Pedal reflectors revisited

Discussion in 'Technical Chat' started by Mike Causer, Oct 18, 2010.

  1. Mike Causer

    Mike Causer Guest

    The problems of making most recumbent bikes, and every bike with panniers
    or with a trailer meet the UK legislation on pedal reflectors has come
    up a number of times, most recently in (!).

    One scheme that does comply with the law has been proposed by Matt
    Bourke (Matt B) and I have today constructed a mockup of Matt's idea.
    Matt's description, quoted with permission, is:

    "The stalks extent sideways (laterally), not from the pedal axle, but
    one from the leading and one from the trailing edges of the pedals
    (as required by the regulation).

    Their longitudinal positions are as required by the regulation.
    The regulation doesn't dictate their lateral (or vertical) position
    - hence the stalks, allowing the mandated visibility from front for
    the one on each leading edge and from the rear for the one on each
    trailing edge, would comply."

    My mockup can be seen at:

    Does it need to be that wide? Yes, here's another photo taken from the

    Matt's comments on my mockup:

    "Inventor's comments:
    1. The stalks are a lot thicker than necessary, and more obtrusive
    being made of white wood in your mock-up.
    2. The stalks would, of course, be designed to be flexible and/or
    durable enough to withstand everyday use.
    3. If the pedals can only be used one way up, then the stalk on the
    front reflector can be much shorter.
    4. Without panniers, the stalks can, of course, be much shorter.
    Only because of those huge panniers.
    Exactly. Point made really.
    In what way do you believe that they are not practical?"

    My comments on Matt's comments:

    The mockup was made and photos taken in 20 minutes elapsed.
    Refinement of the materials is normal between mockup and production.
    The yellow zip-ties might still be the best way to attach the
    stalks though.

    The pedals are double-sided. Most are, although "clipless" often
    are not. There are pedals on the market that are four-sided.

    Many panniers are available of that width for the rear of any bike.
    Front panniers are generally smaller. A kiddie trailer would be
    about as wide as my panniers, or perhaps more.

    I'm not making any comment about practicality in this post.

    I have posted this 'as' an email address I've not used before (but
    which should still be valid), to make sure that the post goes through
    the full approval process and doesn't get admitted or denied by any
    automatic mechanism.

    Mike Causer, Oct 18, 2010
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  2. Mike Causer

    Simon Brooke Guest

    Yesterday being my birthday, I went for a ride around Dalbeattie forest
    with friends, and then on to a party in Dalbeattie they'd organised
    for me. It always seems to me a shame to put a bike into a car and
    drive to somewhere in order to ride it, so I took my cross bike with
    road wheels on, but with my off-road wheels in the trailer. At the
    trailhead I swapped wheels.

    It was really fun riding technical single track on a fully rigid bike
    for the first time in years - it's much less nimble and assured on
    rough twisty stuff than a boingy boingy bike, but as soon as the trail
    smooths and straightens it's MUCH faster. However, that isn't the point
    of this post.

    After the party I rode back home, once more with the off-road wheels in
    the trailer. I have lots of lights, so that wasn't a problem, but I was
    thinking about Matt's pedal reflector idea.

    To be seen past the trailer the reflector stalks would have to be at
    least as long as yours. However, this being a conventional bike, they'd
    be much lower, and so would inevitably ground on corners; I can't see
    any way you could make this safe. Also, of course, when the bike was
    parked in town, the long stalks would be a serious trip hazard for
    pedestrians, since people don't expect bikes to have things sticking
    out just above ground level.

    Matt is, of course, correct in observing that the law says we must have
    such reflectors, and that consequently it must be illegal to ride a
    bike with either panniers or a trailer at night without reflectors on
    extension stalks. But frankly this is a case where the law is simply an
    ass - with multiple blinking lights and plenty of retro-reflectives I'm
    adequately visible, and pedal reflectors would not make me more visible.

    This isn't to say that pedal reflectors aren't a good idea when you
    don't have a trailer or panniers - clearly they are, on a dark night
    the way they move clearly indicates 'bike' even on a bike which has no
    other lights or reflectives - but they aren't the only way to achieve
    visibility and I really am not going to get into a sweat about them.

    -- :: PGP public key on home page

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    Simon Brooke, Oct 18, 2010
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  3. Mike Causer

    Mike Bristow Guest

    I think that taking this mock-up before the group that deals with
    the construction and use regulations would be interesting. Especially
    if they were attached to a selection of bikes that require them (or
    something like it) to be lawful under the current regs.

    I also remember from my youth that people used to ride with little
    "flags" sticking out sideways to encourage (I presume) drivers to
    give reasonable room. These reflectors would also do that.

    I think they could be made so as to be usable - but I wouldn't use
    them on my bike as filtering through traffic is hard enough without
    adding more sticky-out bits.

    Mike Bristow, Oct 18, 2010
  4. My bike has reflectors that hang down from the pedal, which is a truly
    stupid piece of design - I tread on them if I miss my toe-clips when
    setting off, and if I do ground the pedal, then they get bent. I'm not
    sure how much use they are now, but I'm not inclined to replace my
    pedals just because the reflectors are wonky.

    Matthew Vernon, Oct 18, 2010
  5. Mike Causer

    Simon Mason Guest

    I have no pedal reflectors, but all of my shoe covers have large
    reflective patches flanking the zips, so in effect I do have
    reflectors in the pedal area.
    Although they are white and not yellow.
    Simon Mason, Oct 18, 2010
  6. However, if we assume that conventional pedal reflectors on an upright bike
    meet the legal requirement even when obscured by panniers or a trailer, and
    that the visibility to the rear doesn't actually have to serve any useful
    purpose and visibility to a hypothetical observer just to the rear of the
    pedal is adequate for legal purposes, you could get away with much smaller

    (On an upright bike, even much smaller stalks could hit the ground
    when cornering, of course, so stalks long enough to be visible around
    panniers or a trailer are out of the question.)

    On the other hand, the law requires that the reflectors are fitted
    "On the leading edge and the trailing edge of each pedal", and it's
    not clear to me that you comply with that by mounting it on a stalk
    attached to what would the leading and trailing edges if the pedal was
    used on an upright bike.

    On the gripping hand, if we decide that useful visibility from behind
    the bike isn't required, and that indirect mounting to what would be
    the conventional trailing edge is acceptable, we can omit the stalk and
    use an L-bracket to mount the reflector at an appropriate angle. This
    would be visible to and reflect light from a firefly on the sole of your
    shoe who was narrowly avoiding being squashed when you clip in, or
    a human using an endoscope (or possibly just a dental mirror).

    The similarly angled reflector to the front would actually be visible,
    and the confusion it caused to oncoming motorists unused to seeing pedal
    reflectors at that height might not cause more harm than good. It would
    have the advantage over a reflector mounted on the "bottom" of the pedal
    that you could use it with two sided pedals (this also provides a use
    for the rearwards reflector beyond (possible) legal compliance - half
    the time it would be a front reflector.
    Alan Braggins, Oct 18, 2010
  7. Simon Brooke twisted the electrons to say:
    IIRC, the regulations don't apply to children's bikes? With "children's
    bike" being defined as bikes with a saddle height of < $NUMBER cm when at
    it's maximum height, so it's possible that if you have a low enough
    recumbent it's a "child's bike" in the eyes of the law and thus doesn't
    require them!
    Alistair Gunn, Oct 18, 2010
  8. Mike Causer

    Matt B Guest

    Conventional pedal reflectors on conventional standard bikes also have a
    finite amount of material between the pedal surface and the reflective
    surface, the stalks are not topologically any different. There is no
    minimum dimension specified in the regulations for this material
    thickness, and no requirement at all is specified for the lateral
    position of the reflective surface.
    Matt B, Oct 18, 2010
  9. Mike Causer

    Owen Dunn Guest

    I don't think a judge would be receptive to arguments that this
    arrangement was topologically equivalent to a lawful one.
    I think if the reflector is on the end of a pole, it's no longer `on'
    the leading or trailing edge of the pedal.

    Owen Dunn, Oct 18, 2010
  10. Mike Causer

    nmm1 Guest

    I'd like to hear someone using that as a defence, though :)

    Nick Maclaren.
    nmm1, Oct 18, 2010
  11. Mike Causer

    Ace Guest

    I don't think a judge would give a toss, TBH. This whole area of
    discussion is nothing more than a giggle, surely? I mean, no-one could
    _really_ care about whether you've got 'legal' reflactors on your
    pedals, could they?

    XSeems to me that the only point of this topic is to allow
    anti-cyclists to have a go at cyclists, then some pro-cyclists fail to
    see the trolling s such and go to some extraordinary lengths to
    attempt to find ways to comply with the letter of the law, just to
    remove tha antis' ammunition.

    Personally, in 40 years of cycling, I've never, but _never_, worried
    about complying with the law for its own sake. My own safety, and that
    of others, sure, and that may often coincide, but if people these days
    are really so bothered about such petty things I'd suggest that there
    were much more worthy targets that the odd cyclist without pedal

    Of course, it's always easier to have a go at a soft target, while
    ignoring the more difficult, and much more serious, issues around you
    on a day to day basis.
    Ace, Oct 18, 2010
  12. Mike Causer

    Matt B Guest

    When is a 'pole' not a 'pole'? Standard reflectors are on a similar
    'pole' which just happens to be quite short, quite thick and rectangular.

    At what proportions and/or with what shape of 'pole' can the word 'on'
    be used? 'Poles' or stalks are commonly accepted ways of mounting
    statutorily required components 'on' vehicles.
    Matt B, Oct 18, 2010
  13. Mike Causer

    Mike Causer Guest

    The regulations concerned are The Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989

    And contain these useful definitions:

    “Pedal cycle†A vehicle which is not constructed or adapted to be
    propelled by mechanical power and which is equipped with pedals,
    including an electrically-assisted pedal cycle prescribed for the
    purposes of section 189 of the Act and section 140 of the Road Traffic
    Regulation Act 1984.

    “Pedal retro reflector†A retro reflector attached to or incorporated
    in the pedals of a pedal cycle or motor bicycle.

    EN 14765:2005 "Bicycles for young children — Safety requirements and
    test methods" includes a seat height definition, but also says that it
    is intended for riders up to 30kg, and then specifically excludes
    lighting and reflectors from consideration.

    Mike Causer, Oct 18, 2010
  14. Mike Causer

    Mike Causer Guest

    Indeed. Here is an upright "equiped" for a trailer:

    and a detail of the actual angle achievable:

    Nor at face level for dogs:

    Mike Causer, Oct 18, 2010
  15. Not really, I think you're taking it too seriously. There's a certain
    category of person that likes following things past the point of
    practicality, just for the sake of an interesting technical
    discussion; conventionally known as "geeks" and found all over
    usenet ;-P. Your first guess that it's for "a giggle" was likely
    closer to the truth. Certainly I've found this thread both amusing and
    interesting. Right from the start of this topic (spanning more than
    one thread) I've not noticed anybody trying to use it as an anti-
    cyclist hammer.
    Well, I've heard people sing the praises of pedal reflectors, as they
    scream "bicycle" at quite a long distance. Rapidly changing/moving
    light sources are also more noticeable (cue debate about flashing vs
    solid lights).

    That said, I've never heard of the authorities giving a damn about it.
    Not that this means anything; there's nothing stopping some element of
    the establishment using faulty reflectors as a club against somebody
    they want to beat down for other reasons. So if you are desperate to
    take something serious away from this discussion, it could be that the
    reflector law is a bad one because it puts recumbent riders at risk of
    persecution. Or you could just chuckle at the daft pictures :)

    Trollsworth LeTrole, Oct 18, 2010
  16. Mike Causer

    Mike Causer Guest


    Mike Causer, Oct 18, 2010
  17. Mike Causer

    Matt B Guest

    Flexibility or spring-mounted like some car radio aerials should solve that.
    A hinge or similar or some sort of sliding mechanism or being telescopic
    to allow folding or collapsing away would solve that.

    I'm glad we all seem to agree that it would satisfy the legal
    requirements. We just need to solve the engineering problems now.
    Aren't there any designers or inventors out there?
    Matt B, Oct 18, 2010
  18. Mike Causer

    Mike Causer Guest

    I am a qualified Mechanical Engineer, with years on the drawing board,
    and many more still in the CAD/CAM business. (One mod for this froup can
    confirm this if he cares to.)

    Nowadays I work for a few days each month in a well-equipped machine
    shop, with pretty much every metal-working tool, injection-moulding,
    and welding kit too. We specialise in high precision one-off and small
    production jobs.

    I can design and we can make. Just how much money are you prepared to
    put into prototyping and what price do you want to sell them for?

    Mike Causer, Oct 19, 2010
  19. Mike Causer

    Matt B Guest

    Do you think that that was Mike's motivation in starting it? Seems to
    me like an interesting discussion about whether recumbents can comply
    with a clumsily framed law.

    Are you an engineer? Do you have a fertile imagination? Can you
    propose any better or more elegant design solutions to the practicality
    issues highlighted by Mike and his photos?
    Ace, you are going to have to explain where you are coming from with
    that one. AFAICS it's a purely technical discussion.
    Matt B, Oct 19, 2010
  20. Mike Causer

    Simon Brooke Guest

    I've said this repeatedly, because it's true. When pedal reflectors are
    practicable, they're a good idea because they're so diagnostic.

    However, one has to assume that the legal draughtsmen were seeking to
    achieve some particular end in mandating pedal reflectors. They may
    have been trying to protect the pedal-reflector industry, but I don't
    think so. I think they were trying to ensure that bicycles were visible
    and identifiable at night, which is a worthwhile aim, but which is
    achieved just as effectively by (working) flashing LED rear lights.

    Of course the particular benefit of reflectors is they work independent
    of batteries. But so long as I have identifiable working rear lights, I
    really am not stressed about whether a following motorist can see my
    pedal reflectors or not.

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    Simon Brooke, Oct 19, 2010
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