Bike Lights Tests and Lights in My Eyes
I try not to ride at night but even if you aren’t a bicycle commuter you occasionally have to ride at night. Last Monday, I got a late start on my ride home from the White Mountains and spent the last two hours riding in the dark. It had been a very overcast and dark day so the night was very dark, no stars or moonlight. This was a perfect night to test my new headlight and taillight before I leave for the Northwest in July. We’ll be riding on rail trails there with long unlit tunnels through the mountains and I’ll need good lights.
My new taillight worked great. It is a Catseye LD-1000 and the brightest LED light I’ve ever seen. It is speced to run for a 100 hours on two AA batteries. This light is so bright you can see the LEDs flashing in daylight.
The new headlight worked acceptablably. It is a Catseye EL-500. It is speced to run for 30 hours on four AA batteries. It doesn’t throw a lot of light but enough to ride safely at low speed on the darkest of nights. I know that doesn’t sound very good but this level of performance is a real break through for small, low cost bike lights. It is the best sub $100 light I have seen.
With my lights working fine I thought I was set for a comfortable ride home. But I had forgotten about the real night riding problem, car headlights.
Cars approaching me would turn on their high beams as they got close completely wiping out my view of the road. I had to ride with my hand in front of my eyes to stay on the road. Waving my hand seemed to get through to some drivers that their high beams were blinding me but most just drove on clueless.
I don’t have much hope that educating drivers will help much. Today young drivers claim they have no idea what hand signals are and cops don’t seem to know that bikes aren’t allowed on the sidewalk (see New Haven Article).
I believe the best way to help bicyclist is to increase the number of people bicycling. Promote bicycle commuting (gas prices are helping here) and bicycle tourism. When I ride in a city like Montreal, I see what bicycling could be here. Bicyclist aren’t wackos in Montreal, every reasonably fit person bicycles because it is easier than driving and they are fitter because they bicycle.