West Seattle video series compares bike lights from the driver’s seat

This image from West Seattle Bike Connections shows how super bright lights can sometimes be too bright

This image from West Seattle Bike Connections shows how super bright lights can sometimes be too bright

The good folks at West Seattle Bike Connections read our October post about bike lights (and how some are too bright to put on strobe mode on a bike trail) and noticed something missing: Demonstrations of how different lights actually look in action.

So Jeff Hallman and three other West Seattle residents went to a dark section of the industrial Jack Block Park armed with bikes, bike lights of all kinds, a camera and a car.

The series of seven videos isn’t going to win an Academy Award, but it is a useful demonstration of how bike lights of differing strengths look from behind a windshield. Here’s an example:

The results largely reinforce points we were making in a post from November. A: You don’t need super expensive or extremely high-lumen lights for urban bicycling. B: Please don’t use the strobe mode with bright headlights. C: Any light is better than no light. D: There are so many bike light choices that it can be confusing to people just looking for something standard, legal and safe.

This last point is the real problem. If you don’t know what to buy, it makes sense to many people to buy the brightest bike light in your price range. Brighter is better, right? Well, you aren’t stupid for thinking so, but it turns out that might not always be true. The West Seattle Bike Connections folks conclude that at 500 lumens or higher, bike lights are too bright and should only be used if they are pointed at the ground in front of you to illuminate the road.

Cars come standard with standard headlights, and consumers are not required to dive into the intricacies of lumen levels and proper light angle. It shouldn’t be that way for bikes, either. But it is.

So until the US bike market makes things more simple, the best you can do is buy lights you feel comfortable with and try not to point them in people’s eyes. And turn off the the strobe when you’re on a trail or dark street.

For more, check out the West Seattle Bike Connections blog.

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71 Responses to West Seattle video series compares bike lights from the driver’s seat

  1. Jayne says:

    Let the unending bike light internet argument resume..

    • Tom Fucoloro says:

      Ha! Well, maybe having some actual video demos will help ground the conversation a little. But maybe that’s just wishful thinking.

      • Don Brubeck says:

        Yes, sorry, wishful thinking, Tom. A word to the bike light cognocscenti: this was not for you. We were testing what ordinary mortals ordinarily buy and have on their bikes. Unfortunately, most people are not going to have access to European bike lights, nor be willing to spend the money for the best available. This is for comparison of what is actually on the road now. It is not aimed at bike light techies, who already know what works well for themselves. This is for people who may not yet realize the implications of lots of light v. a little; steady v. blinking; reflective v. no reflective; light aiming; front view v. side view. Bike light experts – do your own videos, and we’ll use them!

    • Gary says:

      A-men brother…

    • Allan says:

      I will have more time for this later but for now I will say it is totally botched. It looks like Monsanto did it because there is no control group. These bikes need to be compared to cars and motorcycles, without that it is useless. How will a car or motorcycle look to this same camera. Lots of cars seem to drive around at night with their lights on high beam, too. Bikes should probably have a button for high and low but they should never be restricted to less out put than a car. Where are the oncoming cars in these videos? Is a pair of magic shines properly aimed really worse than an oncoming car? Drunk drivers and cell phone users will not react to anything less than the equivalent of what a car has for lights. You guys want to die with your 200 lumen lights aimed at the ground, just go right ahead.

      • Allan says:

        Actually, even Monsanto would probably have a control group, they would just suppress the tests they didn’t like and keep the ones they did like.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        Sigh…

      • meanie says:

        A totally valid criticism, despite the sighs.

        Having a car on the other side would have been useful for a practical comparison, but so would forgoing the entire “LIGHTS IN WINDSHIELD OMG! SO BRIGHT” part. The point of the video is detracted by the implied focus was how hard the poor drivers have it.

        The original complaint about bright lights, from the perspective of something like a bike blog… should be the common complaint about how these high visibility lights create problems for other cyclists on narrow paths.

  2. Glen says:

    Wow, the rear flashing LED lights don’t really do much for you at all. I am glad I shelled out the money for brighter ones.

    • Gary says:

      Yep, those planet blinky tail lights are pretty minimal for city riding. I like http://www.dinottelighting.com 400R (which are about 200+lumins). I have two, one on the helmet and one on the seat post. I run mine on a slow flash which seems to be enough to get people to go around me without blinding them. I have switched to the 5 flash/pause mode in thick fog and in heavy traffic though. For that no one passes close.

  3. daihard says:

    Yes, therein lies my problem. I have a Cygolite Expilion 700-lumen headlight. 700 lumens sounds pretty bright, and I think it is. However, when I use it on the street, it doesn’t light up the area in front of me nearly as well as the headlights of my car do. I’m sure people are able to see me well with this light, but I want to be able to see well too. Any recommendation for that purpose?

    • Gary says:

      Add a 400Lumin helmet light. Aim it where you are looking and then don’t look directly at the oncoming traffic. Works for looking around a corner, or in the worst case for a driver, look at them in the car (I use this when they are rolling through a stop sign.)

      On the trail, cut it down to 100L.

    • Josh says:

      Car headlights don’t use round flashlight beam patterns, they use reflectors and lenses that focus the light where it’s actually useful. Halogen low-beam car headlights start around 700 lumens, but they don’t throw half of them up in the air.

      They have a sharp cutoff on top of the beam, then taper the light as the beam aims lower, so there’s more light at a distance, without a hot-spot in the foreground that drowns out the distance lighting.

      Lights that meet German StVZO regulations have the same sort of beam pattern. That means good visibility, less glare for oncoming drivers, and longer coverage for your watts. But it does make the lights a little more expensive… Cateye makes StVZO compatible models of some of its lights, a few dollars more than the equivalent U.S. models.

  4. bill says:

    Get a light with shaped beam, like a Busch & Muller Ixon IQ (battery powered) or an IQ Cyo (generator powered). These lights put more light far down the road, and less up close, so the pavement is evenly illuminated. The beams have a sharp cutoff on top so they don’t blind oncoming traffic when you have them aimed correctly.

    • Fnarf says:

      THIS.
      German law requires shaped beams — the light only shines straight and down from a level straight across the middle, not up into drivers’ eyes like the horrible light in the picture. If you’re not buying German you’re not getting a good headlight for this very reason. B&M is the BEST. Note: blinkie rear lights are illegal in Germany, for good reason — they suck. This is not a complicated question. The Germans do it right way.

      • Mike says:

        I’ve lived and/or biked in quite a few countries around the world and seen quite the gamut of cycling styles and cultures. I moved to Seattle a few months ago and was completely floored when I saw what people on bikes count for “safe” here concerning bike lights. Nowhere else in the world (well, 20+ Asian and European countries) have I seen such misguidedness.

        Instead of using lights with a properly focused beam directed on the road and with top and side cutoffs (such as B&M, which I run on both front and rear), people seem to go more for the “blind and confuse” strategy.

        Lights should be used to see and be seen, and having poorly-positioned, overly-bright, flashing lights makes it more difficult for all road users to see what’s going on, which is completely contradictory to creating a safe riding environment.

    • David Chen says:

      People seem to always debate how harmful bright symmetric lights are. All I know is that they occasionally bother me personally, so I also went the route of a shaped beam because it would seem hypocritical otherwise. I went with the battery powered Philips SafeRide and like it a lot, but I wish the runtime were a bit longer so that I only had to recharge it over the weekend.

      I’m a little surprised that there’s not a whole lot of high powered shaped beams. Ignoring whether or not symmetric beams are harmful, I really like that the beam pattern is directed in a way that the ground is evenly lit rather than having a hot spot and the rest of it fading. It also seems like it’d be more efficient; I think one review noted that the Philips was about 200 lumens in actual light output, but illuminated the road like a 500 lumen light. But I guess most of the market for high powered lights is for night time mountain biking, where blinding people isn’t an issue and illuminating branches that might smack you in the face is.

      • Josh says:

        The past week has reinforced another advantage of a properly-shaped headlight beam — minimal upward light distribution means no blinding glare in the fog, especially if the light is mounted at fork crown height.

      • Allan says:

        Most lights have a center hot spot. The center hot spot is what is really blinding if it is aimed straight at you. The best we can do is aim that hot spot down where it hits the ground at some point in front of you just as a car does on low beam. The spill around the hot spot should be as bright as a car to deter drivers from pulling out in front of you, or turning left in front of you as though you were not even there. It is a lot better for you, if you look like a Harley Davidson coming down the street.

      • Allan says:

        David, there are tree branches in the city but there is also broken glass on the ground in the rain, giant potholes that can throw you and other obstacles. It is no fun at all to fix a flat, on a rear tire, on a cold muddy frozen wheel, in the rain, with gloves off of cold numb fingers while you are late for work and figuring out if you boss will even believe why you are late. Better to miss the glass with a brighter light.

  5. meanie says:

    wow, I cant believe how short sided this was. What a great way to stir up concern trolls and possible legislation by showing how “harmful” and “menacing” these bright lights are.

    This will appear in the times or PI now, with a negative slant, and the comments will explode with demands for some punitive legislation.

    nice work everyone.

    • bill says:

      Lights on cars are regulated yet life goes on just fine; better in fact than if they were not regulated. Life also seems to be fine in Germany where bicycle lights are closely regulated. Thanks to those regulations the finest lights for road riding come from Germany. Since bright LED headlights appeared about a decade ago I’ve thought regulations would be inevitable because so many cyclists think the best light is the one that blinds and dazzles the most oncoming road users.

      • Josh says:

        Lights on cars were regulated for glare long before halogen headlights came along. At this point, $20 eBay MagicShine clones are far brighter than car headlights were when they were regulated to control glare.

        Even with regulation, car headlight glare remains a significant contributor to car accidents, and one of the busiest areas of public comment for FHWA.

        Regulation doesn’t have to be burdensome or ridiculously complex. If the bicycle industry waits around for someone else to regulate headlights, we could end up with stupid rules. But if cyclists get out in front of the issue with reasonable rules, we could all benefit.

        Personally, I think we’d get adequate regulation if we applied the rules for old-fashioned single-beam car headlights:

        (1) The head lamps shall be so aimed that when the vehicle is not loaded none of the high intensity portion of the light shall at a distance of twenty-five feet ahead project higher than a level of five inches below the level of the center of the lamp from which it comes, and in no case higher than forty-two inches above the level on which the vehicle stands at a distance of seventy-five feet ahead;
        http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.37.240

        No complex mandatory beam pattern tests, no government certification of headlight designs, just don’t aim bright lights in people’s faces.

      • Chicama says:

        “Lights on cars are regulated yet life goes on just fine; better in fact than if they were not regulated. ”

        That is because those in cars are enclosed in steel, with padded airbags to soften any impact. Moreover, drivers know to look out for each other, and to avoid collisions with each other, as they can injure or kill each other. What does that have to do with cyclists? Drivers have no fear of harm to themselves (physical or criminal) from running over a cyclist or pedestrian. Shedding crocodile tears after they run someone over is the full extent of their punishment.

      • bill says:

        I was talking about the prospect of bicycle lights being regulated, not steel and airbags. Auto lights have been regulated for so long that hardly anyone is aware that they are regulated. And it causes no problems. If we bring regulation of bicycle headlights upon ourselves hopefully there will be constructive solutions and in a few years having good lights on bikes will be so normal a bike without lights will be a curiosity. So get over your fit and show some consideration to other road users. I am sorry you have had bad experiences with cars, but almost all of us have, so I am not impressed.

    • Allan says:

      Meanie, you are so right. Just imagine a 7 inch diameter bike light to control glare. Just imagine having to spend huge amounts of money to comply with legislation, we could be back to the $400 bike light on a $99 bike idea.

      • Josh says:

        The Cateye 530 N is a StVZO-compliant model of the Cateye 530.

        XXCycle lists the 530N for US$56, while U.S. mail order prices for the 530 appear to range from $50 – $80.

        So yes, imagine paying $2 or $5 extra for a light that puts more of its lumens on the road to help you see, while reducing the potential of disorienting glare for oncoming traffic.

        The idea that quality bike lights are prohibitively expensive is pure scaremongering.

      • Josh says:

        For what it’s worth, the same Chinese and Taiwanese factories churning out MagicShine clones for the U.S. market also make lights for European markets. It’s just harder to find them in the U.S.

        I asked CatEye about this a couple of years ago, why their StVZO-compliant models weren’t available in the U.S. market. Not enough demand to bother shipping two versions of the same model to the U.S., but they’d be happy to ship them here if demand developed.

        Frankly, given the size of the U.S. market, and the very low cost to make shaped beams instead of flashlights, I suspect beam pattern regulation in just one or two states would be enough to tip that decision.

        On the other hand, I’ve never heard a serious proposal for beam pattern regulation in the U.S., only for headlight aim regulation — use whatever beam pattern you like, just aim it so that none of the high-intensity part of the beam is directed into the eyes of oncoming traffic. Just the same as cars before high/low beam lighting and beam pattern regulation.

      • Josh says:

        Replying to myself again, sorry… A coworker pointed me to this — if you already have one of those $20-$30 MagicShine clones, $5 apparently gets a lens to spread the round beam into a flat beam, better glare control, better side spread, more light on the pavement where you need it instead of up in the sky.

        Haven’t tried one myself, but a basic lenticular lens is how all the classic German lights in the ’70s shaped their beams, and the photos look like a much more reasonable beam pattern than the standard round flashlight beam.

        Wide Angle Lens for MagicShine, Gemini, and many other Bike Lights / Headlight

      • Allan says:

        Thank you Josh, I really appreciate that tip on the lenses from Amazon. I just ordered two of them and I will probably order more. I think those will be great on trails, don’t know if they will be good in all situations on the street though. You really need an attention getter to keep the cars at bay. Seeing glass on the road directly in front, in time is another priority. I also noticed that Amazon has the Magic Shine Clones for $15.99 with free shipping. So for $15.99 plus $4.99 for the lens anyone can have a dynamite light. There is no excuse not to. Regulation is definitely a disaster to be avoided. That $15.99 light will probably cost $200. if it has to pass through hoops and have a stamp on it. Let me give you an example. You can get +2 reading glasses anywhere for a couple of dollars. If you need the same glasses in a -2 prescription they have to come from an optician and cost $200 or more. Furthermore, I have bought -2 glasses in several foreign countries for $10. Who really benefits from legislation?

      • Gary says:

        “who benefits from regulation?”

        Well the early Magic Shine lamps used recycled laptop batteries. Some of them caught fire.

        So if your house burns down because you tried to recharge defective batteries did you need a regulation? or is “the market” enough? ie you read about someone elses house burning down… assuming Net neutrality lets you see that article/blog.

      • Allan says:

        Hogwash, by that reasoning everything would be regulated and expensive and not necessarily better. New batteries catch fire too, Black and Decker recalled their lawnmowers a half a dozen times and DeWalt had charger recalls. I am sure their is a lot more and if you have any sense you don’t charge any batteries where they can catch fire unattended. For that matter a new Boing Airplane caught fire recently. Tens of thousands of Americans have died from FDA approved drugs, whoops.

    • Chicama says:

      Well said Meanie,
      I never understood cyclists who think they are too good to be run over by a driver, or too good to show solidarity with other cyclists who have been run over by drivers. They talk about the law, as if the driver that eventually runs them over would suffer any consequences from the law. In reality they are just as vulnerable on the road as any of the people they look down their noses at. If appeasing drivers is more important to them than staying alive, then good luck.

      • Allan says:

        Hooray for Chicama, yes. This whole debate is wrong. The topic should be, “Are your Lights bright enough to stay Alive.” Our next debate should ask how many people got hit with smaller lights or non existent lights. That is the real problem. As an older car driver, I worry not about bright bicycle lights. I have never been bothered by a bright bike light, I just applaud them. My fear is hitting an unlit or poorly lit bike in the dark. The one thing I have learned from the video is that I need to double up my tail lights on my bikes and increase my reflectors.

  6. Peri Hartman says:

    This is a great idea – to make videos of lighting tests. It would be great to take this a few steps further, as it is difficult to judge without comparisons to other conditions. In other words, we’re seeing the effect on a bright light on someone’s (probably cheap) camera.

    1. The simplest thing would be to have a comparison with a couple autos, and maybe a motorcycle oncoming and going.

    2. A second example viewed from a car pulling out of a driveway – e.g. offset from the bicycles path would also be helpful. That is, is the light noticeable when pulling out of a driveway or cross street?

    A brief google search showed that typical auto headlights have 700 lumens on low beam. There’s two of those. So, at least in principal, 1400 lumens shouldn’t be too much. I think the question is the lamps beam.

    But there’s always a trade off. If the beam is cut off below eye level, do you decrease your visibility and safety?
    3. Listing the type of light for each test, its lumens and its beam angle(s).

    • Gary says:

      More information on various lights can be found here:

      http://reviews.mtbr.com/2014-mtbr-bike-lights-shootout

      • Peri Hartman says:

        Just looked. That ref gives a pretty good idea of how each light compares from the rider’s point of view. I think you can get an idea of the beam width by seeing how much of the tunnel sides get illuminated. Some appear to have a very narrow beam while a few light up practically everything. That might be useful information in the next bike light purchase.

        Unfortunately it does not (unless I missed it) show anything from an opposing driver’s point of view.

      • Josh says:

        While MTBR doesn’t show an oncoming view, you can see the height of the high-intensity part of the beam in the background of the photos. If you’re lighting up the trees, or the top of the fence, you’re glare-blinding oncoming drivers.

        The new tunnel shots aren’t directly comparable because of reflection, but again, if you’re lighting up the roof of the tunnel, you’re wasting light and throwing it in the eyes of oncoming drivers. If the foreground is washed-out white, distance lighting isn’t as effective.

        Of course, MTBR is about mountain bikes, where you actually do want to light up the trees enough to avoid smacking into branches. Off-road lighting demands are very different from on-road, just like driving a car off road vs. on.

  7. Bryan Willman says:

    There are a handful of other issues.
    1. The camera doesn’t see quite like a human eye.
    2. Ordinary car headlights are blinding too if you stare straight at them, and most people learn to not do that.
    3. Motocycle lights are quite bright.
    4. The type of light you need to be seen is actually pretty different from the type of light you need to see where you are going.

    People on bike trails and the like pass a hyper close distances, and the issues there while real, do not necessarily inform use on streets and roads.

    • FoxyFuji says:

      Another factor to consider- age. Wait until you’re 50, the difference in what you can see at night is dramatic, as is the pain caused by the oncoming bright headlights. I shudder to think what it will be like at 70.

      • Jayne says:

        Just one of the excellent reasons for more stringent testing to reduce the number of people who are licensed to operate motor vehicles in public. Not everyone who wants to drive should be allowed to.

      • Steve says:

        Particularly obnoxious in this regard are SUVs and big-penis trucks that have not just headlights, but those G-D “fog” lights that are improperly aimed upwards into the eyes of oncoming traffic. Of course, when its actually foggy these lights then increase the reflection back at the driver of the offending vehicle because they’re aimed improperly.

      • Josh says:

        @Jayne – It’s terribly unfair to suggest 70 year olds should be regulated off their bikes rather than demanding bike lights suitable for all ages.

        If your headlight prevents me from seeing the street I’m driving on, you’re putting me in danger whether I’m in a car or on a bike.

        This issue will become much more significant in Seattle as more cycletracks and greenways are built for the 8-to-80 demographic.

        We’re going to be seeing more older people riding bikes, and they’re going to be facing other bicycles head-on rather than from opposite sides of the street. (The same issue many people on bikes already complain about on BGT or I-90.)

  8. Chicama says:

    I use a 600 Lumen blinking light in the front, and a very bright red blinking light on the back. I have spoken to other people with annoying front blinking lights. It turns out that we all share something in common. We have either been hit by a driver, or our spouse has been hit by a driver. That experience changes one’s perspective. It is no longer just about being visible. It is about not being ignored, glanced-over, or written off on the road. Plenty of people with perfectly visible lights are hit by drivers all the time. Obviously, being visible is not enough to be safe on the road. I will downgrade my blinking lights the day drivers can be trusted to not run over cyclists that are perfectly visible.

    • Josh says:

      Just curious… has anyone in the Seattle area had any run-ins with police over illegal flashing headlights?

      I know one rider who was given a warning over 1000+ lumen flashing headlights, but technically, even a little AAA-powered blinking headlight is illegal.

      I’m guessing that most police aren’t going to be out looking for dim blinkies, but what are people’s experiences with the equivalent of tactical flashlights on disorient/dazzle mode?

      • Chicama says:

        Tell you what. Only after the police enforce laws about stopping a car on stop signs (i.e., not on the crosswalk, not on the bike lake), then they may start to think about wasting their time on discouraging bicycle lights that prevent cyclist’s deaths.

      • Steve says:

        Chicama:
        If you blind oncoming drivers you greatly increase the odds of your being flattened. You also increase antipathy towards bicyclists in general, thereby feeding into the car-bike war mind set on both sides.

      • Chicama says:

        Steve,
        Really? I have not had a single close call with a driver since I upgraded all my lights to super bright and annoying. As for antipathy, I’d rather be disliked by some than dead. The same people who dislike me for imposing my presence on the road with bright lights, also dislike me for being of the road in the first place.

    • Sarah says:

      I think part of the problem people are having with very bright lights is that the light has such a huge “footprint” that the bicycle within it cannot be seen. The driver is simply blinded. That in itself is dangerous.

      We also need to address brightness and flashing and the resulting target fixation. “Wow, my blinky light is so bright and catches my attention so well I can’t look away! Awesome for on the road!” Nope. Drivers can’t look away either, and they steer the car to where their eyes are focussed. (That’s how so many police officers get hit during traffic stops – drivers are looking and steer to where they have focussed their eyes.)

      • Josh says:

        As noted in previous stories, flashing headlights are already illegal, the issue there is enforcement.

        If the police don’t see it as a priority, the law only comes into play after someone gets hit using a flashing light instead of a headlight, and finds out *they’re* at fault for not having a legal headlight.

      • Gary says:

        But Modulating headlights are legal on motorcycles, which probably confuses the issue with cops.

        Most likely cops are just glad not to have to scrape folks off the pavement, as in any lights vs no lights at all. (nija riders)

      • bill says:

        Modulating headlights are a lot less stressful to encounter. There is a world of difference between modulating and strobing.

      • Chicama says:

        “the light has such a huge “footprint” that the bicycle within it cannot be seen.”

        I was driving down 65th Eastward toward Ravenna one night. An SUV was stopped on the traffic light facing me. The SUV lights’ “footprint” was so big that it obscured the cyclists that was in front of it. I knew a cyclist was in front of that SUV because I saw bright flashing light between the super bright SUV lights. Had the cyclist had a solid light, or a weak blinking light, oncoming drivers would not have known he was there. Following your advice would have greatly increased his chances of being hit by a driver.

      • Allan says:

        Sarah, if you are right about drivers heading towards bright lights we should put a lot of bright lights on trees. That should get the bad drivers off the road.

      • Josh says:

        On modulating vs. flashing — one real problem with flashing is that the human eye has a limited range, so the pupil adjusts to suit the prevailing light. Every time the light turns off, the pupil opens wide, just in time for the light to come back on, full strength. So a strobe causes much more disorientation and glare blindness than the same intensity of steady light.

        Modulated lights don’t do that, the WAC limits the depth of modulation on motorcycle headlights to no more than 20% at night. (http://apps.leg.wa.gov/wac/default.aspx?cite=204-21-040) That makes the light very conspicuous without the disorientation of a strobe.

        Motorcycle headlights also have beam-alignment regulations, like cars. For old bikes with single-beam headlights, the light must point straight ahead, and the top of the high intensity portion of the beam can’t be aimed above level. That one adjustment would end most of the complaints about excessive bicycle headlights — just don’t shine bright lights up into the eyes of oncoming traffic, whether that traffic is a bike or a car.

    • Al Dimond says:

      A post like this is exactly why some standards for beam shape would be a good thing. Assuming that, on balance, your safety is enhanced by your light setup (not a sure thing — drivers that can’t see are known to be erratic!), it diminishes the safety of everyone else on the road. Say an oncoming driver is blinded by your light while overtaking a cyclist, even one running excellent taillights. That cyclist won’t be seen — no taillights they could use will outshine yours. The driver may even lose track of the road and run off it. But you had a bad experience and responded in a way you thought was rational: buying more light to buy more safety.

      So I hope one day you “downgrade” your lights to something designed properly for nighttime road use. I hope you do so before we regulate it and you’re ticketed.

    • Steve says:

      Of course, you might also be run over because you’ve unexpectedly blinded the car driver. The result is the same. Perhaps there’s a better approach?

    • Allan says:

      Chicama, you are so right, I have know people to be killed because they did not have a light that could not be ignored.

    • Allan says:

      I have also found that my bright annoying lights really reduce the number of close calls with cars. I feel naked without them.

  9. Clark in Vancouver says:

    Interesting. Something I’ve thought about for awhile now too.

    I found this website of a guy in the Netherlands who is doing testing of lights (and other components).
    http://swhs.home.xs4all.nl/fiets/tests/verlichting/index_en.html
    He has some strong opinions about things but a lot of it makes sense and I’ve learned a lot. Some of the ones that he thinks are good (such as from Philips) aren’t even imported into Canada or the U.S.
    Another website from Peter White Cycles in New Haven, does testing of lights.
    http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/headlights.asp

    It’s too bad that the choice we have in this continent is so limited. Most of them in stores seem to be the same type of light but with different and sometimes gimmicky differences.

    There’s this German mail order place that ships to North America.
    http://bikediscount.de
    And also of course David Hembrow’s Dutch Bike Bits that also will ship to North America.
    http://www.dutchbikebits.com

  10. merlin says:

    I already know what it’s like to be (a few years shy of) 70, and believe me, bright oncoming lights on the trail can be terrifying. There are two primary issues as we get older: our eyes react more slowly to changes in lighting, so when we encounter a bright light suddenly in a dark environment, our pupils can’t shut down quickly to dampen the light. And secondly, our cornea begins to cloud, causing diffuse glare. While riding the Burke after dark, I’ve had to pull over to the (invisible) side of the trail to let overly-bright lights pass. If you hear someone say, as you’re passing on the trail, “wow, your lights are too bright!” that might be me. And if you do hear me say that, please modify your lights before someone gets hurt. It could be you.

    • Allan says:

      Merlin, the vision thing is not that bad for everybody. I am turning 66 and don’t have your vision problems and I am not terrified by bright lights. I don’t have a problem passing other cyclists with or without lights. Maybe I will someday and than it will be my problem to slow down and compensate.

  11. Steve Campbell says:

    I just purchased a Trelock LS 950 after reading a review of lights online. I wanted a light that met German standards but didn’t want to invest in a generator hub and wheel. It’s about twice as much as a comparable rechargeable LED headlight from Cygolite etc., but since it’s made in Germany it has an asymmetric reflector and meets all the German requirements.

    It probably isn’t quite as bright as my old Cygolite, but because of the reflector the light is much more useful. I find places where I had to run my old light on high, I can now get by with the new light’s medium setting. I also really like the controls, just two buttons, one to increase the light level, one to decrease. As opposed to my old light having to go in order from brightest to flashing to medium, low, lowest then back to brightest. It also has a runtime on high of about 6 hours.

  12. RTK says:

    I am one of those that has difficulty on darker sections of trails when someone rides towards me with high beams or strobes. As someone earlier stated, maybe it is becoming more of a problem because my eyes are of the older variety.

    Since the first article this fall I believe I’ve seen a drop in strobe use on the BGT. I’m not sure how big readership is for this blog, or if people have been point out the problem to other trail users.

    It is somewhat often that I have trouble due to an approaching cyclist on dark section of the trail. Never in mixed dawn / dusk light or on a road lit by street lights and businesses.

    I also have never been driving a vehicle and had a cyclist approach with too much light. A lot of people seem to be expressing concern for blinding drivers. Is this something that has happened to them?

    My commute takes me through South Seattle in the wee hours of the morning. There is a lot of light pollution on some of the industrial /commercial roads I ride. Lots of businesses with neon, flashing lights and reader boards designed to get noticed. In this environment I run my strobe and I’m decked out with reflectors and reflective gear.

    On trails l I never strobe, and run a lower beam, only using a brighter setting when caught in an absolute downpour in the dark. I’d like to think my light direction is always well adjusted.

    Anyways, I’m curious if others have actually been bothered by bike lights while riding / driving out on the roads?

    • Gary says:

      As a car driver I have never ever been bothered by bicycle lights.

      As a bicycle rider, yes, oncoming on the I-90 trail sometimes I get blinded by lights. I put my hand in front of my eyes and that seems to indicate to the rider that they need to aim them lower…. it’s either working or there are fewer bad light riders as it’s pretty infrequent.

      I am much more concerned with riders with NO lights or terrible lights. Those cheap blinky lights that don’t show up, or lights on backpacks aimed at the sky. Those folks I constantly talk to. I tell them, “put the lights 100yds down the road and go look at them. See how invisible you are….”

    • Josh says:

      I’ve never been blinded by a bicycle headlight while driving my car, but I’ve had constituent complaints about the issue, mostly senior citizens on narrower residential streets where there’s less horizontal separation between opposing traffic.

      I would expect those complaints to grow as lumens get cheaper and the population ages.

      I’d never heard a complaint about excessive bicycle headlights ten years ago. Sure, there were a few people who had massive homebrew lighting setups or ridiculously-expensive HID headlights, but they were rare exceptions.

      Today, you can get a complete 1,000-lumen headlight for less than NightSun charged for a replacement bulb.

      I’d say I’ve heard more complaints this winter than the past five combined.

  13. AJ says:

    One perspective of the videos they made and posted that I’m not seeing discussed is how the people are dressed(ing).

    In the videos with the camera mounted in the car you can easily see the lighter colored clothing as well as all the reflective piping, even on the tires. Note the woman standing to the right of the screen in the white jacket who appears to have no legs, bright colors work.

    In the final (7th) video when the camera is mounted on the cyclists helmet and (s)he rides past the two people standing still you can see the yellow biking jacket pretty easily, however the person standing right next to it in all black cant be seen until the bike is almost on top of him.

    To me one of the main points is to point out that people MUST think about their attire, especially runners, walkers and bladers (in my opinion) as they tend to dress darker and be just as big (if not bigger) threat to themselves and those around them. Its not all about the bike vs. car, bike vs. people on foot matters too!

    My daily, year-around commute takes me down the Harbor Ave trail and the West Marginal Trail in the dark hours where I encounter many who are going “ninja”, especially along the waterfront. To me, this is the more important take-away from the videos. The lighting used, and not used is important as well, with the aiming of the lights needing just as much attention.

    But dressing to stay safe is just as important as throwing out some Lumes.

    I am disappointed at how much negativity there is in most of the comments, and support the line one posted mentioned, something to the effect of “…if you don’t like the way they made their videos, go do some yourself…”.

    Kudos to the West Seattle Bike Connections for the idea, their doing it and the posting of them to help others THINK about what they look like when out in the dark.

    Peace…

  14. Allan says:

    Just one more little thought. There are some really stupid pedestrians out there and they will step right in front of your bike without looking, unless you have a strobing, flashing or pulsing light to get their attention.

  15. nullbull says:

    Agree about control groups. Bikes are mixed in with peds and cars on the streets, so the video should include how bright runners, walkers, cars, trucks, etc. are in addition to bikes. How bright is the brightest bike light compared to the SUV, blue-laser-beam lights mounted at stomach or chest level and maybe aligned properly or maybe not? My personal sense is that the most annoying bike lights are about as annoying as the most annoying car lights. This likelihood I encounter an annoying bike light is about 10% the likelihood that I’ll encounter an annoying car light. So, ten annoying car lights for every one annoying bike light – and that’s on a bike right of way (Lake Washington Blvd S.).

    I’m not sure I’ve ever seen or even heard of someone cited or pulled over in their car for mis-aligned headlights or driving with their high beams on. But I am frequently blinded by cars with mis-aligned headlights or with high beams on. I don’t think drivers can just say, “well, I’m SUPPOSED to have mine aligned (even though they aren’t and no one is making me do it), so problem solved… the bikes are the real danger out there because they aren’t regulated yet.”

    Cyclists are a growing presence on the road, and we should hash this stuff out. If we think regulation and enforcement are the way out, I hope it’s about regulating and enforcing against any user of the road with troublesome lights (cars, trucks, or bikes). But most of the noise about bikes and needed enforcement comes from the fact that drivers are forced to share the road with ANYONE ELSE. They’ve had it to themselves for a generation, and have all the attendant expectations that goes with a long run of exclusivity. If enforcement to enhance safety were really the thing on people’s minds, then we’d be talking about people texting, driving 5 over, not signalling, failing to yield, gliding through stops, and all the other infractions we know increases the danger, yet expect from each other everywhere and always.

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