The dazzling bike light epidemic

Cyclist zooms past

Have you ever been cycling merrily along and suddenly an ultra bright bike light blinds you?

According to a recent spate of emails I’ve been receiving this is becoming a “hot issue” for London’s cyclists.

Cyclists tend to love their accessories. From our waterproof jackets, to our bike locks and our bike lights. It seems in the later category, people are choosing ultra bright lights, to both see the road ahead and to be seen.

There’s a stark difference between a bike light such as the Magicshine MJ-872 and your typical front bike light. The Magicshine was original designed for mountain bikers. It’s incredibly useful for late night cycling, down off road trails or even down country lanes.

The power of a bike light is typically measured in Lumens. The Magicshine provides 1600 Lumens of light. In comparison, a typical bike light will provide around 20 Lumens.

The result of any cyclists unfortunate enough to be caught in the beam is that they’ll be dazzled or even temporarily blinded.

In response, you have to slow down and avoid looking at the beam of the light. Even then, the effects can be at best irritating and at worst dangerous.

As a driver you tend to reserve your full beam lights for dark country lanes. The moment you notice another car, you are meant to turn them off.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy for a cyclist to do the same things as bike lights tend to be located further along the handlebars. This would mean removing your hands from your handlebars to adjust them, every time you saw another cyclist.

The common sense practise would be to reserve full power bike lights for quiet country lanes or locations where you are not likely to dazzle a fellow cyclist.

The problem tends to be focused on front bike lights that are either on the handlebars or on a helmet. However, I’ve also heard reports of issues with ultra bright rear bike lights.

I personally tend to cycle with two small bike lights of around 20 Lumens. This is enough to be seen, but won’t cause a problem for a cyclist coming towards me. I have found myself on the receiving end of ultra bright lights. While it’s a little frustrating, there’s not much I can do.

So what should be done about this “epidemic”?

There’s obviously no harm in calmly approaching a cyclist with ultra bright lights and letting them know why that might be an issue. Although, you may well be told to mind your own business!

I’m interesting in hearing your opinions in this one. Leave a comment below and I look forward to reading your thoughts.

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115 Responses to The dazzling bike light epidemic

  1. Adam 14/02/2013 at 9:05 pm #

    This is a big problem on the Bristol To Bath Railway Path at the moment. It seems this year in particular extremely bright lights have become affordable to a lot more people and as a result lots of people are buying them for regular road and cycle path use without realising what they’ve got.

    Plenty of people are aware of how bright their lights are too though and seem to be able to put their hands over the beam when they near cyclist coming the other way or just set them up so they’re angled down at the road / path slightly on the bracket.

    I personally have a Hope Vision 1 light which I’ve had for years and usually travel with it angled downwards. If I encounter a particularly dark and unpopulated stretch of my route then I angle it up a bit. This is made easier by it having a quick release type bracket though, which I set tight enough to grip the bars but also be manoeuvrable if I need to dip it down or point it up a bit.

    The worst problem of all that I encounter tends to be the people who have a few hundred lumens of light set on flashing mode too. It makes it even more blinding!

  2. William Hook 14/02/2013 at 9:38 pm #

    I have a both a 1000 lumen Hope R4 and a 2000 lumen mtb batteries Luminator, and I use both for mountain biking frequently at my local forest (Cannock Chase in the Midlands), though I have used the R4 on busy roads before.

    These lights are clearly designed for off-road use, and they’re necessary if you’re hurtling down a trail in a pitch black forest, however, you do NOT need to have them at full brightness on a road. Ever! I’ve used mine on the road before, but I always make sure that it’s set to the lowest setting and pointed downwards – that means that other road users are getting 100 lumens, rather than 1000.

    I’ve glimpsed the ultra-bright mountain bike lights on the road before from a car, as well as seeing them fairly often on the group night rides I do with friends, and if anyone uses them at full brightness on the road they should be fined. They are *far* too bright and should not be legal for road use at all.

  3. GMBasix 15/02/2013 at 1:08 am #

    It’s horses for courses (as the supermarkets might suggest): sometimes it’s too bright; other times you’re competing to be seen against clusters of cars with headlamps, fogs and their brand spanking new DRLs.

    I find I’m using lights more in the daytime.

    Sometimes you’re on flowing but not overly-congested roads; other times its thick with cars and its dark and raining and you need to stand out.

    I think you have to judge your circumstances and appreciate who and what’s around you.

    I think I strike a reasonable balance: a modest Cateye steady on the bars; a couple of budget Knogs flashing on the forks, and an Exposure Duablo on the lid, set to the distinctive but less imposing pulse mode. It won’t burn any retinae out, but I won’t get hit coz they didn’t know I was there!

    I don’t think where I am we’ve hit a saturation of searchlights – there are way too many ninjas instead. It means the occasional supertrouper shouldn’t really be a problem, although pitch and brightness settings should be managed.. And we have to make sure we’re not overshadowed by boys with shiny-toy cars.

  4. Over 40 Cyclist 15/02/2013 at 2:17 am #

    Interesting debate. There’s arguments on both sides. I do some group rides in the early morning when it’s still dark. Originally I had average quality lights, but after a scary moment when, coming downhill, I almost hit a fallen branch because my lights didn’t show it in time (the bunch had struck out on the descent) I decided to buy some good front lights.

    I now ride with Ayup lights, which are excellent, though many of the bunch now have other even brighter lights which have come along since. Some of these are just LED torches purchased on eBay along with a mount.

    I know how bright these lights can be to oncoming drivers because I’ve approached them at night as a driver. They can be very dazzling. In fact I know that some people in my group will actually lift their lights by hand where an oncoming driver has failed to dip his headlights because that is sufficient to prompt him to do so, just like flashing headlights in a car.

    But when it’s dark and you’re going fast I wouldn’t be without my high quality lights.

    And as you say there are now some extremely bright bike taillights available as well. Most of them have different settings, including flash. Some of these are so bright when bunch riding that they are extremely irritating to the cyclist immediately behind, and some of the people in our bunch have been asked to either point them down or stop the flashing because of this.

    So yes, modern LED lights are extremely good, and I love mine. But they do have their drawbacks

  5. MJ Ray 15/02/2013 at 7:53 am #

    Not seeing this in Norfolk yet. The numbers of ninjas and cars that don’t dip far outnumber misdirected bike lights still.

  6. Pete 15/02/2013 at 8:58 am #

    My take on the brightness of light is, if they are for sale in the bikeshops, they have gone through some kind of regulation, but alas, not on the governments own website.. There is no regulation for any vehicle in regards to how bright a light can be, only a consideration to cause and effect. Now, I take this as someone has pointed out above, if you think that your light is too bright, then angle it towards the road or path if you are using a well travelled way, if you are using a path or road that is not so, then use it to your advantage. I stress that when I am cycling around with my opticube light, it is pointing about 20 foot away at the floor and slightly left of centre, I travel around mainly lit tarmac and every Police person I have chatted to about lighting has said to me that a light is needed after dusk to let other road users know I am there, it is called being considerate. I also have a forest on my doorstep, which when I ride there at night there are no street lights to help me see so I alter my light slightly, more to the right so the beam is central to my direction of travel. I often cover the top half of my light with my hand if I notice I am approaching others coming towards me, this give me light to still see by and a consideration to those coming towards me. I have as far as I can remember, never caused an accident by having too bright a light. I have never been in an accident where the blame can be levied at the light of an oncoming transportation device, even on country lanes where there has been many a pass by oncoming transportation devices using full beam. There are now lights that can be fitted to transportation devices that emit 3400 lumens, so where people say that the light is too bright on bicycle lights, they should stop and think of the light pollution that is given off by other transportation devices and the competition to be seen amongst these brightly lit transportation devices on the most fragile transportation device of all, a bicycle. Be considerate and the Police will not tell you your light is the wrong kind for the application you are using it for. Motorbikes have access to the new bright HID bulbs that emit 3400 lumens, their headlights are roughly the same height as most cycle lights, they have a garage set their angle of light up, so should you, that is, set up the angle of your light as to be considerate to other path or road users. With that said, please enjoy your night ride and stay rubber side down..

  7. Dave 15/02/2013 at 9:16 am #

    I suppose technically it’s ‘off road’, but it always used to annoy me when cycling home from work along a stretch of towpath leading to Paddington Basin, I would be completely blinded by cyclists coming the other way with powerful lights. It just seemed really selfish to me.

  8. Paul James 15/02/2013 at 9:18 am #

    Dazzing other people with your lights is illegal.

    If you are dazzled whilst on your bike by another bike user PLEASE STOP and say so. I’ve not been dazzled at exactly the wrong time yet, but we need to be self policing about this.

  9. Jon 15/02/2013 at 9:20 am #

    I don’t think the problem is with high power lights that cast a beam, more with superbright LEDs that commuters use. Riding in London the other day, I turned my head to check if it was safe to overtake another cyclist and was promptly blinded by the guy behind me. So I’m all for a little bit more education around light setup.

    Many cyclists in town are clearly unaware of where their light is pointing – proven by the amount of rear lights that are next to useless because they’re hanging limp from a saddle or sticking off the corner of someone’s bag.

    For what it’s worth, I just bought a Topeak light and it clearly instructed you to angle it down so as to not blind other road users. Some sort of consistent messaging adopted by all manufacturers would be good.

  10. Gaz 15/02/2013 at 9:21 am #

    The problem is people buy off road lights and they don’t change the beam pattern. As such they put a lot of light into places you don’t really need it. Which is basically right into the eyes of other people.

    A better beam pattern and a bright light isn’t a problem.

    One thing I have started to notice is people using insanely fast flash modes on these bright lights, usually because they have bought a light which isn’t designed for bicycles and the flashing pattern is designed to disorientate people (used for self defense). This are a right pain, especially when they are behind you and you are trying to do a shoulder check. What they don’t realise is they are potentially doing them selves harm, disorientate a car driver coming towards you and they may crash into you.

  11. Dave 15/02/2013 at 9:28 am #

    I think they are awful and display a blatant disregard for the safety of others. On one late night occasion the cycle light coming towards me was so bright it temporarily blinded me and it was sod’s law there was a bloody pothole in front of me! I was suddenly flash-blinded, my front wheel hit the pothole and I hit the road. Very hard. Bruisec and ripped the elbow of a very expensive Gore-tex jacket. Grrr! It was all I could do to resist chasing the cyclist (who hadn’t stopped) and murdering the fecker!

    For the record: I’ve been cycling through London traffic for 20 years and that’s the first time I’ve ever come off. I know what I’m doing.

    They are a liability, and those that use them without regard for others are arrogant self-centred arseholes.

  12. Simon Nurse 15/02/2013 at 9:35 am #

    This is also a problem at the Cardiff end of the Taff Trail, particularly when MTBers are heading off to the hills. I was running on Wednesday evening and had an altercation with a mountain biker after being blinded by his head high light.

    All that’s needed is some self awareness, a little empathy for other users and an adjustment when around others. 1200 lumens is magnificent at the top of the Garth mountain (8 miles from the city centre), but a royal pain in the jacksie when on a commuter path.

    The Garth mountain can be seen here – (you need those lights!).

    To qualify these comments, I’m a commuter and a night-time mountain biker. If I’m using bright lights, I angle them downwards, dim them and/or partly cover them with my fingers if someone is coming in the opposite direction. It really doesn’t take very much to avoid an issue.

  13. J 15/02/2013 at 9:38 am #

    I can understand the problem but it goes both ways. I ride home along the London roads and the Grand Union Canal, a good 6 miles of canal path and there are places during winter where it is simply pitch black, a 20 lumen front light would be a complete waste of time for me, i need to illuminate the path in front of me at a distance thats of use to me, not 2 feet ahead of the front wheel. I paid quite a lot for a decent light to do the job and i turn it to a lower setting when im back among street lighting. I have even made a partial snood to try to minimise the impact on others.

    So sorry for you guys coming towards me but if your happy to ride in the dark, good luck to you.

    And to the plenty of people coming towards me WITHOUT any lights, think of this, if I also didn’t have any lights we would have had plenty of head on crashes by now. The ONLY reason this hasn’t happened is because they see me coming from a hundred yards away or more ! So you tell me whats worse.

    Tip for light manufacturers. Develop a powerful front light with a simple length of cable to a remote button which allows the ride to press to reduce the output of the led, so the ride doesnt have to move their hands and risk losing control. ie a simple dip switch.

    • Gaz 15/02/2013 at 10:08 am #

      Several companies make the switch you talk of. I have one for my Exposure Strada.

  14. Simon Nurse 15/02/2013 at 9:51 am #

    J, Totally with you on the no lights thing. Completely stupid:

    Well done for moderating the beam of your light to think of others. I’m not sure riders going in your direction have to worry about the strength of your beam if you’re moderating the angle and intensity of the light. Bright lights are indeed necessary when riding ‘proper’ offroad (In my neck of the woods, the Taff ‘trail’ is a misnomer. It’s tarmac and an excellent cycle path).

  15. Matt 15/02/2013 at 10:09 am #

    I commute about 16 miles a day in London and I’m finding this to be an increasing problem. Whilst I haven’t been blinded yet by oncoming bikes I have found it to be a problem following these lights, as it forces you to keep you head down out of the glare, thus reducing my own visibility and safety.

    Of course on unlit trails and tracks, these lights make complete sense. On a road bike in central London however, it just comes across as arrogant and selfish

    I generally like to take a live and let live attitude on the road, but will point out the issue to next offenders I have the misfortune of coming across and gauge their response.

  16. Sarah 15/02/2013 at 10:35 am #

    I agree that this debate goes both ways, but I do think that if you are going to use a super bright light at least make sure it is angled correctly. I had a small altercation with a guy on one of the unlit bike paths in Hyde Park, where a bright light is certainly helpful, except that he had it angled up right into everyone’s eyes. It cant have helped him see the path, and I couldn’t tell which side of the path he was on, so I stopped and waited for him to go past, he was not pleased, as I, of course, picked the wrong side.

    The other thing with the super bright lights is the flashing modes, I think Gaz commented on this before. They are almost worse than the steady beam, and more disorientating for drivers.

  17. cafewanda 15/02/2013 at 10:38 am #

    I used to be one of those whose lights may have dazzled others a few years ago. Having upgraded my lumens over the years I now angle them downwards and use the lowest setting whilst in London.

  18. Jason 15/02/2013 at 10:54 am #

    The biggest problem with these lights are when you’re on a 2 way cycle path – i.e. the CS3. As other people mention, you’re totally blinded for a period of time. Normally they’re not content with just a light shining in your face on the handlebar, but will accessorise it with another one on their helmet.

    There’s no excuse, you’re putting the safety of others at risk due to your own very selfish actions.

    You dont need a 20,000 lumen hedlight on your head – you really, really dont.

    You dont need a 20,000 lumen headlight facing upwards on a handlebar – you really, really dont.

    Thats basically it.

    ps they’re almost as bad as the muppets with no lights…

  19. Chris Baskind 15/02/2013 at 11:03 am #

    It’s not so much the power of the light as where it’s pointed. Handlebars are really too high for a front. You get a better sense of the road surface with a lamp mounted on the fender, front rack, or fork blade. Lights should be angled down (good lamps spread the lead towards the road, where you need it, and away from drivers’ eyes).

    I’m still using a clip-on light set with a couple of my bikes, though. It’s 400 lumens, and more than I need in-city. The lowest setting (about 100 lumens) is plenty.

    I prefer a bright rear light, and think steady lamps are easier for approaching motorists to judge than flashers. I’m moving my bikes to Busch & Muller Toplights this year, perhaps with a small auxiliary flasher low on the left seatstay.

    Y’all be careful out there. 🙂

  20. Neil Illing 15/02/2013 at 12:08 pm #

    Wow, not just me then suffering retina burn! Especially bad on unlit paths when you eyes have adjusted to the lower light levels. I did get ‘stunned’ recently by a guy wearing flashing front light mounted to his helmet.

    I usually have two lights, front and rear, one steady the other flashing but none of these lights approach the output of a Magiscshine.

  21. Tim 15/02/2013 at 12:08 pm #

    I use hub dynamo with a Busch and Muller headlight – these are max 60 lumens and great for all road riding. Being fork mounted you’re less likely to dazzle others and you don’t ever need to take them off or charge/replace batteries (capacitors keep them running when stopped at lights).

    Personally, I think dynamos whilst expensive are much better and more of them would also help solve the dazzle problem in commuter areas.

  22. blinded 15/02/2013 at 12:17 pm #

    Thanks for raising this, it’s something that has bugged me for the last since last winter. I cycle in london, mostly wide streets so oncomming isn’t such an issue. But something needs to be done about the super bright rear lights that would look out of place on a 747.

    It’s one thing to be seen it’s another to blind other road users.

  23. GMBasix 15/02/2013 at 12:31 pm #

    It’s easy to get locked into a mindset of “flashing bad”. It’s not, it’s just a setting – and it depends on the lamp, where you’re using it, and whether you’re alert to situations changing.

    In its favour, on the road, flashing/pulsing is the one thing that sets us apart from cars. I wouldn’t use it alone, though – a steady (and not too bright) light helps give other road users a better sense of distance and speed.

    On the other hand, flashing on a dark canal towpath (stop sniggering) probably doesn’t help you or anybody else.

    I think there’s also a difference between “wow that’s a bright bike light” and having the blood vessels in the back of your skull reflected back into your retinae.

  24. Christophevdm 15/02/2013 at 2:20 pm #

    I’m like Tim. I’ve mounted a B&M IQ Cyo RN plus.

    B&M has a nice online tool to setup your lights correctly (any brand)
    It’s in german & in metric but still very easy.

  25. Barton 15/02/2013 at 2:24 pm #

    I’ve always just assumed these bright lights were not properly adjusted – they should be lighting the path/road/trail, not the air – just like you sometimes find car headlights not adjusted correctly and therefore blinding.

    When I come across such a blinding light, I shield my eyes and yell – as politely as I can – for the cyclist to lower the beam so I can see. Only one time have they told me to “[expletive deleted] off.” The others have apologized and said they hadn’t realized….

    I use a 150 lumens on the front of my bike. Overkill for the urban streets, sure. But the number of potholes in the poorly lit residential areas and on the “you don’t need street lamps, its a greenway!” greenways make this light – aimed at the road ahead of me – invaluable to my life and limbs, IMO.

  26. PaulR 15/02/2013 at 2:27 pm #

    I have one of the magicshines. On full it’s searingly bight and quite disorientating if you get a fully blast. I do love it though, even for on road use. Angled down (and not on full power) it provides really good visibility of the road (especially good as my routes often have poor quality surfaces) which still making you very visible, without being blinding. I have made a small cowl for it to make sure that the light pattern is more suitable for road use.

    I think that super bright bike lights are a potential problem, but nowhere near as bad as the proliferation of extremely bright halogen bulb car lights. I’ve seen far more cars over the last couple of years with extremely bright lights that look like they are on full beam all the time. There’s just no need for that sort of light

  27. wandsworth 15/02/2013 at 2:46 pm #

    There’s no need for these bright lights in the city. Full stop. They are dangerous. You may well need them on unlit trails but that’s utterly irrelevant to urban cycling. The fact that there are ninjas with no lights doesn’t justify it.

    I get the sense that it’s people who are trying to make a point (to whom?) about being seen, but are too selfish to think about the effect of their actions on other people. Knobbers who have them on their helmet doubly so.

    Maybe some of the helmet-cam guys can start posting clips of selfish cyclists with stupidly bright lights. Hopefully that will raise awareness, including by the police, and bring home how antisocial this is.

  28. Big Softy 15/02/2013 at 6:57 pm #

    Dazzle my fellow cyclists, or hear the dreaded SMIDSY?
    Tough choice.

  29. babble on 15/02/2013 at 11:56 pm #

    I did a post about bright flashers a while back , entitled “I’ll be damned! I’ve seen the light and I don’t like it.”

    It can hardly make you more safe to dazzle and distract the riders and drivers sharing the road with you. I understand the need to be seen, but if you’re going to use a super powerful headlamp, then don’t use the flash function.

    Why do they call it common sense when it’s such a rare trait amongst humans?

  30. Dan 16/02/2013 at 9:54 am #

    Noticed that when I’m going up a hill, my front light will light up a road sign like a Christmas tree from 75 yards away. And that’s cheap set of lights from Argos as well. I try to angle it down and slightly off centre to the left. Angle and consideration would seem to be the key here, haven’t had anyone shouting at me yet.

    • Mark 16/02/2013 at 4:15 pm #

      As a bye the bye – an H7 halogen bulb produces 1500 lumens – the same as the moonlight system. The primary difference is that the light from a halogen acts as a point source and spreads out in all directions – so you need a lens to focus the light into a beam. Whereas LEDs tend to produce a narrow beam of light and so use technologies like collimated lens to widen the beam.

      An LED generally lights up a smaller area than a halogen, and so tends to be brighter to look at.

      I ride regularly at night – and use two 200 lumen lamps. They work well enough when there are no street lamps – but they get completely washed out when there is an oncoming car.

      MInd you is it me, or have car headlights got brighter? I regularly experience blinding from very bright white headlights – I assume they are LED units.

      • Gaz 16/02/2013 at 4:54 pm #

        Many new car lighting systems use HID.

  31. ray 16/02/2013 at 5:04 pm #

    Went to the bike show, made a big mistake, looked at a high power light to see how bright it was. 5 minutes later I could just about see properly again.

    My front light is about 800 lumens pointed down at the floor in front of the bike. I can straighten it up again if needed but normally its angled downwards.

  32. same up here 16/02/2013 at 5:07 pm #

    I’m glad (kind of) that London has the same issue as Stockholm with some cyclists feeling they need lights powered by a portable nuclear plant in a urban environment that is as bright at night than it is at day.

    Your post made me write my own on the same subject ( Same same but 2000 kilometers away.

    • bikebruce 22/02/2013 at 11:17 am #

      yes, same same 20,000km away in Sydney, Australia!

      What started as a good thing for the MTB 24 hour events about 12 years ago filtered through to the ‘everyday’ night ride in even well lit urban areas. Now a friendly hello to a passing rider at night is lkely to get you an eye full of helmet-mounted arc lamp. Hopefully things will start to fine tune in time, and context for bike light equipemnt and use becomes the overiding determinant rather than the “bigger is better” approach. The horizontal cutoffs that started to be built into car headlamps in about 1970s will probably start to appear soon if not already. Restrictions on intensity of helmet-mounted lamps might be looked at, and just as drivers have had to dip thier lights for good reason, riders may have to as well now that brightness easily approaches car headlamps of a generation ago.

  33. Eve 17/02/2013 at 12:29 am #

    It’s certainly a problem when riding through Richmond Park after dark – I hate cyclists with super bright lights!(they probably weigh more then their carbon fibre machine). There is no need for the excessively bright lights at all, as Richmond Park is hardly pitch black – there is quite a lot of light pollution and on some moonlit nights it’s so bright you can could easily cycle without lights and see where you going. Light your way by all means, but don’t dazzle your fellow cyclists!

    in the park anyway, and on a some nights the moon shines so brightly it would be possible to ride without a light to see where you going (which I don’t do btw

    • Chak 17/02/2013 at 5:32 pm #

      Hear hear! Regent’s Park. Sure, it’s dark, but it was YOUR choice to cycle on the inner lane, turn that goddamned light down! It’s like hunting for game in the middle of the jungle! I’d like a bobbing car coming at you with fog beams on!

      In any modern city, lighting systems are meant to allow you to be seen, not to blind.

    • james-f 18/02/2013 at 8:53 am #

      As someone who commuted through Richmond Park all year round for five years, I can categorically say that there are many occasions when it is TOTALLY pitch black, and you’d be mad to cycle through without a decent set of lights.

      Why? Well because there are too many people cycling and jogging through there late at night in winter without any lights, and you need good lights to avoid hitting them, often head on.

      Not to mention the 400kg deer, who occasionally like to wander on to the carriageway and are very dark and difficult to see.

      Anyone who trusts moonlight through there needs their head examined – ever seen what happens when a big cloud goes in front of the moon?

      Of course, even if you have a bright light, there’s no *need* to blind people coming the other way – just angle the thing properly.

  34. Goodwheel 17/02/2013 at 1:49 pm #

    Maybe it’s time that they started making bicycle lights with dimmer switches or at least a multi modal system. E.g. there could be three modes.

    Mode 1: To be seen (bright light and flashing).

    Mode 2: To see (very bright light) with a flashing option so rider can both see and be seen.

    Mode 3: (super bright) for fast riding in the pitch dark – with a flashing option.

    • Gaz 17/02/2013 at 8:31 pm #

      Pretty much every bright light does have this. The problem is the users!

  35. RobbieC 17/02/2013 at 2:27 pm #

    I think that in Germany, whose standards all good lights are set to, specify around 40 lumen for road and have a rule about the shape so that the light points at the road.

    I used to use a 20 lumen light but my commute involves a long section on dark lanes and I had to supplement to with another light. I now have a 60 lumen light. I am passed by a guy on a bike on a dark lane with a super bright light which appears to point straight ahead rather than at the road (as mine does) and is as irritating as car lights. I think a UK limit of 20/40 lumen would be good for town cyclists.

    A colleague at work brought this issue up a few weeks ago – super bright blinkies on bikes using a shared foot/cycle path concerned her (headaches but concerned that they could make people ill). I appreciate the need for these – a useful supplement to a main light to help car drivers see us, but do they need to be as bright as main lights?

  36. Tony 17/02/2013 at 4:38 pm #

    A friend has very bright lamps for the woods. The manufacturer supplies a diffuser for use on road so they do no blind car drivers. Don’t recall the manufacturer. Perhaps a diffuser would solve the issue.

  37. Jo 17/02/2013 at 10:15 pm #

    The city I commute in is inconsistently lit. So I use a HOPE vision 1 on my bars. I can easily set it at low and flashing, angled to the road for well lit roads. It’s easy to up down the lumens when I’m going in and out of dark/pot hole full sections.
    However, I was nearly T boned by a car coming out of a side road. So now I also wear an exposure joysitck on my helmet, also on flashing mode. I like it as I turn to look to see if cars are coming out of side roads, they see my light. I think it helps avoid the driver blind spot/SMIDSY problem. If I see cyclists/pedestrians coming towards me I dip my head to look at the road rather than at their faces. I hope this is enough, however the article has made me think I need to get someone else to wear my helmet and see what it’s like walking towards it. I don’t want to blind anyone, but I do want to be seen.

  38. James R Grinter 18/02/2013 at 9:18 am #

    There’s definitely two camps of bright light use- those using them to see the poorly lit roads, and those using them to be seen. The latter seems an unwise thing with too bright a light. I’ve used a second dimmed light for that, when necessary.

    My pet hate is front flashing lights, in poorly lit places. I find it harder to judge their speed and distance, and very distracting, if I’m cycling along the river towpath towards them. Great for urban use, not great for the real dark.

    • Matt 22/02/2013 at 10:14 am #

      Absolutely – cycling along the Regent’s Canal towpath at evening commute time, a flashing light coming the other way can completely blind you (bit scary when you’re on a two-yard wide strip next to very cold water). You need some kind of light to be seen (no lights is genuinely dangerous for pedestrians) but flashing lights are totally unnecessary. If only the lights had some kind of switch to stop them flashing for a while, then could be turned on again when back on the road 😉

  39. Adam Bee 21/02/2013 at 2:16 pm #

    I bought the Cateye EL-340RC for exactly this reason. It is incredibly bright but the light is in a very controlled square shape, which means it has the effect of a dipped headlight, so as not to dazzle approaching cars / bikes. It works very well.

  40. Jozudave 22/02/2013 at 10:14 am #

    As a fellow cyclist who regularly gets dazzled and occasionally even has to stop cycling because I can’t see where I’m going due to beams as light as the sun in my eyes, the short answer is: Yes, they are annoying.

  41. Andrew Wilcox 22/02/2013 at 10:26 am #

    I have a Cateye EL- 540 it has a focused beam great for lighting country roads e.g. 7 miles from Winchester to Alresford. But I don’t use it in Winchester or London. I switch to the Cateye EL-320 sometimes in flashing mode.

    I cycled along the Bristol to Bath cycle path recently in the dark lined with trees and in a cutting, it was dark down there. Far too many riders were using ultrabright flashing lights pointing straight ahead. Which meant I could see nothing. I tried the bright flashing mode for awhile and I couldn’t get a clear picture of the path.

    Use bright steady lights where appropriate e.g. country lanes. Flashing lights are good in well light urban areas but ultrabright is not needed and is at least distracting for other users.

  42. Duncan Palmer 22/02/2013 at 10:30 am #

    At the London Bike Show, there was a display of lights that were ridiculously bright and on all the time flashing away. Gave me a headache. I have been behind a few people with these lights on in London recently and they’re very very annoying. No need for them at all. Similarly, have encountered many a cyclist with far too strong front lights, often more than one. London streets are well lit and don’t require any strong lights. They’ve obviously got more money than sense.

    • Gaz 22/02/2013 at 11:15 am #

      Whilst London streets are well let, remember that some people cycle further afield than London, and as such the lighting is not so good at some points.

      However, a sensible cyclist would turn the power down where it is not needed.

  43. Duncan Palmer 22/02/2013 at 10:32 am #

    And why do they manufacture front lights that flash anyway? I never use the flashing setting on it, I have never seen the need to.

    • Gaz 22/02/2013 at 11:25 am #

      Flashing lights are extremely useful for grabbing attention but are best used alongside a solid light.

      • James R Grinter 22/02/2013 at 1:17 pm #

        The point that I and others are making is that they have some use when there is other light around, such as in a lit-road situation.

        They’re a real hazard when used in un-lit places. (A second, constant light would go someway to mitigating not being able to exactly judge where a moving bike is, but they’re still very annoying to have facing head-on.)

  44. Myles 22/02/2013 at 10:35 am #

    If you go back to the ‘fighter pilot’ article a few months back, the more flashing and attention seeking lights you have on your bike, the more chance you will likely be seen by the unobservant motorist. I commute daily through Richmond park and am constantly being bedazzled by bright bike lights. I appreciated the bright lights need to be used in the darkness of the park. I avert my gaze to the side of the road and away from the light so I can still follow the contours of the road. It is only for a few seconds so I don’t feel like I am putting myself at risk.

  45. Andy 22/02/2013 at 10:35 am #

    I have 2x 300lumens lights that I use on my commute. I use one flashing during the day time in London, and then run 100-200 lumens faced downwards on my commute home. I regularly do laps of Richmond Park, and for that will turn all lights on full blast as, like the previous rider mentioned, I am wary of crashing into a deer at speed. Saying that, I think its always important to be curteous to other riders, so have one pointed down, and cover the second with my hand as I pass people. In dark areas I find that if others coming at you also have powerful lights then there is less perceived glare by both riders. Even in the last year I have seen an increase in bright lights, which I think is a result of them being cheaper, and the need for people to feel safe cycling. I have had numerous SMIDSY near accidents recently and anything you can do to get noticed while on the road is a good thing, especially if you are cycling at night through a well lit city, where a normal bike light can easily get lost in all the surrounding background illumination.

  46. Fern 22/02/2013 at 10:51 am #

    As I was walking down the street in London the other day (not night) out of the corner of my eye I noticed a bike with dual headlights and being unusual gave it a second look and was seeing spots for the next fifteen minutes. Had I been riding at night meeting this traveling in the opposite direction would have been quite a problem for me.
    Have any of the people ( (I think it is always men) using these lights considered that blinding the oncoming traffic may possibly be counter productive in that it may actually cause the accident you are seeking to avoid when the dazzled and confused victim of the excessive illumination zigs when they should zag ending up directly in the path of of your bicycle.
    My feeling is that if bicyclist don’t take this in hand in sensible way and give the inappropriate use of these lights the thumbs down and ridicule their use the wider community will do something about it. Probably with some stupid legislation banning bicycle light above a certain output.

  47. Fern 22/02/2013 at 11:00 am #

    I have to add that in the city I only use flashing lights at night because I think these are the only sort that gets me seen by motorists and the street lights are enough to see where I am going. Rural or semi-rural areas will require a different lighting regime

    • Big Al 22/02/2013 at 1:34 pm #

      I find I’m better off with my light not flashing because if a vehicle is coming towards me on a dark narrow urban road there’s the chance they’ll think I’m a motorbike and leave me more room. As soon as they recognize a cyclist it’s as their (tiny) brains register I’m not there.

  48. Jon 22/02/2013 at 11:13 am #

    I’ve got a dynamo set up and the lights are set up to be aimed at the road and not into on-coming traffic. Unfortunately dynamo’s aren’t quite as common over here as in some of our neighbouring European countries.

    So much going for them. Always on the bike – you’d need a toolkit to nick them, never run out of power, and thus you never need to buy batteries again!

    Next step is getting some for my touring bike, so that I’m sorted for holiday trips too.

  49. Big Al 22/02/2013 at 1:28 pm #

    I’ve just got a budget set of RSP LED lights and people have commented how bright they are so I angle mine downwards so light disperses on the ground. It’s an offense to have incorrect headlight alignment on a car and it vexes me when I get dazzled by someone coming opposite on a two way cycle track with crazy bright lights pointing directly at my eyes.

    I’ve often thought it would be handy to have a light bracket that you can easily adjust whilst cycling, ie two settings you can just push up or down. Part of my commute takes me through pretty dark areas and I’d like the choice to put my light on ‘full-beam’ or dipped through urban areas. Anyone know if these even exist?

  50. Dave W 22/02/2013 at 1:47 pm #

    I used an 800 lumen light for riding along the towpath. The 1 Watt LED light was simply not sufficient to pick out walkers or their dogs, although it picked out reflective clothing very well. I don’t normally use it on lit roads although it’s useful when cars pull out to overtake expecting me to stop for them or when I think they haven’t seen me.

    It’s about time light manufacturers used a common system for indicating the power of their lights – some use Lumens, some Watts, some Lux or even candles, and many just say ‘bright’, etc. Often they don’t even indicate whether the light complies with legal requirements for road use (I know this varies between countries but, if they’re sold here, buyers need to know whether or not they’re road-legal).

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