When I ride on a bike path alongside an unlit road in the dark, I find myself blinded by the lights of oncoming cars, even when their lights are dimmed. This is even more true if the bike path is on the left side of the road. Currently, I mitigate this by holding one hand in front of the lights of the oncoming cars, but I wonder if there are superior strategies. The military tend to use bright flashing lights as one weapon to blind their adversaries, so I expect they have also developed defensive strategies against such blinding. How can I prevent being blinded by the (dimmed!) lights of opposing cars?

bike path
Example of bike path. It's much worse in sections without a rail.

  • 1
    I didn't find any, but I think there should exist goggles that can block light sources using a transparent film that can be switched to opaque on a per pixel basis and a camera. Normal night vision goggles don't have that feature as far as I can tell, but they can compensate for the lack of night vision. The latter is categorized with weapons in some jurisdictions, so be careful.
    – Nobody
    Feb 19, 2019 at 18:08

3 Answers 3

  • Use a different route, if one is available. This is obvious but I think it is actually the best solution, if it applies.

  • If you wear glasses, make sure they're very clean. If it's raining, consider using a different route even if you wouldn't in the dry..

  • I find that a cycling cap under my helmet helps quite a bit if I tilt my head down and towards the traffic so the peak is at an angle. It blocks off some of the road while not blocking the view forward too much.

  • I find it helps to run my front light brighter than I normally do, when I'm using such a cycle path. Then there's slightly less contrast between the path infront of you and the oncoming lights. Be prepared to dim your light if somebody's cycling the other way and make sure you're not being obnoxious to the motor traffic.

  • Ultimately, there doesn't seem to be a better shield than your hand.

  • “Be prepared to dim your light if somebody's cycling the other way and make sure you're not being obnoxious to the motor traffic.” or even better: Use a light which is designed to not blind other people.
    – Michael
    Feb 17, 2019 at 18:45
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    @Michael given this is an unlit road, there's a fair chance the cars have their highbeam (brights) on.
    – Criggie
    Feb 17, 2019 at 19:17
  • +1 for specifically mentioning cycling cap, which are significantly different to baseball/trucker caps.
    – Criggie
    Feb 17, 2019 at 19:18
  • @Michael Until you run into someone who thinks a light barely bright enough for you to ride safely at 15 mph is "blinding" and gets all nasty. Feb 17, 2019 at 19:35
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    @AndrewHenle in my experience a light bright enough to ride safely at 15mph IS blinding for oncoming trail traffic. At least here in the USA, bike lights don't have a high cutoff like car headlights, so they're ALL blinding. I've taken to covering my light when there's approaching traffic, but few others do. We need a trail-light-etiquette intervention!
    – jeffB
    Feb 18, 2019 at 15:54

Also, you can avoid looking directly at the headlights. Look slight off to the side, and maybe downwards a bit. I'd probably look at the edge of the path the farthest from the road. That way, you'll see things on the path, without your eyes looking directly into the lights of the car.

You'll still be able to see the path just fine.

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    This is the way car drivers also should drive at night: look on the opposite side of the road than the side incoming traffic is on. You'll see enough, and the incoming light goes to the sides of your eyeball, and doesn't blind the center of it. Feb 18, 2019 at 10:09

Maybe if you use a helmet with a sunshade (I have one), you can tilt your head downwards and sideways to block the car lights while still seeing forward a safe distance.
By the way, I detached the sunshade on my helmet because it rotated too much forward/downward with rucksack and thick clothes in the winter and it cut too much forward visibility.

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