
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I wouldn't like this to become mandatory,

but I think its a good idea.

I personally notice other cyclists from farther away when they have lights on, even during the day.

I have no evidence to back up this opinion.

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Podc [106 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I have lights on all the time. One less excuse for other road users not to see me.

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Must be Mad [643 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

I keep my rear light fitted during the day, so its there if I need it - but should the lights be on as a rule during the day?

NO

The biggest issue is run -time. In order to be useful the lights will been to be very bright, which means that run times will be at a premium. How many will last an 8 hour ride?
Does not make sense to me to have the light on all day, only for it to run out of juice just as the evening gloom is starting to set in.

However it is sensible to switch on the lights an hour or two before sunset - when the sun is low it can make visibility difficult, and anything we can do to stand out in front of a glaring sun is worthwhile. Similarly worth having the light on during rain and mist etc

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dave atkinson [6396 posts] 3 years ago
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there's a full review of the Flare R coming, but for the record here are the things i like about it:

1) it has two sensible steady modes for night and group riding
2) it has two pretty brutal flashing modes that are genuinely visible in the daytime from a really long way away
3) it comes with a good mount and a neat clip for clothes or the back of a bag
4) it's nicely made

and does it make a difference in the daytime? well, anecdotally it seems to, yes. you still get crap, impatient passes from people that have seen you but just can't be bothered to give you decent space. but overall, there are fewer bad passes. i'm not claiming this as a scientific proof, it's simply my experience of using the light over a couple of months. your mileage may vary, etc and so on.

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Rooster123 [17 posts] 3 years ago
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I ride with lights 100% of the time, except today, as I forgot to grab them from charging  17

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dave atkinson [6396 posts] 3 years ago
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run time: i mostly use it in night flash mode which, incidentally, isn't a mode i'd use at night because the flash is too bright. stated run time for that is 23hrs. day flash mode run time is stated at 5.75hrs, so not ideal for longer rides

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LarryDavidJr [392 posts] 3 years ago
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I find myself leaving my front light on flashing mode in more daylight hours these days mostly because of the 'sun dappled' country lanes. You can go from bright sunshine into, what for the eyes is, relative darkness, leaving your vision temporarily impaired. In an instance like that for a car coming the other way, having the front flasher on could make the difference between being seen or not.

As for the rear, I've got a Fly6 now which is always recording, so there's always a light on there anyway, but I guess the same thing applies.

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Cantab [102 posts] 3 years ago
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Ultimately I can't see that it can harm (except your wallet) to have a bright rear light during the day. I don't think it should be mandatory (ditto helmets, high-vis/YJA, reflective clothing), but I think it is more than somewhat cynical to believe Trek are only doing this to line their own pockets (after all they're hardly a monopoly, indeed Bontrager isn't the first brand I'd think of with respect to bike lights).

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honesty [77 posts] 3 years ago
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I leave my lights on all the time. As they are dynamo lights it's just easier. My rear light also gets brighter when I brake, which is nice.

cant see it making a massive difference though. Just another way of victim blaming.

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rjfrussell [485 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

In tree lined country lanes on sunny days visibility is a real problem- I nearly always have at least a rear light on. It is a bit like helmets- I don't see that it can do any harm, and it might help.

But, as with helmets, it must be the individual's choice/ responsibility.

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Peowpeowpeowlasers [605 posts] 3 years ago
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I agree. Think about those times you've been driving with the sun ahead, bouncing off your dashboard and making it difficult to see. You slow down a bit but the tall hedgerow to the left is no longer green, it's black and completely in the shade. Pedestrians and cyclists can easily be masked by that shade. Not all drivers will slow down, so I keep out of the shade but I also use my rear light (hope district) to reduce the chance of being hit.

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don simon [2530 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

Absolutely NOT!
Drivers need to learn to drive properly, more stringent tests.
Driving is a privilege and not a right (or money making scheme).
 102

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Toro Toro [174 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

This "only doing it to line their own pockets" argument has never made sense to me.

Tesco don't sell me food out of the goodness of their hearts. Doesn't mean I shouldn't eat.

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demolitionspecial [21 posts] 3 years ago
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I've always ridden in daylight hours with a rear light. Personal choice I know and (without waking the victim-blaming evangelists) having been cut across and hospitalised on my motorbike resulting in ruptured artery and lots of internal bleeding and a written off bike, I choose to use anything that might wake up a dozy or distracted driver to my presence.
My rear light of choice is the Niterider Cherry Bomb, which has a half mile visibility and was reasonably priced. The bracket is crap though and needed a little modding.
A few quid on batteries each year, why would you not?

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HandyAndy247 [12 posts] 3 years ago
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Totally agree I ride with my See.Sense lights on all the time.
The problem I had with other lights in the past was they are just not bright enough to be seen during the day.

Anything under 70 Lumen will not be bright enough to be seen on a bright sunny day.
Also the way the light is dispersed is very important they need to have great side visibility.

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Martyn_K [272 posts] 3 years ago
2 likes

I see the problem of cyclists not being seen on the road getting worse over the next 10 years.

A few years ago a euro law made daytime running lights on vehicles mandatory. Now drivers are used to seeing bright LED's when there is something in the road. Over time proportion of cars on the roads with daytime running lights is going to get higher and higher. This will make drivers eyes lazy, only looking for a bright light in the road lane.

I suspect it is only a matter of time for LED's front and rear to be built in to bike frames/ handlebars and powered from the electronic groupset or frame battery (for cable groupsets). The technology is already available, it just needs one leading brand to decide to do it.

Personally i don't use lights in the day, but make sure i have them for evening rides when there is a chance of being out at dusk.

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ibike [166 posts] 3 years ago
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I’m sensing that most of the comments are from sports cyclists who are more likely to be mixing with fast moving traffic on busy roads. On a 70mph dual carriageway in poor visibility a rear light seems a sensible choice (although I would resist it becoming mandatory).

For your typical utility cyclist pootling about town or a leisure cyclist out on a quiet run in the country it’s not necessary. Yet another reason for people to be put off riding a bike.

Look at any video of Dutch people riding bikes during the daytime. Not a red light in sight. See for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jpi01x_DgDY

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herohirst [78 posts] 3 years ago
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I ALWAYS have a flashing red on the go.
The human brain is hardwired to respond to changes in stimuli as a priority & de-prioritise stable state information. Whether consciously or sub-consciously, another road user will be more aware of you with a flashing tail light.
My commute used to be partly along leafy lanes and (even more so on a bright, sunny day) a car driver driving into shade under trees will suffer several seconds of visual acclimatisation; it's a physiological certainty. They WILL notice a flashing light in the shade of those trees where they might immediately see you otherwise. The earlier another road user notices you, the safer you should be.
Do whatever you can for yourself & stay safe.
I admit, I can be as self-righteous as anyone but I'd rather not do it from a hospital bed.

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Kim [251 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

Realistically this is a sticking plaster solution to dangerous roads. It would be much better to fix our roads and make them safe for all, rather than just try to sell cyclist more stuff.

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webster [50 posts] 3 years ago
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I have to admit when it gets gloomy and cars have their lights on I tend to put mine on too. It helps to be seen from a very long way off.
I see some riders do the same even when it's bright and sunny, which I think is of no use at all.

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mrmo [2096 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

Something I noticed this morning, cycling along a cycle path and car coming towards me, then as drivers do it turns across in front of me ( I was a little way from junction so no issue) but it was only at the last minute that I noticed it actually had indicators! The DRLs so effectively masked the indicator! this isn't the first time I have noticed this.

More on topic, If you ride in sunny weather in and out of the cover of trees you can loose sight of things. I can see where a rear light may help, but this comes back to the old CTC argument. Why should bikes have lights, shouldn't the onus be on the driver to look where the f*** they are going? All those drivers complaining about not cyclists not having lights? If not having lights means you can't see them how do you know they are there, or is the issue that the drivers don't have hours to respond, that they aren't actually paying attention and are simply victim blaming to cover their own crap driving.

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mrmo [2096 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

http://www.bontrager.com/features/flare_r

I don't know if the image is on a carrousel I don't think so, just in case, the image of a car driver using a phone following a cyclist, now shall we change the image to a hooded man following a young woman in a short skirt. Where would you put the effort to solve the problem?

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stealfwayne [129 posts] 3 years ago
1 like
don simon wrote:

Absolutely NOT!
Drivers need to learn to drive properly, more stringent tests.
Driving is a privilege and not a right (or money making scheme).
 102

You're right with the sentiment. Everything you say is factually correct. I however ride with both lights on all the time, if out for more than a few hours I switch them to a lesser flashing mode to extend the run times. On really long rides I have two rear lights.
The reason is simple. Anything I can do to mitigate risk is worth the extra grams. I want to be riding tomorrow, next week, next year and so on. So to max the chance that this is a possibility, I use my lights on even in the day. Why, if you own them not use them. It's not a lot to think about in your pre ride checks. 'Bolts, tyres, brakes, lights, (gps and camera if you have them) Done, get out and ride.

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ir_bandito [58 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Road bike has a SP dyno-hub and Exposure Revo/Redeye lioghts on. For commuting, they're on all the time. For epic multi-day rides, they're off in the day as GPS-charging takes priority. I'm not going to fit other lights for those situations.

As ever, its cyclist's choice. Yes, drivers need to be more aware, but it only takes one who isn't to crush you to death, so what harm can it take to prevent that one from missing seeing you?

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KiwiMike [1372 posts] 3 years ago
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As many above have said, speaking from experience driving my car, you can strike situations where combinations of sun angle, shade, and other factors combine to temporarily blind you. You can't always anticipate these, and in the time it takes to react you've gone 50+ yards.

*anything* that increases your visibility is A Good Thing. Making it mandatory, not so much.

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levermonkey [683 posts] 3 years ago
2 likes

No.
It transfers responsibility even further from the looker to the lookee.

I agree with the CTC's original position and reasoning when they actively campaigned against compulsory lights on cycles during the hours of darkness. At the time a cycle was only expected to have reflectors.

Why am I at 6'2" perfectly visible to motorists until I throw a leg over a cycle?

Yes I do use lights during the hours of darkness and times of reduced visibility. If there was less light pollution then cycle lights and reflectors would be more effective.

Have daytime running lights delivered the promised reduction in accidents?

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Bez [620 posts] 3 years ago
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I run into a bit of the old dissonance here.

On the one hand, for numerous reasons I completely resist the notion that bicycles should essentially become cars:
http://singletrackworld.com/columns/2015/02/bez-the-wedge/

But on the other, I use a rear light most of the time. In fact, the overwhelming majority of my riding is done with dyno lighting which I leave it on all the time (front and rear).

There are a few reasons I use a rear light a lot:
- I never have to make a decision about when the conditions have deteriorated enough to warrant turning it on.
- If conditions suddenly deteriorate, such as going under full or dappled tree cover on a bright day, it's already on.
- I think I get fewer close passes when using a rear light (but this is hard to be objective about).

It's a pragmatic thing. I'm absolutely against the idea that people should be responsible for being seen, at the expense of the idea that people should avoid driving vehicles into things they failed to see, but equally I don't want to get hit.

Lights are one of the few things that, to my mind, do make a difference and don't unduly encumber me; unlike, say, hi-viz clothing. And I'm far more at ease with reasonable adaptations of the vehicle than I am with forcing the user to dress in a certain way.

Devil's advocate argument: "Making daytime lighting a legal requirement would trigger a sea change in bicycle lighting in the UK. You'd see more use of dynos, more bicycles sold with lighting, and fewer unlit bicycles at night." Discuss  3

The image that mrmo pointed out, though— http://www.bontrager.com/features/flare_r —can go and blow a goat. I think that's a pretty nasty piece of advertising.

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therealsmallboy [177 posts] 3 years ago
1 like

This should not be mandatory. But:

I always race TT with the rear flasher on.

I commute with powerful front and rear lights both set to strobe. Just to make doubly sure in traffic that I've made myself as visible as possible. Of course this will only really matter around drivers who were looking, but might have otherwise missed me in the grey blur of the world.

I think it's especially useful if it's raining though, visibility from a vehicle does suffer there, so making yourself stand out like a flashing Christmas tree might just save you.

It won't help me against the fecking ejits who don't care about my safety, but it might at least go some way to resolve myself of any contrib if I get taken out and their insurance tries to lay some blame on me.

It's a bit like the helmet debate. But lets not go there.

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