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New MUT rant: blindingly bright lights(6 posts)

New MUT rant: blindingly bright lightscommuterguy
Sep 26, 2002 8:30 AM
It's becoming that time of the year when the ride home (and sometimes the ride in) is in the dark. In years past, I have marveled at the number of riders without lights at all, or with just a POS 2 AA cell, 2 watt "halogen" bulb to light their way. This continues to the be case, but a new--and more dangerous--threat has emerged: oncoming traffic whose extremely bright lights are trained right on my cones and rods.

I haven't seen too many blue-tinged, $400 HID lights yet--they must be too expensive. But there are plenty of very bright lights, probably Niteriders at 20-32 watts. Fellow MUT users: if you have these, dim them and point them away from oncoming traffic. You don't have an interest in blinding riders who may veer onto your side of the path. You shouldn't condemn them to seeing spots for 10-15 seconds after you pass by.

I can understand riding with these lights aimed high on the road: you want to be seen, and these lights get you noticed. But on an MUT, particularly an unlighted MUT, you don't need that much illumination to be seen. You do need a lot of illumination on the ground directly in front of you, so you can see sticks and other debris that has collected on the path. Your fellow MUT users who are smart enough to wear something reflective will light up like Christmas trees even with the indirect light from a decent 12 watt system. There is no reason to project a bright light straight out into space in front of you: you gain nothing, while creating real risks for the oncoming traffic.

In sum: it is possible to have too much of a good thing. Yes, you absolutely need a good light to ride at night: 12 watts halogen minimum, IMHO. But don't terrorize and blind your fellow cyclists with a wasted 32 watt glare out into space.
Relax and get a visor.MB1
Sep 26, 2002 8:47 AM
Do you live in DC? Sounds like the trails around here. I generally agree with what you say about some riders having lights that are annoyingly bright, but come on-no way they are as bright as auto headlights and you deal with them.

A nice helmet visor correctly adjusted will take care of all your problems.
I have a visorcommuterguy
Sep 26, 2002 8:57 AM
Yes, I live in the DC area and am mostly describing the situation on the CCT. I actually find that oncoming cars are easier to deal with: their headlights aren't aimed directly at me (I would never ride into traffic, and headlights are aimed down and to the driver's right). Also, on a street there are generally street lights and other light sources, so the headlights are not so bright, in a relative sense (which is the only sense that matters). On the CCT, away from street lights, once my eyes have adjusted I have been having significant problems with the brighter, misaimed lights I have faced.

I don't have any problems with lights that aren't aimed right at me. As I said above, the oncoming traffic doesn't benefit from such lights--the only impact is to create risk for me. So this is a win-win situation: riders should aim their lights where they benefit, and not where others are endangered.

BTW, perhaps you didn't intend to suggest otherwise, but the combination of blindingly bright lights, essentially invisible joggers and unlighted bikers, and +20 mph speeds is not a good one. I think more is at stake here than manners and feelings.
I've got one of those HIDs...biknben
Sep 26, 2002 11:48 AM
They certainly are blindingly bright. I do a fair amount of night riding and make a point of not looking fellow riders in the face (I have it helmet mounted).

No much you can do if it is a stranger going the other way. Have you tried to tell them? They may not realize that they are blinding people.

Sounds like a great excuss to drop a shoulder and hit 'em. But I'm not suggesting you do that. :-)
I've got one of those HIDs...commuterguy
Sep 26, 2002 1:17 PM
I wish I had one. It is good (and in your own interest) not to blind other cyclists.

Confession: I wasn't sensitized to this subject until a couple of winters ago, when my two handlebar lights aggravated someone else, who yelled at me. I quickly figured out what the problem was, and have since tried to keep my lights aimed down and away from other riders.

I also switched helmets recently, and I suspect, prompted by MB1's post, that my new visor is more porous than my old one. Either that, or age is taking its toll...

I think this is part of an emerging trend in MUT issues that are only going to get worse with time. I have been amazed how superior bike commuting is for me in virtually every dimension: not only the exercise and enjoyment from riding, but, for me, my 24 mile r/t commute is faster on a bike than either mass transit or driving. Parking near my office is $25/day. Mass transit is overburdened, and subject to random disruptions (due to equipment failures, sick passengers, etc.).

More and more people are getting wise to this, and my MUT is increasingly crowded. We are starting to have a lot of the same issues that exist on the roads: congestion, path rage, accidents, etc. I am afraid that if cyclists (and rollerbladers and joggers) can't self regulate, we will be saddled with very onerous rules (like 10 or 12 mph speed limits). A worst case scenario would be if commuters lost own current exemption from the "closed after dark" rule that governs the MUT.
The Plus Sidegrzy
Sep 26, 2002 2:52 PM
Cars can not ignore you!

Had several flash us their highbeams coming across the desert Saturday night and we already had them pointed down at the ground!

Yup, with power comes responsibility.