Are cyclists using dangerous bike lights?

Whilst your typical bike light is outputting around 20 Lumens of light it’s easily possible to get hold of lights that emit 1,200 Lumens or more. Needless to say this is often overkill for London’s roads but can be useful down country lanes with no other light sources.

Have you ever been dazzled by bright bike lights? Do you find blinking bike lights to be tougher to cycle behind?

Discuss…

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115 Responses to Are cyclists using dangerous bike lights?

  1. Peter 25/11/2011 at 7:28 am #

    I’m surprised these over-bright lights haven’t caused more accidents

    Do they really want the drivers coming toward them to not be able to see where they are going (due to after-images of the bright lights on their eyes) and giving them epileptic fits from the blinking?

    • Gaz 25/11/2011 at 11:33 am #

      Flashing bicycle lights can’t give off epileptic fits. Have a quick read about how that kind of epilepcy works and then compare that to the flashing pattern on bicycle lights.

      • Peter 25/11/2011 at 7:18 pm #

        well that’s comforting. but they certainly dazzle and prevent people from seeing where they are going.

  2. jonboy0011 25/11/2011 at 8:39 am #

    I think it’s a good question to ask. I have a 800 lumen (max) front light which certainly means that I get noticed. But I do make sure I use it responsibly. The hot spot of the light is always on the ground so will never go into a driver’s eyes. It’s worth remembering that bike lights are typically higher than car lights, so powerful lights really should be angled downwards. I think the new development of road-specific lights which mimic the sharp cut-off at the top of a road car beam are a good step forward, but will take time to be adopted more broadly.

  3. Jon in GM 25/11/2011 at 8:42 am #

    I’ve never been blinded by a cyclist’s headlamp. Most/all of the high power lamps have lower power settings, which makes sense if only to conserve power. And in what circumstances would a driver really be blinded by something on the far side of the road?

    I find I am increasingly having to compete with illegal use of fog lamps, and the increasing incidence of pointless DRLs, both used in conjunction with focused beams and HIDs instead of diffracted light. These make cyclists less visible and more vulnerable in the shiny war – especially to cars emerging from side roads.

    I’ll do what I can to stand out, and that means using a combination of blinkies, steady and a more powerful lamp strobing.

    On the very rare occasions that I’m behind a cyclist with very bright tail lamps, I simply don’t stare at it. Again, I’d rather have cyclists that stand out in gloomy, wet streets surrounded by brightly lit shops, and cars with rear fogs on and sitting at traffic signals resting their foot on the brake (a combination of which could give you up to 5 high intesnsity lamps lighting up the world standing still!)

    Again, my configuration is a mixture of steady, flashing and strobing.

    No, I don’t think it’s likely that other road users are genuinely dazzled by most cyclists. We need to set out to be seen-without-doubt. Some road users might find it a bit bright, but that doesn’t mean they’re dazzled to a point beyond safety. I’d rather we tackled:
    a) overkill on cars, who definitely do not need their full arsenal on a lit, urban street;
    b) ninja cyclists with insignificant or no lamps, failing batteries, and no attempt at passive conspicuity such as light clothing.

    Sorry if I have rambled. It is my way.

  4. IanVisits 25/11/2011 at 8:53 am #

    If the purpose of a front lamp is to illuminate the road ahead, can someone explain the point of having a light point straight ahead instead of at the road, and flashing repeatedly?

    I have been blinded so many times by these flashing horrors and I am totally bemused as to their purpose which seems completely at odds with their function.

    • Jon in GM 25/11/2011 at 9:16 am #

      @IanVisits
      That’s only part of its function, and most usefully on unlit routes.
      The other function – more important on lit, [sub]urban routes, is to be seen. That is why they point ahead (to their intended audience) and why they flash.

      I personally don’t like having only flashing – it can undermine others’ perception of your distance/position and speed, but along with a steady, it screams out “CYCLIST” like nothing else does.

    • Hannah 25/11/2011 at 9:26 am #

      The main purpose of my lights is not to illuminate the road ahead of me. It is to make sure that I am seen; that someone spots me out of all the chaos and confusion on London’s roads. There is street lighting for my whole 9 mile journey home from work, and if it were me alone, I could easily manage without lights. On the rare occasions I have driven in London, I have found it far easier to spot cyclists with flashing lights. I use a combination of flashing and steady for front and back, but would always choose flashing over steady if it were either/or. I want that driver pulling out onto the road I’m on to see me coming every single time. Does this explain the point at all?

    • Chris Rowan 25/11/2011 at 10:12 am #

      Their purpose is to get the cyclist noticed by drivers in order to prevent them from killing them. Seems to have done the trick.

    • Woody 25/11/2011 at 10:56 am #

      Two types of light:
      see
      be seen

      Most commuter bike lights are of the second variety. You use them so others notice you. It’s rare in a city that the road is not well lit enough to see where you’re going; but a cyclist in dark clothing and no lights blends in very well.

      Flashing lights are more attention-grabbing than constant-on lights.

      I use a helmet mounted Exposure Joystick, pointed at the road when I’m moving – it’s useful to lift your head and get attention when you need it, but not bright to oncoming vehicles. I also use a handlebar mounted Exposure spark, pointed slightly off-centre and at the road 30ft in front, so it’s not directly in the eyes of the road user. Both are extremely bright; I use the joystick on lowest brightness setting, and the spark on flash. Two rear lights as well, in the same config. Set up properly, ‘be seen’ lights shouldn’t blind drivers, no matter how bright they are. Far worse is the bizarre use of fog lights in clear conditions by the Impreza crowd.

      • Henz 26/11/2011 at 11:01 pm #

        “Two types of light:
        see
        be seen”

        Exactly.

        Although as already noted “be seen” can (and should) be divided into: “see me” (flashing) and “see my position + velocity” (constant).

        The second type could also be used as “see” lights if good enough.

    • Marianna 25/11/2011 at 11:18 am #

      They point ahead so that drivers coming out onto the road you’re one from a side street can spot you; if you cycle in london they are a life-saver

      They are not so much for illuminating the road ahead of you tpo be honest

    • Gaz 25/11/2011 at 11:35 am #

      A bicycle light has a few potential uses. You have obviously pointed out one, to light up the road ahead so you can see.
      What about to grab attention of other road users so you stand out? That is what the flashing pattern is for. It grabs the attention and is only used by cyclists.

  5. William Hook 25/11/2011 at 9:04 am #

    I have a 1,000 lumen bike light, but it’s for offroad use on mountain bike trails. If I’m riding on the road, I’ll drop it down to the lowest setting which I believe is about 200 lumen or so. I think.

    Even that is bright, so I really don’t see the point of buying a light that pumps out huge amounts of light for road use, when it just ends up blinding everyone.

    • Richard Dawson 25/11/2011 at 9:17 am #

      I commute on unlit country roads and in towns,12 months of the year. I used my light on full power when I need it 1200 lumens. Even when I don’t need a light to see where I am going I still use the “flashing” mode as I find it attracts driver’s eyes better than a static light. It’s better to be seen than not.

    • Marianna 25/11/2011 at 11:18 am #

      So drivers cannot avoid spotting you

  6. Balint 25/11/2011 at 9:08 am #

    I don’t really see what we’re talking about – car headlamps put out 700-3000 lumen (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Headlamp) and they’ve got a pair of those. And careless pedestrians have stumbled in front of me plenty of times in spite of my super-light Exposure Strada, so there’s no such thing as overkill when it comes to lights in my opinion:)

    • Andrew Yeomans 26/11/2011 at 11:58 am #

      It’s not the lumens but the lux that matters. Lumens measure the total amount of light emitted, so are good for working out the efficiency of a lamp. Lux measures the brightness, so varies across the beam.

      My current cycle lamp (3W CREE LED 160 lumens from http://www.maplin.co.uk/3w-rechargeable-tactical-led-torch-415752) has the bright area of comparable brightness to car headlamps, surrounded by a much larger but dimmer area. In contrast, the car headlights have a much broader bright area, so need more lumens to get the same lux value.

      In other words, you can’t compare different lumen values without looking at beam size.

  7. Friedel 25/11/2011 at 9:17 am #

    For what it’s worth, flashing lights are illegal in the Netherlands. I don’t think most people are troubled by lights that are too bright, however. A far bigger problem is the cyclist with no lights at all…

    • Ian 25/11/2011 at 12:05 pm #

      I always understood that flashing lights, fixed on a bike, were against illegal in the U.K. Worn on the person; legal!

      • Ian 25/11/2011 at 12:07 pm #

        Hey this is no good I can’t edit my typos!

      • Jon in GM 25/11/2011 at 12:29 pm #

        It’s a complicated subject but, in simple terms, no – not since 2005.

        More details at http://www.ctc.org.uk/desktopdefault.aspx?tabid=4071

        What it amounts to is that flashing lights are allowed.

        Lamps may not (are often not) “legal” in the sense that they meet the legal minimum requirement, but they are lawful in that they may be used (in addition to legal lamps). You’re not allowed to use any lamp inconsiderately.

        The gap between the legal requirement and the available supply (it takes some looking to make sure what you are buying meets the specific terms) means that technical infringement seems to be sensibly overlooked as long as you’re doing your bit.

        A plod who stops you because your flashy has a steady mode that is not BS 6102/3 is guilty of the offence of being a bit of an arse [Jobsworth and Being An Arse (Plod) Regulations 2005, r23].

        And nobody seems to notice that SPDs quite often render you illegal at night if they have no pedal reflectors, or that lots of bikes don’t have a rear reflector.

        There is no real danger of being booked (see J&BAA[P] Regs), unless you have really wound them up. The only other danger is with insurance companies mitigating payouts if you didn’t comply. That hasn’t happened yet (to my knowledge, but IANAL), and it is unlikely if you’ve made the effort because they would have to prove that your failure actually contributed to a collision.

        Not legal advice, DYOR, etc, etc.

  8. Mikey 25/11/2011 at 10:10 am #

    While there are some very bright lights out there, even a 400 lumen light can disappear in to the black when it’s being passed by newer cars at night using dipped front lamps and the now mandated LED lighting. I’m aware of the problem where cyclists are using very bright lights, on unlit cycle paths, meaning visibility is reduced to everyone who is approaching such a bright light, but also, a light that is just illuminating a tiny patch of path in front of a cyclist is not much use in the dark, like driving a car along a dark lane using only a dipped beam.

    My view is also biased as I do not live in a city, so all of my cycling is generally on unlit roads and lanes, and seldom involves oncoming cyclists, I’m ‘competing’ with motorists, I want the most practical light I can get, but also it is my responsibility to use those lights in a manner that that does not blind other road users, perhaps there is a market for a light that does this gracefully…

  9. Malcis 25/11/2011 at 10:23 am #

    Don’t forget that cyclists share space with pedestrians and other cyclists too. In my commute through Vauxhall I am often blinded by other cyclists’ lights and see pedestrians shielding their eyes from astonishingly high powered cycle lights. Let’s not allow ‘getting even’ with cars make us bad citizens to people who are just as vulnerable as us.

  10. PaulM 25/11/2011 at 10:25 am #

    My Exposure Joystick is apparently rated at 325 lumens which is quite enough for country lanes, and I only use it on max power, steady beam, to light my way. But, it is also effective at grabbing the attention of motorists who don’t seem to notice me when I only have my dynamo-lit Bausch & Muller fron halogen light.

  11. Simon 25/11/2011 at 10:29 am #

    Bright lights can be dangerous in town. Many a time I have been closely followed by a bike sporting beam so powerful that it casts a very dark shadow of me against the kerb – rendering the kerb (and drain covers and potholes) invisible to me.

    Cyclists are always their own worst enemies – they believe that the onus is always on everyone else to see them when if fact, it is they that should be more aware of what others might do. Cars do pull out without looking and pedestrians will step off th kerb – we just have to learn to anticipate better.

    I ride many thousands of miles a year both in town and in the country lanes in the dark and I have a number of lights that suit the ride I’m going to do. We do not need overly bright lights in town.

  12. liz 25/11/2011 at 10:29 am #

    I use 2 lights on my bike 1 brighter and pointing down in the road and 1 flashing. I also use 2 on the rear 1 static on the bike and a flashing light on my helmet. I have been blinded not by cyclists but by car headlights on full beam. What concerns me is the amount of cyclists I see on dark bikes in dark clothing. An accident just waiting to happen.

  13. ian 25/11/2011 at 10:30 am #

    I agree with Malcis…. I commute through SE into Camberwell and Vauxhall and on several occasions have been taken aback by the brightness of some riders front lamps!!! I have the strobe on mine constantly so attracting drivers attention as much as possible, but to bright can give more glare and actually distract other road users… I think that it is a good thing to have powerful light with strobe effect as well as being constantly on but their owners should direct them slightly better so the power of the lamp doesn’t cause blindness to others.

  14. Andrew Wilcox 25/11/2011 at 10:38 am #

    I need a brighter light for the country roads to see the potholes and encourage car drivers to dim their lights earlier.

    In London a bright flashing light is enough.

  15. Kerena 25/11/2011 at 10:40 am #

    I use a Smart Lunar 35 – which apparently has 35 lux (is a lux the same as a lumen?!). I use it in conjunction with a small rechargeable Revolution LED. When I’m on the streets, I use the main light on its lowest setting but when I hit the canal, I bump it up to the brighter setting, because there are no lights on the towpaths & I need it to spot the potholes, the cyclists with no lights and the pedestrians dressed in black. I do also point the light downwards on the canal so that it isn’t at anyone’s eye level (apart from dogs possibly) I have once on the canal been told my light was too bright.
    Dazzling car & lorry drivers can’t be a good idea, but making yourself as visible as possible must be. I guess it’s a fine line, but to most road users, we will always be in the wrong anyway!

    • Andrew Yeomans 26/11/2011 at 12:03 pm #

      As I noted above, lux is NOT the same as lumen. Lux is the important measure of brightness, but as it varies across the beam, is not a simple number.

  16. Shades 25/11/2011 at 10:40 am #

    I don’t think you need seriously bright lights round town and front flashers are very disorientating. Making yourself conspicuous is more important (additional helmet light, high-viz jacket, reflectives etc). I have one slow-flash LED on the back in addition to my steady light. I used to hate high-viz jackets but after looking at other cyclists when I was in the car, it convinced me otherwise. That said, I have one long ride home once a week where I need a bright light (NiteRider – 350 Lumen) and for the 1-2 miles on-road at the end, cars do notice me more. Perhaps they think I’m a motorbike? On a particular car journey on a dark dual carriageway I often overtake a cyclist who has the best lights I’ve seen, but he’s in black kit so he completely blends into the background. If drivers think cyclists are overdoing it on the lights, then it won’t change while there’s a minority of inconsiderate drivers and perhaps they need to get on a bike and find out how it feels without a steel tin round them. I just had my ‘annual meeting’ with homicidal white van man the other day so my ‘driver sympathy meter’ is at zero!

  17. Claire 25/11/2011 at 10:45 am #

    The worst thing is the nutters who don’t use any lights at all – presumably they must know that they are completely invisible. Crazy.

    • Gaz 25/11/2011 at 11:39 am #

      But you saw them, so they can’t be completely invisible.

  18. Matt 25/11/2011 at 10:59 am #

    flashing lights do seem to help your visibility, and I use them whenever I’m on a city road (London). But they definitely have blinding effects on other cyclists & pedestrians when in darker areas, such as a park, canal towpath etc. So I just try to remember to switch them into steady mode when changing from road to towpath etc.

  19. Rabi 25/11/2011 at 11:08 am #

    With cars getting bigger, and higher, it seems to me that the majority of big cars, especially Range Rovers and other SUV’s blind me even with dipped lights, purely because their headlamps are so high. I don’t think cyclists should try and compete with ever-brighter lights, because you’ll only get lost amongst all the other headlamps on the road. Exposure do a light with a switch, allowing you to change form a full to a dipped beam, which is probably the best option if you really want to use a high-powered light.

    Having seen cyclists on the road with these high-output lights, all it ends up doing is dazzling the driver and causing a massive dark area immediately behind the light i.e. the rider. This effectively reduces your visual impact to drivers, making you a smaller target.

    Cyclists should take advantage of the fact that we are legally allowed to use flashing lights and reflective scotchlite (two things that only the emergency services/vehicle recovery/roadworks vehicles are allowed to use!), which instantly separates us from motor vehicles. By separating yourself from regular traffic, as a flashing high-vis christmas tree, your more likely to stand out, rather than be just another bright light in a sea of bright lights…

  20. Tim 25/11/2011 at 11:15 am #

    I think when driving my car in London it is good to see the cyclist as well as the light. This enable to estimate their speed on approach. When the light is too bright as a driver you see only the light and not the cyclist and it is harder to estimate their travelling speed.

    As a cyclist in London obviously you don’t need a light to see but I view the flashing lights as a great aid in being seen. Riding in the country or on dark towpaths as others have said requires a steady stream of light of much greater brightness.

    Solution a light that has variable settings and controls.

    • Gaz 25/11/2011 at 11:40 am #

      Depends where you ride in London. Some sections of road have very poor street lighting and the royal parks have very minimal lighting. Good strong lights are required to cycle through these areas.

  21. David 25/11/2011 at 11:21 am #

    I have often wondered about the best configuration of lights for cyclists (i.e. flashing/steady). I think it is time for some scientific tests from a cycle organisation to come up with the definitive answers. I have a Cateye combination ……. the front says 400+ candlepower ( 1 high power LED) whereas the rear says 25,000+ mcd (5 super bright LED) ……. do manufacturers really expect us all to know what these parameters mean or what applications they are for ?

    • Ray Whitehouse 25/11/2011 at 11:32 am #

      I agree, manufacturers should be obliged to size the lights in a common way probably in the 2 most common formats so we know how to compare them.

    • Bill Morgan 25/11/2011 at 11:39 am #

      I personally find it much harder to judge distance of another cyclist if they have flashing lights, so for a car driver this might lead them to either wait longer then necessary or pull out dangerously depending on their nature.

      I suspect a combo of flashing and static may be the best whatever power rating you go for.

  22. Gaz 25/11/2011 at 11:31 am #

    Bright lights are not overkill on London’s roads!
    Think how a crappy cateye looks against a queue of cars. It barely stands out. Add in the lights from all traffic, cyclists, cars, busses and don’t forget the light from shops and street lamps / signs. You really need to make sure you stand out and a £20 cateye is not up to that.

    As long as you don’t use a stupidly bright light and as long as you don’t point it too high up then I don’t see the problem.
    I’ve been dazzled by some of the crappest lights but that is just down the angle that people point them at

    • Bill Morgan 25/11/2011 at 11:37 am #

      Yes the angle is really the point here. I’ve been blinded while legally doing a 3-point turn in a car, by a cyclist with a nuclear powered searchlight on the front of his bike. The end result was that I sat there blocking his route with my hand shielding my eyes until he got the message.

      I use flashing LEDs on my bike which seem to work fine in conjunction with various reflective strips on clothing and panniers. Can’t see why you need a big spotlight to be seen.

      • Gaz 25/11/2011 at 11:43 am #

        A big spot light is awesome, it makes me look like a motorbike which is great when doing 30mph as people don’t pull out in front of you.

  23. Alan Moore 25/11/2011 at 11:44 am #

    I have once thought woah, steady on mate, that’s pretty dazzling. But as most people have pointed out, it’s much less of an issue than those without lights.

  24. Iain 25/11/2011 at 11:52 am #

    I’m surprised so many feel they don’t need a light to see – I clatter through a ridiculous number of potholes, sunken drains etc and that’s with knowing the road and trying to take a line to avoid them! (Bike’s currently in the shop for a rear wheel replacement [it's second] thanks to the pounding it gets.) I run a selection of lights, all aimed towards the ground giving me a pool of light approx 10m ahead and to either side (a recent CatEye is the first headlight I’ve found that gives light ina decent spread rather than just a dot… very useful when it takes 10 weeks to get streetlights fixed!) I generally run with most lights on solid, with a pair of fork mounted frogs flashing at thy front wheel’s reflective spokes. BTW I run multiple lights as insurance, 4 hours of riding a day means batteries that we’re fine on one run can go very quickly, I’ve started keeping a charged set at work and even then had a dark run the other night, but at least I still had lights.

    For most of my commute, it’s not just the lighting, but your road position that keeps you visible, hiding by the kerb won’t get you seen. Riding along CS3 in the dark can be fun with Ninjas and those with strobing bright things – you can’t get a fix on a strobing light to determine distance and speed, which is why you shoudl have a solid and flashing light.

    Poorly adjusted vehicle headlights are a real issue – riding a road by memory is not good! Especially as roadworks don’t have lights these days… Main beam used everywhere happens a lot, fog lights when it’s not foggy (and when it is they must magically make the fog vanish as I wouldn’t do 50 in 150m of visibility!)

    I’ve nearly collided a few times with ninjas – almost ran into the back of one on CS7 over Clapham Common (traffic coming theother way) my lights picked up their reflector at the last minute. Had a few near heads ons on some of the blindish corners too, good job I slow for them and assume someone’s coming the other way (why do people assume there won’t be anyone coming?!) Oh, and don’t forget the lights on helmet, carefully positioned so it shines straight behind you when you sit up, at the lights… Great for spotting from a helicopter!

  25. Steve 25/11/2011 at 12:10 pm #

    AFAIK Flashing *FRONT* lights are illegal on UK roads, only back lights can flash.

    These lights have got worse this winter, they seem to be more like flash bulbs than blinking. They leave you blind and can be quite seriously dangerous on bi-directional cycle lanes. When cyclists complain about cyclists you know there is a real problem.

  26. Tom Evans 25/11/2011 at 12:11 pm #

    Flashing lights alone are dangerous, if a driver, pedestrian, or other cyclist looks quickly then they may not see the light (if it is in an off phase) – this has happened to me multiple time. They should only every be used in conjunction with a constant beam light. This is also the high-way code in the UK – you could potentially (though I doubt anyone ever has been) be charged if an accident was considered to have been partly caused by a flashing light not being visible in the off period.

    • Tom Evans 25/11/2011 at 12:12 pm #

      @Steve Sorry, hadn’t seen you comment when I posted – but completely agree!

  27. Tim 25/11/2011 at 12:13 pm #

    Flashing lights used to be illegal Ian but not anymore.

    • Tom Evans 25/11/2011 at 12:15 pm #

      They are not strictly speaking illegal, it is only that the highway code – which can be cited in the broader charge of ‘dangerous driving/ cycling’ – advises not to use them on their own.
      They are fine, and in my opinion useful in conjunction with a constant beam light.

  28. Tim 25/11/2011 at 12:14 pm #

    Front lights are NOT illegal on UK roads they used to be the law changed a few years ago.

  29. Tim 25/11/2011 at 12:16 pm #

    Here are the regulations.
    http://www.ctc.org.uk/desktopdefault.aspx?tabid=4071

    • Tom Evans 25/11/2011 at 12:21 pm #

      Tim is right, it does seem the regulations have changed. However the highway code still advises non-flashing lights in less well lit areas:
      “At night your cycle MUST have white front and red rear lights lit. It MUST also be fitted with a red rear reflector (and amber pedal reflectors, if manufactured after 1/10/85). White front reflectors and spoke reflectors will also help you to be seen. Flashing lights are permitted but it is recommended that cyclists who are riding in areas without street lighting use a steady front lamp. ”
      http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/DG_069837

  30. Shreds 25/11/2011 at 12:42 pm #

    How many cyclists have been killed by having too bright a cycle light?

    How many have been killed by having no lights of very dim lights?

  31. nilling 25/11/2011 at 12:48 pm #

    I’ve been blinded on an unlit path by an oncoming cyclist with a super-bright flashing light :(

    I run a Hope 1 on steady and a Knog Frog on flash on the front. On the rear, I have a red flasher on my helmet and a steady Smart Lunar R1

  32. Johann 25/11/2011 at 12:52 pm #

    Car headlights are very carefully set with a specific spread pattern for when you drive on the left or right of the road. Hence you have to use little blanking stickers on your UK headlighta to stop blinding left hand drive vehicles on the Continent. My car’s Xenons also have a self leveling function to make sure they don’t blind people when the car is loaded.

    But on my bicycle at night it is a different story. I know there is no way (yet) of making self leveling bicycle ligths but the amount of times I’ve been totally blinded at night by oncoming bicycles are too many to mention. Downright dangerous some of these WW 2 Searchlights people fit to their bikes. On a car you can at least flash other drivers to tell them they have their main beams on but on a bicycle you can do nothing. Maybe shout at them asking to lower it? But you have only a few seconds to convey all that in passing so not really a good method. I have two at the front, one flashing and one on steady. And both point down to the road ahead of me.

    • Jon in GM 25/11/2011 at 1:43 pm #

      “Car headlights are very carefully set with a specific spread pattern ”
      Unfortunately, it isn’t always effective because:
      1) drivers rarely set the pitch adjuster to match the circumstances
      2) headlamps can often be out of adjustment
      3) bumps, bends and brows mean that, although auto-levelling occurs, it isn’t always effective or fast enough
      4) auto-levelling or otherwise moving in/out of the beam can often lead to a flash effect
      5) some cars have the auo pitch too high

      Sadly, this is a case (like DRLs) of car manufacturers creating an engineering solution to a problem that didn’t exist, in order to create aspirational allure.

      • Johann 25/11/2011 at 2:06 pm #

        @ Jon in GM: you can throw that little argument at anything in life I’m afraid. There will ALWAYS be a tiny percentage of ANYTHING that is set incorrectly or will be outside the set parameters. To paint all the other headlights that are correctly set and/or used with this same brush is a bit rich.

        • Jon in GM 25/11/2011 at 2:29 pm #

          @ Johann

          I don’t generally paint headlamps.
          I’ve been tempted, but never succumbed.

          And I think you’re dismissing my point without addressing it.

      • Amoeba 12/12/2012 at 2:04 pm #

        At least motor-vehicle headlights are checked at the MOT.

        Most powerful bike lights are illegal and dazzle. They produce a conical beam and unless pointed quite steeply downwards, it’s inevitable that they will dazzle.
        They cannot be used safely on Public roads, because they cannot be adjusted to both see the road surface a reasonable distance ahead, without dazzling. Off road oncoming cyclists and everyone else will be dazzled and lose their night vision.

        Since there are no BS approved lights being made when I last looked, the only realistic alternative are German StVZO approved lights. These are road legal. They feature a sharp cut-off beam pattern and if sufficiently powerful, can illuminate the road to ~ 10m or more ahead without dazzling oncoming drivers.

        I really detest being blinded by selfish pigs who can’t be arsed either to adjust or dim their searchlights. It’s antisocial and such people need to be hauled off the road and told to walk home or face a fine.

  33. el-gordo 25/11/2011 at 1:44 pm #

    Funnily enough I was blinded by someone who had managed to attach the sun to the front of their bike last night and it did make me think that there must come a point when there is too much light. I generally like to ride looking well ahead of me but this light genuinely made that impossible.

    I use Cateye (flashing) and Blackburn Flea (constant) front and back and this seems fine for my commute, which includes both lit streets and Richmond Park, which can be pitch black. The Cateye will go on to constant as well in the park but I have more than enough light to see where I am going with those two.

  34. Mark 25/11/2011 at 1:50 pm #

    a few times i have been cycling through a park when a bright light cyclist comes towards me i have to look away because the light is so bright i cant see where im going….. the darkness of the park exagerates the effect. these bright lights are completely ridicuolous

  35. Andrew 25/11/2011 at 2:04 pm #

    I’ve recently upgraded to a Cateye HL-EL540RC for my front light, which kicks out 4000 candlepower, but in a highly focussed beam on the road in front. Hence I think the chances of it blinding other road users is small.

    I use it on flashing mode when riding in London, which has lower battery drain and seems to earn me more space/respect than constant mode. I switch it on to constant as I get out of London and hit the unlit portion of the commute.

  36. k8 25/11/2011 at 2:14 pm #

    The thing I remember most about riding the Dunwich Dynamo is the mesmerising sight of a trillion little red lights blinking on and off all night.

    • Bikebells 25/11/2011 at 6:53 pm #

      I cycle along an unlit canal path and most nights I meet a cyclist whose lights are so bright I have to stop as I am completely blinded and fear toppling in. My own small head light is bright but I cover it with my hand when approaching another cyclist ( yes , sounds a silly thing to do along a narrow path.) I turn the bright head light off when on lit roads as I don’t feel it is needed.. For visibility I think the light reflector panels on bikes and clothing are brilliant when picked up by headlights. I am also investing in some of the glow spokes that were mentioned in the Tokyo report.

      I too despair at all the unlit cyclists .

  37. Yousef 25/11/2011 at 2:47 pm #

    I do ride with two bloody bright lights. (http://eagletac.com/flashlights/t20c2.html)
    One on strobe on the Helmet, the other steady on the Handlebars.
    If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my may years cycling through London is that it is essential to be seen. The lights on my bike aren’t there to help me see my way – London has decent street-lighting – they are there to ensure that other road users will see me and not try to kill me…
    A helmet mounted 300 Lumen Strobe will definitely get you seen.

    So no, the lights aren’t dangerous. I’ve seen too many people with no lights, or lame lights that don’t increase their visibility to the surrounding road users.
    So long as other road users continue to ignore cyclists, I’ll do everything I can to ensure they don’t ignore me.

    • Massimo 25/11/2011 at 4:38 pm #

      Having a very bright light might get you seen, but it can also have the detrimental effect of blinding oncoming drivers and pedestrians. Crossing the road last night, in a highly lit Canary Wharf, I was dazzled by an extremely bright MTB light.

      If you ride in a defensive and well thought-out manner, there is not need to use lights that dazzle people.

      • Andrew 25/11/2011 at 6:01 pm #

        I wish this were true, but it doesn’t appear to be in my experience. Cars seem more aware of me and give me more room when I use both my front lights* than if I just use my much dimmer flashing light. I know some bike lights are extremely bright and agree that they should be angled towards the ground to limit dazzling, but there are good reasons for making yourself visible amongst the even brighter car headlights.

        * An Exposure Joystick that outputs something like 100-150 lumens on medium and a Cateye flasher (a reasonably bright flasher, but a flasher nonetheless).

      • russell 14/11/2012 at 12:53 pm #

        I have been cycling to work in London for 25 years and also own a car. As I was making a rare car drive at 6pm 2 days ago I made myself very unpopular with people behind me (cars and cyclists) as I had to stop and wait for a cyclist to pass. The strobing front light was blinding! These amazing lights might help you to be seen but I think the strobing effect also has a possible negative aspect to road safety.

    • Amoeba 26/11/2011 at 7:40 am #

      It is self evident that cycling without lights or adequate lights after lighting-up time is illegal and stupid, but that doesn’t mean that riding along with a off-road light that is adjusted so as to blind oncoming road users is O.K.!

      Lights that dazzle other road users is illegal, just as illegal as no lights.

      Using blindingly bright lights where there is oncoming traffic is anti-social, selfish irresponsible and dangerous.

      Such lights will stoke further anti-cyclist feeling. So people who engage in such behaviour can include themselves among the enemies of cycling.

    • CP 10/08/2012 at 12:15 am #

      I agree totally.

      • CP 10/08/2012 at 12:17 am #

        I agree totally with Yousef.

    • David 10/08/2012 at 8:03 am #

      As both a cyclist and a car driver, I fully agree that cyclists must be seen. As a car driver very bright flashing lights are dangerous as they prevent the brain getting an accurate sense of how far away the light is – this is particulary true when the cyclist rides up inside a line of cars, when a cyclist suddenly appears alongside! I use “wig-wag” type lights which attract attention but are always “on” making it much easier for other road users to get the distance.

      Why top so many bike useres not have any lights?

  38. John White 25/11/2011 at 6:17 pm #

    I detest blinking lights along the canal – they totally blind me as do bright lights that seem to miraculously point straight in my eyes. Why use flashing lights on the canal – it totally screws up everyone’s night vision

  39. John Gladwin 25/11/2011 at 7:47 pm #

    I use a cateye single shot flashing on handlebar + a cateye double tail lam again flashing also. I also have a couple of tesco cheapies hanging off my rucksack together with a couple of Altura light sticks & a dayglo yellow jacket & night vision tights.
    My helmet also has a couple of cheapie tesco strobe lights.
    Whilst it may seem like overkill cycling in London is about being seen. I’m constantly amazed at the amount of cyclists who think its ok to ride around with no lighting whatsoever. That is complete lunacy. I even have my bike lights on by day.

    Be safe enjoy cycling be seen!!

  40. John 25/11/2011 at 8:02 pm #

    i commute through richmond park. Dazzling oncoming lights are a pain. Totally imconsiderate too

  41. James 25/11/2011 at 8:30 pm #

    I use a Cateye single shot (bright) and a RSP on front (Both shining downwards) and then 3 red lights. 2 Cateye versions and a very bright 2x 1/2 watt lead.
    My head lights point downwards so dont dazzle. My rear lights are bright, I also have a couple of Knogs on my helmet and good cycle gear with reflective stripes.
    Since 1 in 20 cars seems determined to cut you up or forget your existance, I realy dont care. I prefer to get home safe and see my 3 kids and wife. I WANT to be seen and my lights are not brighter than the cars I share the road with. I dont do Canal paths, I do A1, A10, and other main roads mostly.

  42. Alex 26/11/2011 at 10:27 am #

    Cycling round elephant & castle on the very dimly lit CS7 last night I experienced my first real dazzling from an oncoming cyclist. It was shocking and disorienting, i went straight into a pothole as a result. The light was obviously designed to illuminate the road in front of the bicycle, not to scream ‘HERE I AM!!’. For the rest of my journey i kept thinking how needlessly bright the front light was. But really it wasn’t the brightness, it was the angle. High lumens bike lights are no brighter than car headlights but car headlights are dipped by default to avoid dazzling, whereas cyclists can mount them however they please, often irresponsibly pointing directly out into other cyclists/peds/motorists eyes. We all want to be seen, but a blinding visibility aid is an oxymoron. My biggest vis aid is my hi vis jacket, I can happily make do with small front and back knog LEDs because of it, I never have a problem being seen. Cycling with no lights or hi vis jacket (esp in london!) at night is insanity, but blinding others to be seen is just as bad. Maybe more high power lights should come with warnings on how to mount them so as not to dazzle?

    • Amoeba 26/11/2011 at 12:11 pm #

      “Maybe more high power lights should come with warnings on how to mount them so as not to dazzle?”

      This doesn’t work, conical beams are very ineffective for road illumination, if they are adjusted so as to not dazzle they have to be pointed sharply downwards, which means an excessively brightly illuminated area too close to the front wheel. If so adjusted, they are far less effective than a properly adjusted road-legal light with a correctly designed beam geometry.

      It is inevitable that most off-road lights cannot be used satisfactorily on-road.

      http://swhs.home.xs4all.nl/fiets/tests/verlichting/index_en.html#licht-bundel-verlies

      • rob gianos 14/12/2011 at 10:26 pm #

        look ive been hit three times i drive an cycle but while riding my bike ive been hit three times an to be honest the brighter the better other wise your not there till your hit! your right to place the light in a way as not to dazzle or blind but use a damn light blinking if u can an with all the othe obsticles one more isnt guna hurt people driving think there the only one driving everybody does an if you say you dont then you know what? youll get yours eventually everyone is intitle to there space please have some damn cutisy for eveyone it could be your child or a child period!

  43. David Hicks 26/11/2011 at 1:26 pm #

    There is an increasing use of bright white flashing lights on the front of bikes which create a similar effect to strobe lights. Especially where the flash is significantly brighter than the prevailing street lights.
    One side effect of this is that the bright flash makes it more difficult (impossible?) to correctly judge distaces as the bike is only intermittantly visible.
    If there is no sense of “distance”, does this make it more likely that that drivers will misjudge to position of the bicycle?

    • Asher 02/12/2011 at 9:57 am #

      I totally agree, as cyclist and a driver I find it really difficult to judge the distances of cyclists coming towards me with flashing front lights. They are more noticeable, and therefore safer, than people without any lights, but a steady beam on the front is the best bet for letting other people know not just that you’re there, but where you are.

      So I use
      Front: a strong (but not blinding) steady beam on my handlebars. With a small white LED flasher on my helmet.
      Rear: LED flasher on the seat post and another on my rucksac.

  44. Andy 26/11/2011 at 11:48 pm #

    I have 2 1-watt Halfords ‘Mega-Bright’ LEDs mounted on my forks and lighting the road but I also have a 3-watt Cree head torch on my helmet which I have to run on low power (60 lumens dispersed beam) because I’ve found that 1600 lumens focused beam drives taxis off the road and I would never dream of rewarding dangerous driving in such a manner! Seriously? Some of the head lights are so powerful now that they can be dangerous during the day but the cost is probably off-putting to most cyclists. Beware cheap LEDs on ebay from Hong Kong which may strobe rather than flash…

    • Gaz 27/11/2011 at 12:55 am #

      Strobing is definitely one to avoid. I recall having one guy behind me with a strobing light which he pointed far too high up. Every time i did a shoulder check I was blinded, ended up slowing down and letting him pass just to give my eyes some rest.

  45. simon 27/11/2011 at 9:02 am #

    I have been dazzled and distracted by the very bright offroad type lights. The other issue is while flashing lights definitely attract attention it makes it really difficult to judge the distance to the cyclist. On narrow cycle 2 way routes like the cs2 on cable street and theroute nr tavistock gardens some of the brightest seem really dazzling. I have an IQ Cyo dnamo light hich has a very flat beam pattern and a falsshing cateye on my handle bars which is pointed down to ensure it does not dazzle. I am baffeld by cyclists with no lights or tiny lights with run down batteries. This mixture of very bright, falshing and dim lights really make understanding approaching cyclists’ intentions very difficult.

  46. Evan 27/11/2011 at 1:35 pm #

    I use very bright lights and I make no excuse for it. There is no question that I am safer for it.

    However I agree with previous posts that bright *flashing* lights are inappropriate. I drive large vans for work and, using the nearside mirror, it is difficult to judge the distance to a cyclist with a bright flashing front light.

    • Owww my eyes 23/02/2012 at 6:19 pm #

      Yes and dangerous if they cause a fit in someone or someone with light sensitivity like me to fall over into the road. Flashing lights don’t actually make much ergonomic sense, as the cones in the eyes are having to change so much meaning more brain power on interpreting the change than on where or what it is.

      Can we ban flashing lights please!

  47. Kirsten 28/11/2011 at 11:32 am #

    There should be a warning introduced on the packs of lights or some sort of brightness indicator clearly stating those lights suitable for inner city cycling.

    I have been blinded so many times following bicycles with totally unecessary bright lights on the cycle paths around London.

  48. scouserinlondon 28/11/2011 at 1:26 pm #

    Bright front lights are fine as long as they’re angled properly. I worry about my rear lights (Smart R1 & R2) as they’re just very bright and flood the area behind me. I’ve started using the R2 on ‘pulse’ in the dark to reduce the strobe effect.

    Generally I think that in Urban environments you should have bright solid (well aimed) light and a flasher on the roads. But as the enviornment changes you need to change your lighting, like turning off the flasher on the tow paths/common.

  49. ari 28/11/2011 at 3:38 pm #

    I dont think bright lights on bikes is an issue at all. What is an issue are cars with xenon bulbs that completely blind you and other road users. The average bike light wont go anywhere near that level. But I would agree that its important to angle your light properly so you dont dazzle other road users.

    Even with londons’ street lights, a bright light is needed to see potholes and uneven road surfaces. Especially if your riding in north london like I do. Its horrible. Our roads got shredded in last years cold weather and they have yet to be fixed properly.

    • CP 10/08/2012 at 12:28 am #

      You are correct. On dark country roads my little LEDs are unable to light a path in front of me but the oncoming traffic with headlights on high are blinding for me. My hi vis clothing/reflectors helps drivers to see me but does not help me to see the potholed road ahead.

  50. MCRcycling 30/11/2011 at 11:53 am #

    It’s all about the beam shape, dipped beams put the light on the road where it is needed rather than simply blinding oncoming traffic. The upshot of this is that you can have lights with outputs as high as you like because the light isn’t going straight into the eyes of oncoming road users, or alternatively you can get the same amount of useful road illumination from a lot less raw light output. Sadly, other than a few exceptions, the only bike lights with proper optics are dynamo lights, such as the Edelux, Cyo and Phillips Saferide (pretty much anything by B&M). Having said that, anyone who rides in the dark relatively frequently would have to be mad not to invest in a dynamo system.

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