Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Light Up the Signs!

Around dusk, being seen on my bicycle is tricky. When my light lights up the signs, though, I can be seen

I started to title this post "The Proper Angle for Aiming a Bicycle Light for Achieving the Optimal Balance Between Seeing and Being Seen While Minimizing Dazzle," but aside from just being too long, that's the sort of thing that causes undue search engine attention sometimes, usually unexpectedly. Like the time I mentioned NOT having a map of a certain trail while mentioning the trail by name along with a photo of a sign along the trail, thus causing a spike in traffic from others also unable to find that trail map (although that had a nice ending).

Similarly, I couldn't find much precise information about aiming bicycle headlights. There's plenty of conjecture, but very few examples with a procedure involving measurement and aiming of the light. In contrast, there are plenty of online instructions for aiming car and motorcycle headlights. Primarily, they appear to involve using a wall along with some simple measurements which ensure the center of the beam up and down is at or below horizontal, and that the brighter concentration is more right than left so that it doesn't point into the eyes of oncoming drivers. That all makes sense, and seems simple enough that I will give it a try with my bike headlight soon.

In the meantime, I noticed that aiming the light so that there's enough side scatter to at least light up the signs on the right side of the road a bit makes me much more visible to drivers entering from the right. This turned out to be a very small vertical adjustment of the light which had a big difference in visibility. I realize now in the photo that due to the crop along with the auto-exposure during dusk lighting, the photo doesn't show the street illumination by the headlight. But it is accurate in the sense that the sun was still throwing enough light around to make my headlight less visible than when it's totally dark out. That's the time when I think that adjusting the light until there's some reflection coming back from the signs from the headlight beam's spill seems to make it easier to see me.

The question is, if I follow the headlight aiming procedures, 1" below the horizontal at 25 feet or whatever, will I still light up the signs? Will side-entering vehicles see me at dusk? 

I've also plonked on the BRIGHT setting lately if a side-entering vehicle seems not to see me. That seems to help. 

I know a lot of this depends on the characteristics of each specific light. One is likely to be different from another. Which is why, in the end, I wonder why light manufacturers don't include specific instructions for optimal aiming of their lights. Perhaps I will try contact a few of them to see what they have to say about that.

Four more signs lit up slightly by my light

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