Author Topic: Bike light etiquette?  (Read 10242 times)

Thegoblinchief

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Bike light etiquette?
« on: September 04, 2014, 04:52:02 PM »
Took a ride down a new trail last night and got some angry comments about brightness of my headlight, so I wondered if there's some weird etiquette (equivalent to dropping high beams when a car approaches from the other direction).

-Trail was rural, no city lights.

-Decent number of pedestrians, for which I really needed to long beam to see far enough ahead to safely move around.

-The loudest complaint was from a biker who didn't even have any lights, so I'm not exactly feeling inclined to change my habit. A few other bikers had barely visible krypton lights. One biker with a light similar to mine, turned hers off as we crossed paths, which is what got me wondering about etiquette.

-I was running my light at around 200 lumens (Cygolite Metro 360 on medium), so it's bright, but by no means the brightest light on the market.

Thoughts? I love the bright light but don't want to be an asshole cyclist unintentionally.

Beric01

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #1 on: September 04, 2014, 04:58:21 PM »
I think it really depends. If it's pitch-black and you can't see anything without your lights (true on one of the trails I ride on at night sometimes), then keep your light on for your own safety. But if it's still possible to see somewhat without your light, then yes I would dim it as people pass.

The other question is the strength of your light. If it's brighter than a car headlight, then yes you should dim it to be considerate.

Based on your situation, it does sounds like you were in the right.

mulescent

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #2 on: September 04, 2014, 04:59:13 PM »
Where I bike, I've gotten a few comments about my relatively modest 150 lumen light.  I generally respond with "the point is to make sure you see me, so mission accomplished."  One thing you can do is make sure the light isn't pointing far into the distance.  I have noticed some folks who cover their light as they pass people.  This is nice but impractical on my crowded trail...

Beric01

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #3 on: September 04, 2014, 05:00:26 PM »
Where I bike, I've gotten a few comments about my relatively modest 150 lumen light.  I generally respond with "the point is to make sure you see me, so mission accomplished."  One thing you can do is make sure the light isn't pointing far into the distance.  I have noticed some folks who cover their light as they pass people.  This is nice but impractical on my crowded trail...

Also another good point. Angle your light down a little so that it doesn't shine directly into people's eyes.

johnny847

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2014, 05:02:50 PM »
Where I bike, I've gotten a few comments about my relatively modest 150 lumen light.  I generally respond with "the point is to make sure you see me, so mission accomplished."  One thing you can do is make sure the light isn't pointing far into the distance.  I have noticed some folks who cover their light as they pass people.  This is nice but impractical on my crowded trail...

Also another good point. Angle your light down a little so that it doesn't shine directly into people's eyes.

+1
Generally speaking, the "brights" on your car aren't actually much brighter, if at all. They're just angled to shine out further.

Johnez

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2014, 05:03:18 PM »
I don't ride trails but it sounds particularly dumb to NOT have a light.

I'm not sure if this is etiquette but I keep my back light solid if I'm riding in a group. Nothing is more annoying than a flashing red light 10 feet in front of you for 2 hours...

slugsworth

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2014, 05:10:18 PM »
I have a fairly bright light, but have it mounted to a mid-fork brazon, so it shines at the road - and won't be missed by a car/bike but doesn't shine into ones eyes. I really did this because I didn't have a lot of handlebar room - but it has a nice benefit.

I can say that I really don't like the giant lumen lights on blink - I think it is a bit obnoxious - especially on trails.


Beric01

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2014, 05:19:48 PM »
I can say that I really don't like the giant lumen lights on blink - I think it is a bit obnoxious - especially on trails.

Agreed on this. Even for street riding, a front-flashing light can be really obnoxious. Always keep them steady.

For rear red lights, I do flash mine for extra visibility, but I'm not certain that's necessary. One thing I've heard is that a blinking rear red light may hurt distance perception?

Eric

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #8 on: September 04, 2014, 05:23:01 PM »
My personal philosophy is that if you can hear people's comments, you're not riding fast enough.  :)

Guardian

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #9 on: September 04, 2014, 11:37:35 PM »
My personal philosophy is that if you can hear people's comments, you're not riding fast enough.  :)

This is also my opinion. Cycle on.

Mr. Frugalwoods

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2014, 04:57:47 AM »
I do 3 things different with my light when riding a bike-only trail:

1) No blink.  In the city, blinking helps homicidally-clueless car drivers notice your existence.  On the trail a sold light is needed for path illumination and is also less annoying to my cycling compatriots.

2) Angle.  In the city I have the light parallel to the ground.  I want every last lumen to blast the retina of the latte-swilling driver ahead of me.  There are also streetlights to illuminate the road so I don't need to worry as much about using the light for pathfinding.

3) Power.  City = ALL THE LIGHT.  When on a trail I often go down to medium power just because full seems like overkill for seeing the path.

If you do need a major light on the trail for dodging pedestrians, switching it off as you pass an oncomng biker seems like a nice gesture.  Sorta like taking the highbeams off when you meet another car on a back road. (many joggers on the bike paths around here wear blinkies on their back, which is awesome and helps a lot.  wish all joggers did that!)

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2014, 05:09:27 AM »
Helpful comments, thanks!

ETA: I think what I'll do next time is angle it down and maybe to the right a bit.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2014, 05:37:51 AM by Thegoblinchief »

GuitarStv

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2014, 05:27:25 AM »
I'll turn off the strobe for bike only trails and angle it down a bit.  It would be stupid to turn the light off completely though, pedestrians and other cyclists need to see you . . .

pete5306

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2014, 05:48:46 AM »
I agree with angling down.  It can be somewhat unsafe when you are biking down a narrow path and the biker coming at you is completely blinding you in the face.  I have seen, and now try to do, other people putting their hand in front of the light when other bikers are passing to avoid blinding. 

I have seen in the morning groups of like 10-15 tour de france guys in the morning all rocking handle bar lights and head lights.  That was somewhat annoying being blinded by them and they took up most the path..

hybrid

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #14 on: September 05, 2014, 08:02:27 AM »
Great thread, I'm getting several useful tips from this.

luigi49

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #15 on: September 05, 2014, 09:31:03 AM »
I find it silly to be concern about any lights on a bike.  Just ignore the comment from other people about lights.  It is a waste of time and remember you can't please everyone. 

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #16 on: September 05, 2014, 10:02:41 AM »
I find it silly to be concern about any lights on a bike.  Just ignore the comment from other people about lights.  It is a waste of time and remember you can't please everyone.

This has even my default position up to now, but I try to question all of my assumptions when possible.

Russ

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #17 on: September 05, 2014, 10:36:31 AM »
One thing I recommend to anybody setting up lights for the first time is to have someone else ride your bike and then try to "unexpectedly" encounter them from the perspective of whatever other traffic you'll be riding in. If on the road, give a friend a defined area to ride in and a five minute headstart, then go find them in a car. If on a bike path, start a few miles apart then ride or walk toward each other. Then you'll really know the effect your lights have on other people.

I find it silly to be concern about any lights on a bike.  Just ignore the comment from other people about lights.  It is a waste of time and remember you can't please everyone. 

yes, let's assume that anybody who cares enough to stop and complain to your face doesn't have a valid reason for doing so

TrMama

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #18 on: September 05, 2014, 10:47:10 AM »
I'm one of those people who gets pretty PO's about super bright bike lights on the trail. The reason is because they completely blind me as I pass you and for a few seconds afterwards until my eyes adjust again. I really, really don't want to crash into you head on, nor do I want to crash into anyone who might be behind you.

This is coming from another cyclist, who also has a pretty bright front light. Either dim the light as you go by or cover it with your hand.

On the road, where we aren't passing peds and cyclists so closely and your light has to compete with car and street lights, go nuts and turn that sucker up to "full nuclear". On the trail where it's dark and everyone's eyes are being blinded by your crazy bright light, turn it down.

DangleStash

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #19 on: September 05, 2014, 11:09:45 AM »
Definitely do aim it down more, and make sure it's a focused light (I'm not familiar with that model).

As a driver, it is extremely annoying when it's dark and I have the equivalent of a high powered flashlight being beamed directly into my eyes, especially when on a narrow road and you are approaching me.

GuitarStv

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #20 on: September 05, 2014, 11:32:52 AM »
yes, let's assume that anybody who cares enough to stop and complain to your face doesn't have a valid reason for doing so

One rainy night I had an old man yell at me to turn off my blinking headlight because it was bothering him . . . I was on the road at the time, he was on the sidewalk with more than four feet of grass between him and the pavement.  My 300 lumen light was pointed down and slightly towards traffic.  Some people will complain to your face without any valid reason to do so about anything.

dragoncar

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #21 on: September 10, 2014, 12:59:08 AM »
yes, let's assume that anybody who cares enough to stop and complain to your face doesn't have a valid reason for doing so

One rainy night I had an old man yell at me to turn off my blinking headlight because it was bothering him . . . I was on the road at the time, he was on the sidewalk with more than four feet of grass between him and the pavement.  My 300 lumen light was pointed down and slightly towards traffic.  Some people will complain to your face without any valid reason to do so about anything.

Those blinkers annoy me to, but usually an issue with bikers on the sidewalk. Either way, +1 to steady beam.

Greg

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Re: Bike light etiquette?
« Reply #22 on: September 10, 2014, 10:33:35 AM »
I'm not familiar with your particular light, but as a designer who is into light pollution I'll chip in my opinion.  Lights are great for illuminating where you are going and helping get you noticed.  They can also produce unsafe glare and blind oncoming traffic be it pedestrian, cyclist or car.  Proper aim is the most important factor in this.

In a car it's easy, the high beam is aimed straight and level which make the low beam aimed more at the road.  On a bike, you probably don't have an aim-changing switch.  So you have to make do with an aim that is a compromise.  If you're being scolded then it's probably too bright or needs to be aimed lower. To disregard this makes you a bit of an asshole.

Something to consider; when your light produces glare for oncoming traffic, it's unsafe for you as well.  Oncoming riders look away rather than at you, as do pedestrians, increasing your chances of collision or other conflict.

Another consideration is speed.  If you are aiming your light higher to increase your safe nighttime speed, consider slowing down to meet the lower aim illumination.