With power comes responsibility

Bicycle lighting technology has come a very long way in recent years. A time-travelling cyclist from the 1970s would gasp at today’s powerful and diminutive lights, front and back.

We think nothing of taking on night rides such as the wonderful Dunwich Dynamo, with its 120 miles of twisting country lanes, using just a single rechargeable light to guide our way. Negotiating pitch-dark rural roads at speeds in excess of 20mph represents no particular challenge because our way is so clearly illuminated. Behind us, too, our tiny rear lights warn motorists several hundred metres away that we’re up ahead with their powerful flashes.

But how often have you followed a cyclist boasting the latest lighting technology and wished it wasn’t quite so powerful? Or perhaps you’ve passed one coming the other way whose high-tech mega-weapon is set to off-road 2,000-plus lumen mode, blasting everything in its path in a dazzling white blanket of light.

Experienced nightriders know that the extraordinary power of their lights comes with a responsibility to be considerate to others. They understand how distracting and irritating it is to ride in the wake of a high-powered flashing red warning light. So they set their own lights to constant or pulse mode at medium power. Up front, they ensure that their lights are not angled to shine into the eyes of oncoming drivers and that the power setting isn’t too much for the conditions.

It’s tempting, especially for commuters using busy urban streets day after day, to assume that you can’t be too visible – that there’s no such thing as too bright. But there really is. If you’re worried about motorists not seeing you, the last thing you should be doing is blinding them!

As we enter the winter months and the retailers bombard you with promotions for ever-stronger, more efficient lights, spare a thought for other road users and use your lights carefully.