Aren’t those new high-power LED bike lights amazing? For under $100, you can now get a 300 or 600 lumen bike light. A few bucks more gets you 1200 lumens! That’s brighter than most car headlights. All powered by a couple of AA batteries or equivalent.
Car headlights have a design standard that makes sure the beam of light is directed down to the ground and little of the light is spilled upwards to blind oncoming drivers. The high-beam doesn’t, which is why it is routine practice to dip your high-beam when there is on-coming traffic. Unless you have bought an expensive European bike light (which follow car headlight standards), your bike light shines in a conical beam, with much of those lumens going straight ahead and upwards, straight into the eyes of oncoming cyclists.
As I ride home every evening I am constantly blinded by oncoming cyclists with their whizz-bang high power bike lights. Its so blinding that often I can’t see where I am going, and it is quite dangerous to both parties.
Here are a few points of LED bike light etiquette that may be helpful for all of us that ride at night.
- 1. Just because you have 1200 lumens does not mean you have to use all 1200 of them all the time. Dip it to the low setting when passing another cyclist.
2. Point the light more towards the ground
3. If your light is on your helmet, look straight down or off to the left when passing oncoming cyclists
4. Make a little plastic hood for you light to block the upper beam. It has the bonus advantage that you get an illuminated hood visible from the sides. Here is mine I made from the lid of my favourite marmalade:
5. As you pass oncoming cyclists, place your hand flat over the top of the light to shield the upper beam, just like the hood above.
6. Dip your 1200 lumen light to its low setting. Oh, I already said that. Worth repeating. Like 4 wheel drives, having a super-bright bike light does not prove your manhood.
A little bit of courtesy make all of our commutes safer and more pleasant.