It's common to encounter a couple of other cyclists as I pedal home, especially on the two segregated paths that make my route extraordinary - I hardly ride with automobiles for 5-miles. In the darkness we know ahead of time when a cyclist approaches as we all use powerful headlights and indeed it is a necessity to illuminate the unlit, mostly wooded paths. We are courteous, acknowledge each other, slow to allow one at a time to cross the narrow bridges, and always keeping to the right side when passing, especially because with bright lights, it's difficult to gauge exactly where each rider is positioned, erring on the side of caution.
And so, I was rather bewildered when an oncoming rider yelled, "Egads that's blinding!" It took a split second for his comment to register because, from the tone of his voice, he wasn't joking around. He was angry! Normally, if I get comments at all, they are complimentary, something to the effect of "that's a nice bright light" or "cool light", so this man's comment took me be surprise. My initial reaction was to say, "Sorry!" and a split second later mumbled, "But I need to see!" which by then, because of distance probably fell on deaf ears.
For the next quarter mile I relived the confrontation, mulling over my response and the ire of the other rider. I am a friendly rider, and love to communicate so thus my quick apologetic and non-threatening comeback. But, we all use similar lights - my light is no brighter than anyone else's and I purposely use the second to brightest setting, about 350 lumens, the minimum light for the dark pathways. I also aim the beam approximately 15 feet ahead, a perfect distance for the speed I travel. It's difficult to tell what was going through the other rider's mind. Mixed terrain could have played a factor, my light momentarily blinding him, causing him to blurt out. But much like driving at night, one must be cautious and not stare directly at oncoming headlights. In hindsight, I shouldn't have responded at all and perhaps the guy was having a bad day.
Have you encountered a similar scenario? Are there unwritten rules, or certain etiquette for passing each other in the dark?