LED Bicycle Light Etiquette on Canberra’s bike paths

gasman 24 June 2013 22

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:

    bike light

    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.

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22 Responses to LED Bicycle Light Etiquette on Canberra’s bike paths
Pitchka Pitchka 1:02 pm 30 Aug 13

KB1971 said :

CraigT said :

gungsuperstar said :

I think most of the cycling community are pretty friendly and amenable to each other.

The evidence suggests otherwise.

I often encounter these idiots with ultra-bright lights riding in pairs in the morning. It is impossible to watch out for Kangaroos when some lycra-clad moron is shining a light in your eye.

But once I turn *my* high beams on, the impact of their stupid lights recedes somewhat. Now that I know what the &^$% is going on (just idiots on bikes), I’m quick to flood them with my own high beams.

C#$%s that they are.

Evidence? Show us your evidence, what you have is actually hearsay………

They are definetly c&%*s. This is all the evidence you need, what i say goes…

blueterrestra blueterrestra 11:32 am 30 Aug 13

gungsuperstar said :

I think most of the cycling community are pretty friendly and amenable to each other.

But people need to realise that this isn’t common sense. Unless you frequent a cycling forum or happen upon an article like this, you might not necessarily realise the impact you’re having on others. I know when I started riding I didn’t know – it was a friendly cyclist who pulled up beside me at a set of lights and explained the need to point my light down and slightly to the left.

That would me my suggestion. Rather than assume that the person blinding others is a deliberately ignorant twit, take a minute to politely explain to them how to set up their light.

Spot on. I haven’t had too many problems on the paths. Occasionally some handlbar-mounted beam is aimed a little high, but as I’m already pointing my helmet-mounted Ayups down and left I don’t tend to have as much of a problem.

magiccar9 said :

If you’re using one of the fancy helmet mounted lights and you stop at the traffic lights (like you should), don’t look into the persons car next to you. I don’t take kindly to being blinded at close range just before the light goes green.

Fair enough. I don’t tend to look directly at a driver unless they appear to be about to pull out in front of me, but I’ll take to turning my lights off whilst waiting at intersections (it’s easy enough). Thanks for the tip.

wildturkeycanoe said :

There is a solution to this issue. Mandatory bicycle inspection and registration so that they comply with a suitable standard. The lights could be aimed at an appropriate angle and checked to make sure they aren’t too bright. Everything else about cycling has to comply to an Australian standard, I wonder how many of these lights comply? Wearing them on your head leaves the aiming in the control of the rider, not a very consistent perch where it can be pointed anywhere at all.

For the complaining cyclists here, if registration and enforcement won’t fix this issue, or rubs you the wrong way big time, can you offer an alternative apart from hoping the culprits are reading this forum?

I think this is a simplistic point of view. My helmet mounts are are vastly superior option simply because they allow me to know more about my surroundings. Riding along unlit paths near Mt. Taylor, and even the zoo, you’ll often have kangaroos jump out at short notice. Scanning with my helmet minimises the risk. Someone else pointed out the ninja dog walkers who also like to pop into view at the last moment.

But as you say, helmet mounts are variable – I have to adjust mine each time I put them on my helmet, sometimes even after I’ve started riding. To answer your question, I think a bit of common sense on the part of cyclists will go a long way to helping alleviate any problems. Pedal power could do a bit by trying to educate as many cyclists as they can on potential problems they can cause with their lights. Regulating/licensing/etc just reduces the incentive to buy a bike and ride – do you really want all the cyclists off their bikes and in their cars competing for road space with you?

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