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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.

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. 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

106 Comments
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    Jon Ragsdale December 1, 2010 at 10:01 am

    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.

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      Michael December 1, 2010 at 10:17 am

      I’ve never had a real issue with bar mounted lights, it’s always been the helmet mounted lights were the user looks at the oncoming traffic to make eye contact. It tends to slack off as the night riding season wears on and the helmet light users realize what they are doing.

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    Jacob December 1, 2010 at 10:03 am

    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.

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    Bjorn December 1, 2010 at 10:04 am

    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.

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    Paul Manson December 1, 2010 at 10:06 am

    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.

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    Faux Porteur December 1, 2010 at 10:11 am

    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.

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    aljee December 1, 2010 at 10:11 am

    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.

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      David November 23, 2015 at 5:50 pm

      I had an interesting insight when a friend test rode my commuter bike. I had both lights, an LED Niterider 750 on lowest intensity, and a Cat Eye front head light that was set to strobe. When I saw him riding towards me I could not see the blinking light at all. This may be due to their proximity to each other both being about equal distance from the stem on opposite sides.

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    Jeff December 1, 2010 at 10:12 am

    bright isn’t the problem, the strobes are.

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      John Russell (jr98664) December 1, 2010 at 5:52 pm

      Agreed. My 600 Lumen CygoLight TridenX headlight may have a strobe mode that’s as quick as a party strobe and as bright as a car headlight, but that doesn’t mean that I ever have a reason to use it on the road. (I did once use it from behind at night to get someone’s attention though. It worked.)

      At worst, I use no worse than a slow strobe flashing only a few times per second, and then only under daylight conditions for added visibility.

      Please don’t give your fellow cyclists an epileptic seizure.

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    toby December 1, 2010 at 10:12 am

    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.

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    Demian December 1, 2010 at 10:12 am

    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.

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    dukiebiddle December 1, 2010 at 10:13 am

    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.

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    Stacy Watts December 1, 2010 at 10:16 am

    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.

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    resopmok December 1, 2010 at 10:16 am

    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.

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    Aaron December 1, 2010 at 10:18 am

    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

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    Chandler December 1, 2010 at 10:19 am

    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.

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    Doug December 1, 2010 at 10:20 am

    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.

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    b December 1, 2010 at 10:25 am

    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.

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    Joe December 1, 2010 at 10:26 am

    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.

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    Todd Boulanger December 1, 2010 at 10:26 am

    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.

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    Steve B December 1, 2010 at 10:29 am

    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.

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      dan December 1, 2010 at 10:41 am

      I had the same setup as you: steady light pointing down, and a flasher aimed at driver eye level. The setup worked well, until someone stole one of them. Now I have just the strobe, but will pick up a second light soon so I can get back to having a “see the road” light.

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        Steve B December 1, 2010 at 11:53 am

        that stinks! Yeah, I’ve had a couple front lights stolen in Portland — now I take them with me almost everytime I leave my bike. My cheap rear light hasn’t had any takers yet, thankfully.

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    Paul Cone December 1, 2010 at 10:29 am

    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).

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    naomi December 1, 2010 at 10:31 am

    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.

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      matt picio December 1, 2010 at 10:47 am

      Restrictions on use, yes – but an outright ban probably isn’t warranted, and would be unenforceable in any case. I think to a large extent this is an issue with getting people to understand that their choices affect others – right up there with helmet use, giving audible warning when passing cyclists, and keeping one’s speed “reasonable”. The law allows these behaviors to go on – they are a personal choice for cyclists to adhere to or ignore at their discretion. The trick has always been to get some cyclists to understand that some of their behaviors aren’t perceived as neighborly by others on the road. (Of course, that isn’t limited to bikes)

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    fool December 1, 2010 at 10:32 am

    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).

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    John Lascurettes December 1, 2010 at 10:38 am

    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.

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    Oliver December 1, 2010 at 10:43 am

    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.

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    dan December 1, 2010 at 10:44 am

    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.)

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    fredlf December 1, 2010 at 10:44 am

    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.

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    Oliver December 1, 2010 at 10:46 am

    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.

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    Tomas Quinones December 1, 2010 at 10:49 am

    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.

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      Editz December 2, 2010 at 12:34 pm

      Many cyclists utilize tactical flashlights whose strobe modes are designed to disorient (fast flash) rather than attract attention (slower flash).

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    rider December 1, 2010 at 10:53 am

    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.

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    Steve Scarich December 1, 2010 at 10:53 am

    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.

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    matt picio December 1, 2010 at 10:55 am

    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.

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    Mike Fish December 1, 2010 at 10:56 am

    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.

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    Irk December 1, 2010 at 11:00 am

    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.

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      Moleskin April 29, 2016 at 8:09 pm

      Agreed. I use a helmet light (along with a fork-mounted Dynamo light with a cut off). The only time the helmet light is on full and pointing forwards is on bright sunny days riding in traffic. Evenings and at night I turn it down a bit and point it at the ground 10ft or so in front of the bike. On a MUP I turn it off as it’s not needed. I do feel it helps with being seen above parked vehicles by other vehicles entering intersections.

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    Joe December 1, 2010 at 11:01 am

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

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    jv December 1, 2010 at 11:03 am

    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.

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    jim December 1, 2010 at 11:09 am

    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?

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    rider December 1, 2010 at 11:11 am

    @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.

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    Bob_M December 1, 2010 at 11:25 am

    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.

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    VeloBusDriver December 1, 2010 at 11:27 am

    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.

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      Editz December 2, 2010 at 12:36 pm

      +1 Dinotte. Their tail lights are great.

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    David Feldman December 1, 2010 at 11:49 am

    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.

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    esther c December 1, 2010 at 11:58 am

    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.

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    boneshaker December 1, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    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.

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    Spiffy December 1, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    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…

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      Paul Johnson December 2, 2010 at 5:26 pm

      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…

      Great way to get yourself into a collission, an obstructing traffic ticket, and announce to the world that you’re a selfish tool.

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        Spiffy December 10, 2010 at 7:39 am

        sorry, but the selfish tool is the one blinding everybody on the trail, not the one trying to call their attention to it and getting them to stop it…

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    BURR December 1, 2010 at 12:36 pm

    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.

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    Brite December 1, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    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.

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    q`Tzal December 1, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    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?

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    Andrew December 1, 2010 at 1:33 pm

    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.

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      esther c December 1, 2010 at 11:22 pm

      Well, if its about how you use it, it sounds like you’re using it wrong if people are having to shield their eyes from it.

      Perhaps you’re making yourself safer but what about other road users? How about pedestrians that may be in crosswalks for example? Could you be endangering them by temporarily blinding drivers?

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    velo December 1, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    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.

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    Todd Boulanger December 1, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    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?!)

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    GlowBoy December 1, 2010 at 1:45 pm

    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.

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    Tim - NE PDX December 1, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Lights are for low visiblity situations and not just night time. (fog, rain, mist) The strobe affect is useful, I think, during those low angle sun mornings and evenings.

    See also here: http://bikeportland.org/2010/10/06/beware-of-glare-a-cautionary-tale-40669

    Personally I’d still focus on trying to get more folks using lights and with fresh batteries.

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    Tourbiker December 1, 2010 at 3:04 pm

    I’m one that rides Early on the Springwater, along with some others feelings here, I agree It’s more an issue of aim than brightness. My lights are custom built and easily match some of the downhill-er that cost in the 600.00 range.
    why?
    because you CAN overdrive your headlights on a bike. It’s easy on some of those sections of the Springwater that have zero lights. with no ambient light, lights SEEM even brighter. I just slide my hand over the beam till I pass. (something like a Salute to my fellow riders)
    I know it’s bright…I’ve also seen folks that match mine.
    Lastly, people have different tolerances to light, before any regulations to brightness can be explored,you would have to develop a “standard”.
    my too bright may be much higher than say “glowboy’s.

    Some tips for buying a good light include:
    Finding one with a “focused beam”
    If beam specs are given shoot for 4-6 deg beam.
    (they measure 4-6deg from center, actual beam pattern will be 8-12deg overall.

    temperature of light (color) can be a factor, blue (cold)tint is harsher than yellow(warmer) or greenish…cayan(blue-green) even works with your eye to enhance what you see.

    The “spill” (lost light to the sides) can be distracting . Some of these simple “flashlight” headlights are basically throwing light away that could be pointed at the road to see.

    My lights have low/med/high/5khz strobe (fast).
    5k strobe will light the road as well as strobe broken glass fragments in time to take evasive manuvers.

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    BURR December 1, 2010 at 3:27 pm

    I do not intentionally aim at people

    If you’re using a helmet light, it is aimed at whatever you are looking at.

    looking at an oncoming cyclist = blinding them

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    timbo December 1, 2010 at 4:09 pm

    When I am the driver of a car I’d rather see the bicyclist, even if the light is “too bright” nothing drives me crazier then a bicyclists on a dark wet night with no or very bad lights. Cars do not have radar nor do they have night vision goggles. Please use lights ! Thank you.

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    beth h December 1, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Making lighting systems standard equipment on every new bike sold seems like a great idea, until you factor in what a DECENT lighting system (i.e., powerful rechargeable lights or a generator-hub-based system) costs. Decent lights — bright enough to be seen several blocks away and durable enough to last five to eight years — cost way more than the basic cheap battery-powered blinky that renders a bicyclist legal-but-barely-visible.

    Legislation to require rear lights on bikes has been shouted down on this and other forums by those who insist that it would be a discriminatory law against the poor.

    The issue here is that bicycle still operate in a car-centric landscape and as a result there is a sense of expectation by most road users that bike lights ought to be nearly as bright as car lights. And that would be fine, I suppose, if more bicyclists would actually use lights at all.

    I will run as bright a light as I can afford, because that’s what the current traffic landscape virtually requires of me (in order for me to feel even a modicum of safety on the road). I have yet to see a bicycle headlight that is “too” bright out there.

    Ride safely, everyone.

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    Anton December 1, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    Yes, I have been blinded by other bikers out there; its totally un-necessary and especially annoying on a car-free bikeway where the on coming biker passes just to your left (esplande, springwater, etc.) Use a little judgement and courtesy with those big guns, why don’t ya?

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    Paul Johnson December 1, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Since state vehicle law expects cyclists to comply with it whenever practical, I would consider the bicycle part to be minimum requirements, and not an exception to the more detailed, car-oriented aiming and maximum intensity requirements.

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    jim December 1, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    While on the subject- I’ve often heard people exclaim that it is hardest to see pedestrians/ bikes at dusk for some reason

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      Paul Johnson December 1, 2010 at 5:20 pm

      I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that it’s the same reason it’s hard to see cars at dusk and dawn, hence why you need to have your headlights on from before dusk to after dawn, in tunnels, when raining, foggy, smoky or otherwise dim or hard to see out.

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    KWW December 1, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    Jonathan, you reference the Oregon standards for lighting, but not standards to which the lights are designed to – which in case of many of the dyno hub powered lights are German Standards. The German standards proscribe light beam aiming and scatter.

    If you want a good introduction to the german standards with regard to aiming, refer to the following Bicycle Lifestyle post:
    http://groups.google.com/group/bicyclelifestyle/msg/44e55697ac10fef5?hl=en
    and the related thread:
    http://groups.google.com/group/bicyclelifestyle/browse_thread/thread/7f3628f3fc7af86b/

    The German standards are analogous to Oregon auto standards in that the high intensity portion of the beam should be pointed DOWN:
    “The beam must be at least inclined so that its center at 5 m
    distance in front of the headlamp is only half as high as in its exit
    from the spotlight.”

    If you go on to read the thread, it is basically a debate on the propriety of a lighting review in Bicycle Quarterly which debated a similar subject.

    You will note that the main pro/antagonists in question are Peter White who supplies many of the highest quality lights in this country, and Jan Heine who has possibly the most respected bicycle magazines in the business (with regard to editorial integrity).

    You will note that even among these pro’s, there is not consensus on headlight aiming.

    Simply put, many people who ride bicycles don’t know how to aim their lights. Further, bike shops are not equipped to my knowledge as to effectively aim the lights.

    On a personal note, I have an Edelux rack mounted just above the front wheel. I would rarely would get a remark about blinding on coming bikes. After reading up on the German lighting/aiming standards, I have adjusted my light to comply with those requirements. Since then, no complaints, and I can still see very well, even road signs which refect the scattered light back well.

    If you are aiming your lights so that the high intensity part of the beam illuminates the road signs, you are blinding other riders.

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    BURR December 1, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Not only don’t most US cyclists know how to aim their lights; but, perhaps even more importantly, a lot of the lighting systems sold in the US do not have properly focused/aimed beams.

    If I’m reading KWW’s comment correctly, I’m not surprised that Jan Heine doesn’t support the German standard, since his advertising revenue is dependent upon a lot of manufacturers who don’t follow that standard.

    IMO, the German standard is a very good place to start, I like focused beams and it seems to me that the best focused beam headlamps are built to the German standard.

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      kww December 2, 2010 at 12:33 am

      Jan’s requisite was high speed night riding from what I know about the article. He was claiming 40mph speeds on downhills in hilly Seattle (much like zoobombing).

      This is counter to the intent of lights designed to German standards which are for safety at average speeds.

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    Alistair December 1, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    It’s beam design – most US lights throw a brain dead circular beam. Point the center of the spot 50 ft in front of you a huge amount is aimed into the eyes of someone coming close. some lights have flat top beams to solve this (Lumotec IQ dynamo lights)

    Also remember cars have both dipped and full headlights for areas where there are no city lights. Is it time for dipping?

    Cheers, Alistair

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    Zaphod December 1, 2010 at 11:33 pm

    After almost gotten tagged by a car and skidding to a stop because they failed to see my smaller blinking technology, I’m reminded how much I like a bit of wattage. Until we exceed car headlight intensity, there should be no issue. We do need to match car headlight power with control as in focused beams and have them properly adjusted. So if a manufacturer designs something like this, the mount should be extremely well made and precise. A level bubble indicating proper angle would be brilliant. 😉

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      q`Tzal December 2, 2010 at 10:49 am

      All this being said I’ve seen car drivers pull out from a secondary street, with a stop sign, on to a primary street, with no traffic controls and thus right-of-way, after stopping – looking both ways – and then pull straight in to the path of a vehicle.
      The errant driver’s view of the oncoming auto was not obstructed.
      The driver on the primary road was traveling at a safe speed.

      As safe a some of us might feel with high powered bike lights it is obvious that some drivers are not looking at all; I’ve witnessed the above automotive crash several times.

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    Bill December 2, 2010 at 7:53 am

    Perhaps taking a few moments to properly adjust the lights, especially the helmet mounted lights would be the smart move. The last thing anyone needs is a blinded driver on wet, icy, slippery roads…

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    drew December 2, 2010 at 8:30 am

    I have an Edelux headlamp which has a great low beam that will not blind anybody (except maybe coming over the crest of a hill). Would be better if it had an easy adjustment for its angle though. Very bright non-blinking taillights do not cause disorientation like strobes. Hub generators are here, there is no reason that every bike sold should not have them. Prices will drop when they become ubiquitous. Bikes sold for use on the street are not toys and the manufacturers need to get it together and have integral lights designed into them. They need properly designed beams that will not blind people. High and low beam options should be a part of bike lighting too.

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      Pete November 24, 2015 at 9:46 am

      “Hub generators are here, there is no reason that every bike sold should not have them.”

      No reason? How about I want a lightweight racing bike that I’m not going to ride at night? How about I want to attach a Centerlock or IS disc brake to be able to stop? How about I already have several battery powered lights that I happen to know how to use courteously and effectively?

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        Paul Johnson November 24, 2015 at 10:02 am

        So get it built custom on the understanding that it’s not going to be used on the public highway. Kind of like what Indy and NASCAR already does compared to what you can buy off the lot and drive on the public highway. I think the rest of us who have places to go and shit to do are a little sick of having to be the ones who have to do all the expensive mods just to convert a recreational or racing bike into something that can kinda-sorta emulate a commuter bike.

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          Pete November 24, 2015 at 2:31 pm

          Expensive mods? A really good headlight runs ~$100, which is a lot cheaper than requiring all bicycles to be equipped with dyno hubs. Dyno lights aren’t always very bright anyway, and they are powered by motion, which means MTBF is lower, incurring higher cost of repair than equivalent alkaline or lithium lights. Good dyno hubs can be more expensive out of the box, and they induce friction and wear that you don’t always need in daytime (which is most of my riding, and I suspect the majority of bikes that go out the door).

          I can easily move my front and rear lights between bikes, swap a charged one for another when I’m short on time, and remove them when I leave my bike unattended. I can’t do that with my dyno light; at least not as easily. Sure, they have benefits, but if you want a great way to get less people on bikes, let’s introduce manadatory dyno lighting alongside helmets and hi-viz.

          And yes, I still have places to go and shit to do – even by bike, even at night. I’ve ridden for decades without a dyno hub, the most recent one I tried out was so-so, and I’m not sure why we’d need to be required to have them now, just because some people find them useful.

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    Ryan Good December 2, 2010 at 10:00 am

    Spiffy
    the best thing to do is stop your bike and block the entire path with it until the offending rider gets to you…

    Sounds like a good way to get yourself into a fight.

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    Jeremy December 2, 2010 at 10:43 am

    I think this quote is the best. When I aim them down, I almost get hit. When I aim them up, cyclists complain.

    How about we ban cars? Or get more overhead city lights?

    timbo
    When I am the driver of a car I’d rather see the bicyclist, even if the light is “too bright” nothing drives me crazier then a bicyclists on a dark wet night with no or very bad lights. Cars do not have radar nor do they have night vision goggles. Please use lights ! Thank you.

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      Paul Johnson December 2, 2010 at 5:31 pm

      I think this quote is the best. When I aim them down, I almost get hit. When I aim them up, cyclists complain.

      Dimmer switches are your friend.

      <blockquoteHow about we ban cars? Or get more overhead city lights?

      Someone hates the night sky…

      timbo
      When I am the driver of a car I’d rather see the bicyclist, even if the light is “too bright” nothing drives me crazier then a bicyclists on a dark wet night with no or very bad lights. Cars do not have radar nor do they have night vision goggles. Please use lights ! Thank you.

      A. Because it reads backwards and destroys context.
      Q. Why is top-posting bad?

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    Alistair December 2, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    “When I aim them down, I almost get hit. When I aim them up, cyclists complain.”
    “How about we ban cars? Or get more overhead city lights?”

    Or lobby for some dipping lights, that’s how cars deal with it. Some B&M lights actually have two different beams, one to see the road (pointed down) and one to alert car pointed horizontal. The second one are less bright with more sideways visibility. Cool.

    http://www.bumm.de/index-e.html

    it’s in german but the diagram says all.

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    Jeremy December 2, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Alistair: I see what you are saying. Even in German 😉

    http://www.bumm.de/docu/grafiken/tfl-tagnacht.jpg

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    Paul Johnson December 2, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Zaphod
    Until we exceed car headlight intensity, there should be no issue.

    Hell, I’d be happy if the police enforced prohibitions on blue headlights in Oregon at least as well as they do in Oklahoma. If Oklahoma can get it done, Oregon certainly can.

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    Joe December 2, 2010 at 6:00 pm

    I will always go solid red in the back if heavy bike traffic, since it helps with the take me to your leader
    trance 🙂

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    Mike December 3, 2010 at 7:37 am

    Good God is there nothing people can’t find to complain about. Are portland cyclists the biggest bunch of whiners? I plan on being safe, if that bothers a few people then so be it. It seems some will find just about anything to complain about so I can’t win.

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      El Biciclero December 3, 2010 at 12:24 pm

      Mike
      Good God is there nothing people can’t find to complain about.

      You can usually find somebody to complain about anything. But in cases like this, I think it is a little bigger than just whining. Why would we want to tell other people, “yeah I’m blinding you–get over it!”? If that’s the way we want to be then we could claim that rather than being the “biggest bunch of whiners”, Portland cyclists are the most inconsiderate road users.

      There are laws regarding use of auto headlights because it is recognized that dazzling glare is a danger to others. It doesn’t matter whether the glare is coming from a bike light or a car headlight–it is dangerous and puts others–and you–at risk. Would you drive around in your car with your high beams on at all times “to be safe”? Or does that actually put you in more danger because you are temporarily blinding your fellow road users?

      Bike light glare is a genuine problem with several simple solutions–why would we not want to explore those solutions?

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    Bob December 3, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Absolutely, front lights can be too bright. I’m often blinded riding along the river. In town it’s about being seen by others, not being able to see the road. Ease up, huh?

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    Domes December 3, 2010 at 1:53 pm

    I’ve been blinded a time or two by one of Bike Portland’s contributors who shall remain un-named. His lights are too bright.

    Riding the fanno creek trail I often cover my bright light after dark when coming across walkers and joggers. They thank me for it.

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    craig December 3, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    Anyone wishing to illuminate the roadway ahead, as a car’s lights do, should feel fine using a super-bright light as long as it’s aimed downward. Lights that are meant for making the rider noticeable need only to be merely that–noticeable. A low-watt blinky is sufficient for getting noticed.

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    adp December 4, 2010 at 10:05 am

    I have a bright led flashing on my handlebar, but angled down to hit about 10 feet in front. My helmet light is also a bright flashing led, but it’s angled down to hit about 15 feet in front. If I want to get a car’s attention I can look at them directly while tipping my head back to elevate the beam. I usually do this when a car is about to turn into my lane from a side street. I only do it for a fraction of a second. Sorry if anyone is offended, but I’ve almost been hit by cars with 2 flashing lights (angled down) on my handlebars. I have a family, and I’m just not going to take chances. Lots of cars have improperly adjusted lights that sear your eyes. Everyone needs to slow down and be more careful.

    Also, I wear an ugly neon green safety vest with reflective striping all around. Most of the bikers I see around Pdx wear zero safety clothing. This would make it much easier to be seen at all hours of the day/night.

    I’m happy to report that my daily commute experience with cars is that they are overwhelmingly considerate and friendly. Perhaps being seen with flashing lights/helmet/safety clothing, using hand signals, and minding traffic devices promotes good will.

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      craig December 6, 2010 at 12:17 pm

      Probably your use of front RED lights is illegal. The law designates a white light in front and red light or reflector in the rear.

      From page 20 of Pedal Power:

      815.280 Violation of bicycle equipment requirements; penalty.
      (1) A person commits the offense of violation of bicycle equipment
      requirements if the person does any of the following:
      (c) At the times described in the following, a bicycle or its rider must
      be equipped with lighting equipment that meets the described
      requirements:
      (A) The lighting equipment must be used during limited visibility
      conditions.
      (B) The lighting equipment must show a white light visible from a
      distance of at least 500 feet to the front of the bicycle.
      (C) The lighting equipment must have a red reflector or lighting
      device or material of such size or characteristic and so mounted
      as to be visible from all distances up to 600 feet to the rear
      when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlights on a
      motor vehicle.

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        David November 23, 2015 at 6:04 pm

        The section only describes what is required and in no way describes what is illegal to have. In contrast the motor vehicle section describes things such as only the use white light for headlights, and a section for what other types of lights are prohibited, including non-standard lighting equipment OSR 816.300, and prohibited lights in 816.350.

        Looking at the section you quoted you may have continued reading:
        815.280 (3) Nothing contained in this section shall be construed to prohibit the use of additional parts and accessories on any bicycle consistent with this section.

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    Harald December 5, 2010 at 7:13 am

    drew
    Hub generators are here, there is no reason that every bike sold should not have them. Prices will drop when they become ubiquitous.

    In Germany you can buy complete Dynohub front wheels starting at about 30 Euros/40 Dollars. And those wheel are certainly good enough for a city beater.

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    Ben August 17, 2011 at 6:22 am

    I have a bright light….I love it, it’s bar mounted aimed 20ft in front of me and no one has ever complained about it. I do however feel like helmet mounts are for mtn biking and racing only. I think that some more widely publicized guidelines for proper aiming of headlights might help those who don’t know any better to be less offensive. That said there will always be some guy who is trying to make everyone miserable with 3000+ lumen and that guy cant be helped anyway.

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    Richard Morley November 17, 2013 at 10:24 am

    Bike lights that are flashing are too dangerous, and eventually someone will get hurt.
    They should be banned. I couldn’t see cars being allowed to drive around with their lights on full beam and flashing at the same time. It would soon be stopped! Is anything being done? Are the government even aware that it is a problem?

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    Jeff H. December 19, 2013 at 8:35 pm

    Strobe lights are extremely dangerous and distracting – is there someone in Portland to contact to file a complaint?

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    John S. Allen January 9, 2015 at 9:02 pm

    The article and comments have addressed most of the technical issues, but let’s also consider political issues.

    Germany has a single national standard for bicycle lights, requiring a shaped beam pattern which illuminates the road or path without blinding people. The German standard also is incorporated into traffic law, and compliance with the law is enforced with labeling of the lights.

    A bicycle sold in Germany must ahve generator-powered lights, resulting in pressure to keep the cost down. The lights on inexpensive bicycles can be unreliable. The German law also has led to production of the world’s best bicycle headlights and hub generators, offering convenience, performance and reliability to discerning customers.

    On the other hand, the USA has NO national standard for bicycle lights. When the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission bicycle safety standard was developed 40 years ago and revised 20 years ago, the bicycle industry was concerned about having to require lights on new bicycles and successfully lobbied for the ten-reflector system (front, rear, pedals facing front and rear, and spoke reflectors facing both sides in both wheels). This system doesn’t make a bicyclist visible to another bicyclist with the same equipment, or to a pedestrian, or to a motorist backing out of a driveway, etc., and it applies only to new bicycles at the point of sale. The USA needs a better national nighttime equipment standard, and needs it now.

    Thanks to our federal system of government, state laws govern what equipment is required when the bicycle is in use during hours of darkness. All 50 states require a white headlight and a rear reflector or taillight, but specify only minimum visibility distances — and none specify non-blinding beam patterns. Some states require additional reflectors.

    A major problem for decades has been lack of enforcement against bicyclists who don’t use lights at all and another problem has been headlights too dim to illuminate road surface hazards well — until only the last few years. A bright lighting system was expensive bulky and heavy. With the advent of white LEDs, now very bright lights can be compact and weigh only a few ounces.

    Proper bicycle lights ARE available in the USA and not all of them are expensive. High-end hub-generator-powered systems are best for touring where you can’t charge a battery, but battery-powered lights suitable for commuting are much more affordable. I’m using a Taiwan-made DoSun light with a built-in battery, which lists at $70 and serves very well. There is a smaller one which costs only about $40. If your local bicycle shop isn’t selling such lights, you can find them for sale via the Internet. My advice is to use this kind of light.

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    Tony labarre November 22, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    In regards to factory lights, and mandated lights. No thank you. I want the ability to customize my lighting to my current situation. I would prefer not to have it regulated. I live in Japan, generator lights are very popular, and not as strong as I like. In regards to inviting politics into my sport, double no thank you.

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    Matt Foley April 28, 2016 at 1:09 pm

    I’ve been blinded on the trails by oncoming bikers’ headlights. Not sure if the problem was due to brightness or aim or both. This is only a problem on unlit trails.

    I had a handlebar mounted light that worked fine until it broke off and shattered when I went over bumps. I replaced it and the same thing happened again. It took years to find an inexpensive solution: Bell helmet mounted flashing LED. I thought it made me visible.

    I got hit head on by a pickup truck anyway. I got up from the road and started yelling at the driver. She said “I didn’t see you” and I said “I have a flashing light so you’re supposed to see me!”

    My latest solution is a cheap small LED flashlight with high/low/flash mode and adjustable spot/flood beam, zip tied to my helmet. On spot beam the light is very bright and focused on a small patch in front of me, not in the eyes of oncoming bikers. I don’t bother with flash because it’s too annoying.

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    lahar April 29, 2016 at 11:41 am

    It is the strobes that I find the worst. I remember a few years ago someone spray painting a message to bike commuters about the strobes giving then a seizure, after that I quit using the strobe. I have an older niterider 350 which I usually just have on day or night.

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      Paul Johnson April 29, 2016 at 11:49 am

      While the strobes are definitely annoying, hard to track, and tend to make impaired drivers steer towards them (which is why I don’t use them and why police cars, especially those that use strobes instead of revolving lights, tend to get hit in otherwise perfect driving conditions) and at the right frequencies can trigger seizures, there is something I have to wonder. How much of the complaints about bicycle lighting induced seizures are coming from epileptics and how much of it’s coming from spoiled people who can only eat freerange organic vegan cow-fed chicken using a condition they don’t have as a weapon?

      (Followup to that being, how many of the latter group also own a basically untrained dog they’re passing off as a service animal…)

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