28

Sometimes I ride in the park which has no light. There always are dog walkers, runners and other cyclists. So, when I ride towards someone I have two options:

  • dim my light and slow down (since I can't go fast anymore)
  • speed up to to minimize time that I light on those people

My front light is: like this

So, the question is: how to be less irritating?

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  • 4
    Well, this light can be kind of blinding in total darkness – k102 Oct 3 '16 at 9:10
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    I put my hand over the light to shade it for the last few metres when they've clearly seen me – WW01 Oct 3 '16 at 11:38
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    Your headlight should be pointed down anyway, to illuminate the roadway. – Daniel R Hicks Oct 3 '16 at 11:46
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    is your light blinking? – njzk2 Oct 3 '16 at 12:31
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    Get/invent a bike light that automatically dims when it detects eyes or another light ;-) – gerrit Oct 3 '16 at 23:26
37

Consider how you feel when a fellow cyclist approaches you will full beam straight ahead. It's pretty blinding, even for a moment, and especially off-road when your eyes aren't used to it.

So in a park:

  • Dim your light to its lowest setting (within reason).
  • Put it on steady beam. Flashing is more visible but also more annoying and disorientating.
  • Physically push it forwards/downwards so it's pointing towards the ground, not into anyone's face.

If you do this then it doesn't matter whether you illuminate pedestrians or for how long.

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  • 2
    You have to ride in the parks in the Netherlands? – Anton Tropashko Oct 3 '16 at 13:57
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    Blinking lights are not necessarily more visible, and reduce the ability of others to judge your position and velocity. See this report (Dutch) – Sanchises Oct 4 '16 at 12:41
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    @StephanBijzitter They're also forbidden in Poland but it doesn't stop people from using them - which btw. is beyond my understanding, riding in darkness with a blinking light would be even harder, more annoying and confusing than just using the ambient light. – Maurycy Oct 5 '16 at 8:37
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    @Maurycy - that's no longer the case in Poland. – Grzegorz Oledzki Oct 5 '16 at 11:40
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    @Maurycy - source: isap.sejm.gov.pl/DetailsServlet?id=WDU20150000305 (page 38) - :( – nuoritoveri Oct 5 '16 at 11:42
36

There are now many bike lights on the market which have a shaped beam with a "horizontal cutoff" giving strong light onto the road or path, but much less above the horizon. When adjusted correctly these allow you to see where you're going without dazzling oncoming traffic or pedestrians.

Ixon IQ shaped beam with horizontal cutoff

I use a Busch & Muller Ixon IQ (pictured), but there are others.

enter image description here If you don't want to fork out for a new light, you can make a hood for the light to block the light from going upwards.

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    That’s the only good answer. A proper headlight will have a horizontal cut-off. – Michael Oct 3 '16 at 14:47
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    +1. A dipped light is the only polite light. – Gareth Rees Oct 3 '16 at 17:19
9

I had to face exactly this on an old commute. Dipping the front light was absolutely necessary in a park and another stretch of unlit bike path. It was a bright enough light to illuminate the road, though not well enough to ride at any decent rate on low power.

The solution I found to this was to add a narrow-beam head torch. This can be dipped hands free, and points where you look rather than where the bars are pointing (quite useful when it's pitch dark and you're next to a lake going round sharp bends). Overhanging branches can mean the need to illuminate stuff that's not the road surface, so I tended to adjust the light as I rode much as you'd switch from main beams to dipped beams in a car.

The head torch I bought was ~5 from dealextreme, and is 150 lumens nominal -- so not very much ligfht in total. But all that light is in a bike-sized area of road even if it's directed 10 bike lengths away. I tended to adjust the angle such that I had to tip my head slightly up to illuminate as far away as I'd like for ~30km/h speeds on imperfect tarmac, so that a natural head position was more suited to slower speeds with other people around. In busy areas well-lit I could easily point it almost straight down.

8

You can dip the light slightly (point it towards the ground). Even without considering politeness, you might prefer to illuminate the ground ahead of you, instead of (as you would on a lit city street) pointing it straight forward to be seen as maximum distance.

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  • The faster I go, the more far should I light - so dipping the light would lead me to slow down – k102 Oct 3 '16 at 9:26
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    Yes: slow down. I don't know whether you drive a car, but I am conscious that even on a bike I weigh 80 kg: if I run over a small animal I reckon I'd kill it -- politeness wants me to slow down when I can't see well. Also, a couple of times in my life I've noticed a dog or very small child run towards (into the path of) my bike ... fascinated by the light probably. Anyway, just point it 5 or 10 metres ahead of you, instead of straight ahead. You said the park is unlit, I think the light is useless to you (except as a warning to others) if it doesn't touch the ground at all. – ChrisW Oct 3 '16 at 9:36
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    The light is mounted waist-high, so it's below eye-height (unless the eyes are at ground-level). So to prevent light shining in the eye, simply ensure that the top of the bright (central) part of the light-beam is oriented to not shine upwards. That's what cars do with their head-lights, to avoid dazzling/blinding each other. – ChrisW Oct 3 '16 at 14:13
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    downvote for suggesting that it is ever appropriate to not aim the light down. aiming horizontally on the streets actually worsens visibility due to dazzling others. lights don't need to be very bright to be seen from an extremely long distance, even in the city. – Leliel Oct 3 '16 at 23:24
  • @Leliel I ride on an illuminated busy street with cars on it, and relatively few bikes. My light is definitely up in this case. – Sparhawk Oct 4 '16 at 0:37
8

In case you can read German, here's a nice explanation how to adjust the bike front light.

Summary:

  • put bike 5m from a wall
  • measure distance (height) of the light from the street
  • make sure that the upper rim of the light at 5m distance (wall) is below that height.

  • Official German regulation: center of light beam should be at half height at 5 m distance = should hit the road at 10 m distance

Adjust speed according to visible range (just like when driving a car)

3
  • Downside of this is 10 metres is 2 seconds warning at 18 km/h. – Criggie Jul 22 at 0:22
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    @Criggie Yes, the German law is totally outdated in this regard, the prescriptions come from way back when bike lights were dynamo powered 6W heat bulbs that barely sufficed to produce a visible light patch on the ground. With modern LED lights and a sharp cutoff, the cutoff should be just a tad below horizontal, enabling 30m to 40m of perfect view on any pedestrians shoes. Yes, that's illegal in the strict sense of the law, but it's much better in the higher interest of riding safely. – cmaster - reinstate monica Jul 22 at 10:42
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    The problem with this answer is that it overlooks the fact that the OP's light does not seem to have a cutoff of the light cone. It's not even legal to use the OP's light in Germany, even though many people do so out of pure ignorance. – cmaster - reinstate monica Jul 22 at 10:44
2

I wear an adjustable head strap flashlight at night while riding my bike. The one I have has three colors (white, red and green)which allows me to use a less intense color at times, so as not to blind people. As an addition to three colors, of has three level of intensity. It is worth looking into. With this you are able to turn your head slightly when needed.

Adjustible head flashlight

These examples may be of help to you. The one pictured is the style I use at the moment.

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  • Sorry, the link is dead. Can you fix it? – k102 Oct 3 '16 at 14:13
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    And, conversely, you're able to blind people on the road by looking at them, since that causes your beam to point straight at them... – David Richerby Oct 3 '16 at 16:14
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    Colours will be dependent on location. Here, red lights may only be used to the rear, and green or blue lights are not permitted on vehicles at all. Green is for emergency doctors (not ambos) and blue is reserved solely for police cars. – Criggie Oct 3 '16 at 19:13
1

how to be less irritating?

By not using a light that is illegal in Germany.

Cheap lights are almost always:

  • Powered by a very powerful battery capable of supplying a huge number of watts (to cover up the fact that the light has a poor beam pattern and instead provide so many lumens that it seems bright enough)
  • Have a flashlight-style reflector that is spherically symmetric, usually produced in China for flashlights but then some idiot decided to reuse the reflector for vehicle lights
  • Mounted on the handlebar using a style of mount that is prone to changing the angle of the light if riding at high speed over bumps, instead of proper mounting hardware for fork crown that is held with tight bolts to keep the angle of the light fixed
  • For extra points, have a blinking mode to save battery life and irritate other road users

These cheap lights are excellent in blinding oncoming people. The only possibility you can see forward is to direct the brightest part of the beam far away in the road. This means a large portion of the spherically symmetric pattern is projected above the horizon, blinding oncoming riders.

However, the cheap lights are usually poor for seeing because the beam pattern is not designed for vehicle use. The spherical pattern directs too much light where not needed and too little light where needed.

The Germans have a solution for this: their law, StVZO, requires lights to be non-blinking, powered by a power source that doesn't suddenly go away (=dynamo), and the beam pattern to be such that it lights the road ahead of the cyclist and only the road ahead of the cyclist, having a sharp cut-off at the beam to not direct any part of the bright beam above the horizon (there will be still plenty of spill light that won't blind others but allows car drivers to see there's a bike).

Unfortunately quality costs. Only about 1% of people live in Germany, so pretty much the Germans are designing lights only for 1% of the population. If a German quality headlight manufacturer can amortize the product development costs of a true vehicle headlight over 1% of cyclists in this planet and a Chinese manufacturer can amortize the product "development" (in quotes because reusing flashlight technology doesn't really require any intelligent work) costs of a flashlight over 99% of cyclists in this planet, guess which light will be more expensive and which will be less expensive?

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    Generally a good answer, but I believe it could be improved: Parts of it sound more like a rant rather than an objective answer. People would trust your answer much more if you edited out the rantiness and replaced it with a more neutral, objective tone. - Btw: Afaik, dynamo lights are not required anymore. Battery lights have been made legal in Germany, but the other requirements like the cutoff and the prohibition of flashing lights remain. – cmaster - reinstate monica Jul 22 at 21:17

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