Flashing Headlights

I’ll say right up front that I’ve never really understood the need for a flashing headlight on a bike. Isn’t the point of a headlight to be able to see where you’re going? I finally decided that cyclists must use them as another way to be visible to motorists and others.

But last night, I had an interesting experience. I was on Allen Blvd. in Beaverton, driving east on my way home from the Safeway. There was a cyclist on Allen (a very brave soul indeed to ride on a very busy street with no bike lanes, no shoulder, and fairly narrow travel lanes). He was also going east. When I passed him, he took the lane behind me.

He had a blindingly bright flashing headlight. Unfortunately, it was aimed high enough than when I checked my mirror, I got that bright flash right in my eyes.

So the end results was this: I couldn’t keep an eye on him, to know where he was, whether he might be on my right when I needed to make a right turn, because that flashing light completely destroyed my night vision. I could not tell where he was on the road.

If he wanted to use that light for safety, he actually made things worse. He might have it aimed properly for those driving SUVs and vans, but for those of us who still drive regular old sedans, that light was more of a hazard than a safety feature.

So, for those of you who use flashing headlights, please consider its effect on those around you. Thank you.

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Alex
Alex
6 years ago

There a couple of reason people use flashing. No, typically they are not for the biker to see the road, most affordable bike lights are not that bright. They are for drivers to see you. Flashing is a better way to get attention than a dim light that may not even look like it is moving. The second reason is batteries. Flashing will cause the batteries to last months longer. I am not that big a fan of flashing, but it is wasteful/impractical to go through that many batteries.

Champs
Champs
6 years ago

Bright lights help you be seen. Flashing lights conserve battery. The sum of this combination is greater than its parts. The believers are not easily moved, and so long as this remains one of those you-can’t-tell-me-what-to-do things, I fear that legislation will step in before technology fixes the problem (by choice or coercion).

And while we’re on that obnoxious flashing tip, it’s nice that BikePortland has cut down on animations in the ad sidebar.

Rivelo
6 years ago

USB rechargeable lights render the battery-saving argument pretty much mute. I get a couple weeks out of mine, sometimes more, and they’re good to go again after a few hours plugged into my Macbook.

Super bright flashing lights blind oncoming cyclists as well as motorists, and the helmet-mounted ones are the worst.

I hope that someday soon, bright flashing lights, especially on bike-only paths like the Esplanade, become the social equivalent of lighting a cigarette in an elevator.

Goff V
Goff V
6 years ago

A bright, strobing light shot into a person’s eyes renders them momentarily blind, so they’re not seeing you. If the reason for bright flashing lights is to be seen by the driver coming towards you, then why are you blinding them?Worse, if they happen to be tired, drunk or stoned, they may even fixate on the strobe and veer that 3 ton car over to say hello.

Ted Timmons (Contributor)

I don’t like flashing/strobing lights for many reasons.

But it’s interesting how the attitudes “sorry, I didn’t see you” and “the strobing lights were distracting” can both exist. I can’t fault riders who use flashing lights (and even that aim them upwards) given the standard response of drivers involved in a pedestrian/cyclist crash.

Andy K
Andy K
6 years ago

Use blinking mode on the streets and in bike lanes. It can save your life. When on multi-use paths, point it downward or switch to solid stream.

Eric Leifsdad
Eric Leifsdad
6 years ago
Reply to  Andy K

If you’re not stationary or very slow, blinking lights might get you killed because drivers can’t judge your speed. Bright lights should not blink.

JeffS
JeffS
6 years ago

Reminds me of the guy who covered his eyes and said something about lowering my light bruh, the other week – at about 4pm in the afternoon. All while wearing multiple pieces of high-vis yellow himself.

I don’t get blinking headlights, but they’re much better than whining cyclists. It’s very much the same as the portion of the motorcycle community that criticizes anyone who leaves home without full leathers.

If you biggest problem is what other cyclists are doing, you have a cush life.