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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Photon Torpedoes Away

As promised, pics of the nighttime lighting visibility. Since the camera has such limited dynamic range compared to the human eye, they don't really do it justice.

This is the bike as it would appear from the side on a typically-dark Phoenix street, away from the streetlights, which are spaced fairly far apart, and which are often not even all lit. It's common for only every other one to be on at all, in the ever-changing quest for saving money (although there are many other streetlights and park lights left pointlessly on 24 hours a day, which I don't understand).

You can see how visible it is, especially because of the handlebar-mounted headlight/marker light assembly off the other bike, which lights up the majority of the front half of the bike frame itself, as well as the area around the bike, and part of my legs and feet as I pedal (can't see that since I'm not on the bike for the pic).

The flash version of the pic shows how visible it is with side-lighting (say from a car's headlights), with the reflectors, including a small triangle of reflective material that was part of the front fork that now holds up the back of my seatframe. I still need to change out the brown vinyl seat covering for the white vinyl I found, both to make it more reflective at night, and to keep it cooler in the day.

The sides of the tires being white isn't hurting visibility, either, as that makes a significant amount of surface area for extra light reflection. I wish all bike tires came with white sidewalls, at the very least, and really I wish they were all white all over--it'd make every bike on the road a LOT more visible to traffic at night, since far too few riders have the sense to use proper lighting or wear light colored clothing.

From the front, with the flash, the lights are so bright that the camera still shutters down so you can't really see the bike all that well even with the flash. The reflector above the headlight is, however, lit up as if it were yet another headlight.

Without the flash, you can still see almost as much of the bike as with it.

With both the brake light on and an incandescent turn signal going, it's very brightly lit from the rear.

With the flash simulating car headlights, you can clearly see where the bike is and isn't, especially with the striped paint on the cargo pod, and the reflector on it's upper left corner. Oddly enough, the scooter light modules aren't reflective from the rear at all--there was actually a separate red reflector on the scooter (which I still have mounted on the cargo rack's rear edge, but is blocked by the LED lighting module, which has it's own rear red reflector). The dark vinyl seat covering masks the width of the bike to the right side, though, so it's going to be significantly more visible with the white vinyl covering.

With the flash, but without the brake light or turn signal, it's still very visible.

Even without the flash, it's still clear the cargo pod sticks out that far, because it's top rear edge is brightly lit by the red side marker LEDs.

For fun, I also took a couple of pics of the rider's point of view. Again, because of the camera's much narrower dynamic range, it doesn't appear that the area in front of the bike, including the ground and fence and shed, etc, are well-lit, but they are quite brightly lit to the eye.

The first pic shows the view if seated fully back against the reclined seat.

If the rider sits upright, as one would at a traffic light or stop sign, then this is the view.

Now, there *is* a bit less visibility on a completely dark road with no traffic at all, or a separate unlit bike path (like on the canals) with the handlebar mounted light module lighting up the front of the bike like that, so for those situations, I turn it off. That eliminates all the light being reflected off the bike from making my pupils narrow down just that much further.

If I'm on a totally dark path I know well, and it's so late at night that I can expect no foot traffic, I will shut off all the front lighting except my helmet light. If the moon is up and more than about 1/4 full, it'll be bright enough to light my path better for farther along it than my lighting does, relative to how well my eyes respond to the two very different lighting conditions. My lights are a lot brighter, but only for a short distance, beyond which I'm blinded by my own lighting from seeing. The moonlight is very dim, but evenly lights the whole path, and lets me see clearly once my eyes adjust to it. A full moon right overhead is *wonderful*, but rare to be biking under it for any distance, given the time of night it happens at.

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