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Ask BikePortland: Can a front bike light be too bright?

Posted by on December 1st, 2010 at 9:54 am

Bike Light Parade

Being seen doesn’t have to
cause temporary blindness.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Today’s question comes from reader Chris M. Chris wonders if there’s such a thing as a front bike light that’s just too bright..

“I’ve been blinded on my morning commute a few times too many. This afternoon while riding north from Sellwood on the Springwater, I was blinded by a dual strobe light on a bike coming towards me.

It seems that some folks have lights that can literally be seen from a mile away and become blinding within a block when I’m riding against them. It’s difficult for me to see the road in front of me and it can’t be that different for our friends in cars. How bright is too bright for a front light?

I doubt there’s a standard, but does anyone else think that there is such a thing as too bright?”

Helmet-mounted lights are often the culprit.

Thanks for the question Chris. I’ve heard similar gripes from many other people in the past.

As with many issues, there’s what’s allowed in Oregon law, and then there’s common courtesy. In this case, we’ll have to rely on common courtesy because the ORS says nothing about the maximum brightness of bike lights.

Bike lights are mentioned in ORS 815.280, “Violation of bicycle equipment requirements”. That law states:

“The lighting equipment must show a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front of the bicycle”.

Interestingly, the laws that govern motor vehicle headlights are much more detailed and do have provisions about the direction of the beam. ORS 816.050, “Headlights”, states (emphasis mine):

“If headlights provide only a single distribution of light and are not supplemented by auxiliary lights, the single beam headlights shall be so aimed that when the vehicle is not loaded, none of the high intensity portion of the light shall, at a distance of 25 feet ahead of the vehicle, project higher than five inches below the level of the center of the lamp from which it comes, or higher than 42 inches above the level on which the vehicle stands at a distance of 75 feet ahead of the vehicle.”

Helmet-mounted lights can be especially problematic because they are right at eye level with oncoming traffic. Another issue at play with bright bike lights is that the industry is in something of an arms race. Bike lights are becoming brighter and brighter as companies try to compete with the growing urban/commuter market. It’s also worth noting that most (if not all) of light companies began by selling lights for riding mountain bikes at night — where there’s no such thing as too bright.

Now I turned to you, intelligent readers: Have you been blinded by oncoming bike traffic? Do you think people need to turn down their helmet-mounted high-beams as others approach?

— Read more questions and extremely informative answers (thanks to all of you) over at the Ask BikePortland archives.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Jon Ragsdale
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Jon Ragsdale

Yes, the headlights can be too bright. I can understand the want to have lights bright, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had somebody heading the other way on a bike trail with a flashing helmet light and turn their head to say hi and I’ve been blinded for a few minutes.

Jacob
Guest
Jacob

It’s not so much the brightness that’s the issue for me, it’s the aim of the light. Many people with uber bright lights that I’ve come across will aim the light straight out, as opposed to angled down a bit. I suspect this has to do with the larger radius of light that the brighter lights put out.

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

I had to stop and wait for 2 people to pass going the other way on a bike boulevard this fall because they were riding 2 abreast with 4 very bright strobe lights on the front of their bikes. It was literally impossible for me to see anything as they came towards me. Turn on your bike light at night, walk 20-30 feet away from your bike and look at it, if it is painful then your light is too bright. Also strobes might be great on lower intensity lights to help draw attention to you but if your light is the equivalent of several car headlights we all see it and strobing only makes it more difficult to see anything else.

Paul Manson
Guest

I know some fellow riders think that blinding a driver is the best way to get attention. I really dislike it.

I hate having to shield my eyes from oncoming cyclists as they stare at me and ruin my night vision! Fork mounted lights are the best. I aim mine to be about 36″ off the ground at 10 feet.

Faux Porteur
Guest
Faux Porteur

There are very bright bicycle lights that are designed for city riding (usually designed by European firms) so the light projection has a sharp cut-off point so it illuminates the road with the high-intensity light for the user and then spills a realistic amount as to be visible by others. Many of the high-intensity lights on the market now do not have such a light projection.

The other problem is a strobing headlight. Strobing headlights are not legal in many/most cycle-heavy nations as they are distracting/annoying/possibly hazardous. In fact, if you read the letter of the law here in Oregon, they aren’t legal here either.

aljee
Guest
aljee

i like using two lights, one for seeing and one for being seen.
i have some diy led lights i like for seeing. they are in a copper pipe housing that is cut at 45 degrees and the optic is recessed. i can angle this down and see the road fine without pissing people off. to get a bit more throw (because of angle), i plan to make a fork-crown mount and/or mid-blade fork mount – this is as opposed to handlebar mounting, which still works and has the benefit of being able to move the light to see street signs (i just like to keep stuff off my bars).
for being seen, i like a regular blinkie, something by planet bike mounted on the bars pointed straight out is fine, but i might go with something low profile and helmet mounted next.
it does seem that people confuse mtb lights and commuting lights. my setup for mtb is going to be way different in the spring.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

bright isn’t the problem, the strobes are.

toby
Guest
toby

I’ve never really had a problem with helmet mounted lights, but I do get blinded by bar mounted lights all the time. It’s of course worse when it’s raining but then there’s not as many riders out when it is.

Car lenses are designed so that the light is focused only on the bottom half, that way you can have a very high intensity beam that is less likely to blind oncoming traffic. Too bad that’s not more common with bike lights. Also, a lot of people position them incorrectly, straight out or even pointed slightly up.

Demian
Guest
Demian

Interesting problem. I’m probably on both ends of this issue. I have a helmet-mounted NightRider light that I love because I can see the road in the dark and rain and also see all those fools w/o lights or reflective clothing. It also allows me to ‘flash’ drivers who aren’t paying attention. That said, I know it’s bright and try to keep it where it’s supposed to be. I have fewer complaints about headlights because they are quickly past and it’s only on the two-way bike lanes where it’s an issue at all. On a normal roadway the opposing bike traffic is 20+ feet away.
I did encounter a tail light that I thought was too bright just last night. It was a out of sync flashing red strobe that had the power of an emergency vehicle light. Because I had to follow the rider through a couple of blocks of downtown traffic, the effect on my ability to see was worse than any headlight.
Bottom line is that I’d rather be able to see and be seen and feel that others have the same right. If that’s the case, then I can look away from the bright lights.

dukiebiddle
Guest
dukiebiddle

Too bright? Unlikely. Inconsiderately positioned and angled? Absolutely.

I’ve been blinded by helmet floodlights before. Illuminating lights should be mounted on the bicycle, and modest “to-be-seen” lights should be mounted on helmets.

Stacy Watts
Guest
Stacy Watts

I try and train my eyes away from oncoming lights no matter the kind – car, cyclist, because I don’t know that anyone’s light is aligned not to blind me.

I did speak to a gentleman on the max just this week who was hassled by a police officer in North Portland for having essentially a car-sized headlight mounted on his bicycle. We started talking about it because the light was big enough it surprised me to see it on a bike. He just wanted to be as visible as a car, he usually points that light at the ground.

resopmok
Guest
resopmok

How bright a light is can be measured in lumens or candlepower, and lights can be labeled with their brightness on packaging. This may already be done for marketing purposes (I’m not sure), but a certain number of lumens could be defined as “too bright” if the end goal is regulation. Anyone who has encountered a car with mis-pointed headlights (most of us?) know how much of a blinding nuisance it is, especially since we cyclists don’t have the protection of a windshield to disperse some light. It’s a nuisance to other drivers as well, and is why there are regulations in place to govern it as well as the use of brights.

I too have been blinded at night by bikes in places like the Springwater or 205 trail. The absence of street lights in these places necessitate brighter lights so you can see the path, but they should be pointed slightly towards the ground to maximize their usefulness and be courteous to other cyclists. It hasn’t been a real problem for me, mainly because I don’t ride those locations often, but if it is really a nuisance then it probably should be regulated in the same manner of cars, applied to lights which are brighter than X (TBD) lumens. In the meantime, common courtesy would go a long way to helping the issue, as well as responsible salepeople who warn potential users and instruct them how to properly use their very bright lights.

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

I will attest to not having been subjected to bike lights that are so bright that I cannot see. Many of them are uncomfortably bright. But if you’ve listened to decades of “Hey, I can’t see you!” from people who drive, than the newer LED technology becomes a godsend. I don’t myself have anything super-bright, but when I have had bright lights, drivers are more often appreciative than upset.
The problem is that if a car is approaching from the side, a bike needs to be seen quickly, and lights which aim at the ground wont be seen by drivers with limited visibility (rain, etc).
I would definately say that having a bright light mounted on the handlebars is more courteous. I have the super-bright rear blinky and if I’m riding in a group I set it to solid instead of flashing for the sake of others. I’d say given all of these issues, that if you have a really bright headlight, than you’re at the advantage. You can see other cyclists first. So if you see a cyclist coming the other way, just turn down the brightness.
Courtesy is important. Let’s not show the attitude that most drivers have that the ‘law’ supersedes courtesy.
peace everyone
AT

Chandler
Guest
Chandler

As others mentioned I use two lights. One for riding between towns in the sticks with high illumination, and a don’t hit me light for in town.

The first clue that my new light was too bright was when folks at a cafe I was approaching covered their eyes. The second was when I had to pull off on the trail to let someone pass me in the opposite direction while he had his bright light on.

Different purposes. Different lights.

Doug
Guest
Doug

EMPHATIC YES — I’m down south and do my morning training rides before dawn (in Marin County). The high income level of Marin seems to relate directly to the lumen output of the lights and their inappropriate use. I have a high-lumen output light, but when on a bike path (now this is a huge revelation so I hope you’re sitting down): I aim it downward and put it on it’s lowest non-blinking setting. I’ve had numerous close calls with pedestrians I couldn’t see because of some moron who spent 800 bucks on a light for his morning commute and wants to make sure he’s getting his money’s worth.

b
Guest
b

i see the issue mainly being whether or not the cyclist is smart enough to angle the light towards the ground.
granted not all lights are easily adjustable on the go, but many are.

i ride with both a bar-mounted light (an old cateye), as well as a helmet mounted one (cygolite million 200). the bar one is angled to hit the ground 10 ft in front of me. i prefer to angle my helmet one to hit 20 ft out. if gives me a good idea of the road conditions, lets people know where i’m at, etc…

the good thing about riding with a really bright beam is you can always see where it is hitting. if it’s too high/low, i can easily adjust it while riding. what it comes down to is respect. i know what it’s like to deal with other bike/car lights that are angled too high, it sucks… so i do my best to make sure i’m not doing that to other people.

to be honest, my helmet light has saved me from getting hit multiple times. i’m a really defensive rider, but sometimes it’s hard to avoid sketchy situations with cars. a quick tilt of my head upwards, and my headlight will often get a car driver to stop and yield my right of way. sure i ride with multiple lights, reflective gear, etc… but as most of us know, things can get pretty dangerous at night time.

my headlight is bright enough to say, “HEY! WTF!? DON’T HIT ME! I’M HERE! I EXIST!” some folks drive without cyclists in mind and some cyclists do the same. if we all angle our lights appropriately, then that should drastically improve the issue at hand. however, when push comes to shove: my lights are first and foremost about keeping me safe. if you’re driving in an unsafe manner and endangering me, don’t be surprised if you see a little flash from my cygolite letting you know that is see you….and you should be seeing me.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Correct Positioning is a big factor, also if someone is behind you and you look back to check for cars, it can blind you out. I think cars can do the same to us.
I run my blink on heavy traffic roads or pouring rain.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

Folks who have commented so far have identified the current shortcomings of the situation:
– poor alignment
– poor equipment selection (using lights designed for trail riding on city streets)
– poor lamp design (no upper cut off)
– poor quality of information/ user education

Most if not all of these problems could be addressed for most city riders would be if bicycle companies where to outfit bikes with lighting systems as standard equipment. (I have been very satisfied with the lighting that has come with my modern euro city bikes. All I have had to do is make sure to lamp is kept in alignment. These systems are even better now with LEDs.)

Though all and all I would have to say that the greater problem is still too few lit bicyclists and too underpowered lamps for the minority that use them. This is where state and federal vehicle standards [and enforcement] should pick up the slack from the overt avoidance of the safety equipment issue after the 1970s bike boom.

Steve B
Guest

I think as our bikeways mature, the ubiquitous seizure-inducing strobe light style will start to wane away.

Lately, during these dark, wet months, I’ve mounted an extra front light on my bike. I one pointed to the ground with solid light, and then one pointed more upright on strobe mode to get the attention of other road users.

The only time I’ve gotten complaints have been on MUPs (like on bridge decks) when people are walking in the opposite direction. I felt bad about that, and advise folks who are using shared pathways to turn off the strobe and consider pointing their lights down, since the threat of motorized vehicles is relatively non-existent.

Paul Cone
Guest
Paul Cone

It’s not just the brightness that bothers me — it’s the crazy flashing that some of the newer ones have, like you’re in a disco or something. Do they really need to be that manic in order to be effective? And what about people who have epilepsy? It seems really inconsiderate that someone could have a seizure because of these lights. I just bought a new light because my trusty old Cateye disappeared and it took work to find one that would flash but not maniacally (I ended up with a Princeton Tec EOS — perfect except you can’t see it from the side very well).

naomi
Guest
naomi

I can’t stand those bright lights. A couple months ago my friend and I were riding north on the Springwater and some guy blinded us with an insanely bright front light. As he passed my friend said “hey your light is super bright, it’s hard to see”, and he barked back at her “my safety comes first!” — well what about the safety of the people who are being blinded?

I think these blinding lights should be banned.

fool
Guest
fool

i have one of the brighter dynamo headlights (schmidt edelux), and it can definitely be blinding–when aimed incorreectly. if you want to be sure your light is aimed incorrectly, just ride down the esplanade on a summer night and see how many (and how angry) comments you get. it only took getting sworn at a few times before i figured out the proper aim as projected on the side of my house and on the street, so now i just check before i ride (and during, in case it gets jostled somehow).

funny thing is, these megabright lights aren’t cheap to run or power–and they illuminate the road far better when aimed right. who spends the money for a tool they fail to adjust to optimal levels, when misadjustment makes a huge difference not only in function but in politeness? jerks. don’t be one of them.

one tip i got from a former riding buddy: mount your light low, on the front fork (i use a cronometro nob) for maximal road visibility. still requires proper aiming, but illuminates the road a fair bit further than a handlebar and a great deal further than a helmet light, in my testing. this is the *road* i’m talking about, not the treetops–i don’t care what anything up there looks like (i’m not riding in low-clearance areas for the most part).

John Lascurettes
Guest

I will always aim my light’s beam at least as high as I can so as to not be able to outride the light. It doesn’t strobe so I have that at least.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

I would agree that some of these lights are too bright, (I’ve been high-beamed several times because of my blaze/superflash is deemed too bright)…But just as I’m about to point it down, I’m sharply reminded by someone pulling out of a sidestreet, completely oblivious to my ‘too bright’ flashing light.

I just bought a new helmet that I will be attaching another light to it so that I can actively point it inside of the cab of vehicles that approach from the right.

Sorry, but it only takes one car.

dan
Guest
dan

I have a Planet Bike one watt LED strobing headlight and I have noticed that even the reflection it throws back from street signs is bright enough to mess with my night vision and be distracting. I assume it’s even worse for oncoming traffic, but not sure what the answer is. Even with this headlight, I still have motorists doing criminally stupid maneuvers that threaten my life and then saying “I didn’t see you.” (True story, I chased one down once and asked why he did that.)

fredlf
Guest

I haven’t had this problem myself, though there are few cyclists on my commute (NE PDX to Camas). However, my elderly dad has complained several times about too bright bike lights. He’s even had to pull over when he couldn’t see. He understands and respects the need to be seen, he just thinks people aim the lights wrong.

Oliver
Guest
Oliver

Furthermore flashing white lights alert those in cars that there are bicycles on the street around them, as tiny (relative to car) solid white lights get lost in the ‘static’ of rain dappled windshields at night.

Tomas Quinones
Guest

Jeff
bright isn’t the problem, the strobes are.

I agree, can we BAN strobes. I’m 100% serious. I’m not epileptic but I feel like I will be when your lights aren’t just blinking, they are strobing. Police use this to dazzle perps. Don’t use it to dazzle cars, peds and other riders, please.

rider
Guest
rider

I love it when people have the super bright strobed headlights as it allows me to jump off my bike and do a wicked robot as they approach.

Steve Scarich
Guest
Steve Scarich

One thing that has not been mentioned is rider speed. When I used to commute at night (say 15 mph), I only needed a medium power light, aimed fairly low. But, when I started race-training at night (say 20-30 mph), I needed a much more powerful light, aimed farther down the road, in order to ride safely. So. maybe we need to think about how fast we are going, in relationship to how powerful our lights are. I hope that makes sense.

matt picio
Guest

Jonathan said “It’s also worth noting that most (if not all) of light companies began by selling lights for riding mountain bikes at night — where there’s no such thing as too bright”

That’s interesting, because actually there is. First off, a single-source light will cast sharp-relief shadows which can hide obstacles, and cause depth-perception issues, which is one reason why many mountain bikers use more than one lamp. Secondly, if the light is bright enough, it will affect night-vision. The cones which provide night vision also provide peripheral vision. When affected by bright lights, the cones are less responsive and one’s peripheral vision is degraded.

I realize the statement isn’t meant to be taken literally, but those who trail ride at night might not be aware of the tradeoffs involved in night lighting.

Mike Fish
Guest
Mike Fish

I agree with everyone else that it’s mostly a problem of angle, but I’d still rather be blinded rather than completely unaware of someone’s presence because they have no light or a little LED the size of a pencil eraser. I think in the city that no lights and lights that aren’t bright enough are bigger problems than lights that are too bright. I think strobes at low levels are OK, but the really bright ones are awful, especially when it’s wet because then the light is bouncing off of every surface and makes everything extremely confusing for everyone.

Irk
Guest

I was told very early in my urban biking excursions by a more experienced friend to always aim my bike light (mounted between the handlebars) a bit downward at the road so that it does the job of showing oncoming drivers and riders that I exist but it doesn’t blind fellow cyclists. As an experienced driver I understood immediately – this is why drivers turn down their brights when approaching oncoming traffic at night. I can’t see how the tilting solution can apply to helmet-mounted lights, really – if your light is too bright you need to consider putting it on the handlebars so you can angle it down, or swapping for something that’s more appropriate for the streets. You wouldn’t equip an ATV the same way you would equip a minivan, after all, and blinding oncoming drivers and cyclists will endanger you and them more than it protects anybody.

Joe
Guest
Joe

Just love when the drivers say “I didn’t see you.”

jv
Guest
jv

As others have said, it is not the brightness , but the strobe that disorients riders. I prefer to ride with lower-intensity lights anyway, as they do not ruin the night vision as much, and in most commuting situations there is plenty of ambient light. Strobing rear rights are not as much of a problem though, as the red spectrum does not impact the night vision as much. I am glad that the new high-output LEDs exist on the market though, for applications where they are really needed.

jim
Guest
jim

Of course they are not too bright. Car lights are bright. Car lights are aimed at the ground, not at the on-coming car. Wouldn’t you rather see some hazard on the road (a pothole, wet clump of leaves….) than just ride around blinding people.
I always thought it was foolish to ride with a light that was not bright enough. How would you ever see something in the road with a very dim blinky light?

rider
Guest
rider

@Oliver, Any German standard non-strobed light is more than bright and visible enough. If the drivers don’t see this then they aren’t looking and will miss the brightest strobed party light out there too. I understand wanting to do everything you can to be seen but there is a point of diminishing returns and a 10,000 lumen strobed light is pretty far up that parabola.

Bob_M
Guest
Bob_M

My lights are so bright that rain is evaporated in front of me and I ride in a self contained dry zone.

Kidding aside, poorly adjusted lights are more than annoying, they are dangerous the way they blind oncoming riders.

No ban on either strobes, or brilliance will ever come to pass and if our night vision is indeed dependent on the courtesy of others then the night vision will suffer.

VeloBusDriver
Guest

My Dinotte 600L can blind folks but I try my best to aim it properly and mount it on my handlebars. Dinotte has a new light, the 1200L, that must be absolutely blinding. That said, all of their lights have buttons that enable a switch between LOW power (25%) and full power with a single click – that seems to help quite a bit.

David Feldman
Guest
David Feldman

Having ridden at night since the early 70’s, I’ll say that a bicycle headlight is only bright enough when it is noticed. Given the behavior and response of drivers to what could be called “reasonable” front lighting (I’ll define that as a headlight that will let you see the 2 x4 that otherwise would have thrown you off your bike and broken your arm) I’ll say that there’s no such thing as too bright a light as long as it’s bike mounted. Helmet mounted lights, becaue they’re usually at eye level to almost anyone regardless of their vehicle, maybe those can be too bright.

esther c
Guest
esther c

Get two lights. A bright strobe on your handlebar and aim it down a bit. Use a less bright light on your helmet that won’t blind oncoming traffic or people you look at.

boneshaker
Guest
boneshaker

If you have a real bright headlight simply cover it up or point it down when there are oncoming cyclists/pedestrians. It’s not that hard. A little courtesy goes a long way.

Spiffy
Guest
Spiffy

I’m of the mindset that the lights aren’t too bright but rather poorly aimed… I’ve been blinded on trails as well… the best thing to do is stop your bike and block the entire path with it until the offending rider gets to you… then when they complain that you’re blocking the path you can just tell them that since you can’t see where to go because of their bright light that the safest place for you is in the middle of the trail since you know they can see you…

for the record, I only have a standard Planet Bike strobe on the front that I aim about 10-15 feet in front of me, which is usually just enough to cause reflective signs to blink in the scatter… there’s enough light in the city that I rarely need to put the light on steady beam unless I’m deep in some part of the Springwater…

I use the strobe so that cars will see me more easily… the spinning blue light in the rear wheel also helps for side visibility…

BURR
Guest
BURR

Yes, poorly aimed and/or poorly focused too-bright lights are not only annoying, but they are also a safety hazard for oncoming cyclists, particularly on MUPs like the Springwater or Esplanade.

Common courtesy would dictate that cyclists using these types of lights dim them or reduce their intensity when using them on MUPs.

Some of the new bicycle taillights, like the Planet Bike Superflash, are also pretty annoying when you are following another cyclist using one.

Brite
Guest
Brite

I’d rather have someone blind me than not have a light on at all. Too bright? Turn your head for a second. I try to be as visible as possible. My safety is my responsibility; not being considerate so that others’ rides are comfortable and/or safe. I’ve had divers thank me for being so visible. Bikers have complained. Go figure.

q`Tzal
Guest
q`Tzal

Why does this question even exist?
Because a significant enough portion of the cycling public has been made to feel unsafe everywhere on the public road system including everywhere paved.
Cyclists who have the means, $$$, want to be certain that they are seen.

There is no effective argument against the “Dead Right” position. If my head lamp occasionally points up far enough to temporarily blind someone but I know that I have saved my own life, numerous times, by using said light to stop an errant auto driver then there is no way I’m giving up that safety option.

That being said, the durn thing needs to spend >99% of its time aimed at the road surface where the smallest but most numerous and dangerous hazards exist. Inattentive auto drivers are transient – dangerous surface conditions (debris, rails, potholes, drain grates, slippery surfaces) are consistent and exist every single inch of your ride.

All that said: auto headlights far out shine current bicycle headlights both in intensity and directionality.
Why are auto headlights not considered hazardous but bike headlights are?

Andrew
Guest
Andrew

I recently upgraded my helmet light from and older Cygolite (Night Rider) to their Expilion 250. It is FAR brighter than the old light, and I LOVE it. I have seen drivers briefly shield their eyes on occasion, but I have no qualms about this at all. I do not intentionally aim at people, but as a daily year-round rider for almost 20 years here, I’m sick of being fully lit (lights, people) and nearly being hit because drivers aren’t paying attention. My solution was to increase my lumens, and I have no more problem (insert oak-wood knocking sound here). Can the light be too bright? Sure, but It’s also about how you use the light.

velo
Guest
velo

It’s not just brightness that’s the problem, it’s stobe lights and it’s aim that tend to cause problems.

Dimmer (say under 100 lumen) strobes seem like generally like a way to get attention with less light. I don’t find these that disrupting. I never run my 200+ lumen strobe at night, though I do run it on rain days. It’s the difference at night that is problematically disruptive.

The optics of the light also really matter. Most lights don’t really direct the beam all that much. It’s a simple flood or spot. This is common even on most expensive lights. Something like a Schmidt Edelux is far more directed and actually directs the light onto the road. It’s 200+ lumens and not blinding, and lights your path really well to boot. Unfortunately, good optics are expensive.

Todd Boulanger
Guest
Todd Boulanger

To add to the ‘night blindness’ thread for cyclists one also has to ask the bike accessories companies to consider protecting the bicyclist’s own night vision when designing some of the newer generation of LED lamps. Many of their designers forget that poor lense or body design allows too much light to leak upwards or backscatter off the tire or roadway towards the operator.

It is silly that I have to add black tape/ paint to fix these safety shortcomings. (Cat Eye, Bike Planet, B&M, etc – do you hear me?!)

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

I’ll add to the overwhelming weight of opinion that the problem isn’t brightness (yet), but lights aimed too high.

Except for a few HIDs, almost ZERO commercial bike headlights on the market throw as much light as a SINGLE traditional halogen car headlight (traditionally 800-1000 lumens), and nowhere NEAR a single car HID (2000lum or more). So why do some bike headlights seem brighter? They aren’t aimed down at the pavement where they belong.

I have a DIY halogen system that throws about 650 lumens (I recently downgraded from 1100 lumens to improve my runtime), but in a very tight beam. When properly aimed it appears LESS bright to oncoming users than a 200-300 lumen LED light with a broader beam.

And you DO need a fair amount of light in our winter conditions. 200 lumens can be adequate on a dark night on a bike path if it’s dry, but I find that 400-500 is the MINIMUM you need to be able to see if you want to see the road surface at 15mph when it’s RAINING and there’s ambient glare from oncoming cars (typical on the suburban arterials where I often have to ride).

As for strobing, I think LOW-POWER blinkies (you know, the $25 ones) are good for conspicuity, but there is absolutely NO reason a light in excess of 50-100 lumens should be able to go into blink mode.