I love winter training and with that comes lots of night riding as the sun leaves us pretty early. I am confident with riding at night because I am always prepared with reflective gear, lights and tend to stick to less busy roads— my only fear is getting doored! The first thing I had to acknowledge is that when it’s dark out there…
PEOPLE CANNOT SEE YOU.
The number of cyclist in all black and no lights I see out there is ridiculous. Sometimes I wish I had spare lights to hand out to these people! At least the majority of night-time cyclists will be decked out with lights but pedestrians are worse because they don’t tend to think of these things… which is unfortunate but that is just a common human tendency. I would have never gotten this insight until I became started riding bikes and saw it from a cyclist’s perspective. Hence, another great reason to ride bikes!
Pedestrians: When you are wearing all black at night, we can’t see you!!
I had an incident last week on a wet ride home, when a guy in dark clothing, with headphones on, walked across a dark street without looking and the only reason I saw him was because he was looking down at his cellphone and I saw a tiny light emitting his phone when I got close enough. Otherwise I would have hit him. OH THE IRONY. On a separate incident, I was riding home along a bike route and I thought I was alone… until I heard a cough a few meters away. I didn’t even notice there was a person walking on the sidewalk under those trees.
And to make it clear, I consistently make a strong effort to stay mindful and always look around when I cycle— safety is the utmost importance to me because I love life too much.
Of course, your desire to be safe should never turn into paranoia, which may put some types of personalities off cycling. Believe it or not, the thought of riding at night use to give me anxiety but by forcing myself to do it anyway, I am now confident through experience and have no problems doing it. I never let fear hold me back from doing things I really want to do.
Here are some tips for cycling at night:
I noticed that when I ride during the day, I sometimes don’t see other cyclists or pedestrians in front of me until I get close because they blend in with the surroundings. Especially if it’s another cyclist on the road in front of me when they are directly behind a bunch of cars. It maybe because I’m tired and disillusioned, the sun is too bright, my eyes are over-stimulated from all the movement around me (cars, people, lights), but whatever the point is, stand out as much as you can! Have your lights on during the day. If it’s bad during the day… imagine the night.
So LIGHT YOURSELF UP like a Christmas tree if you have to. No one cares how cool you look at night because no one can see you anyway!! I am actually considering these Monkey Lights for my Wilier for this winter… yes really!! I think pink ones would look so cute and no one will have a bike as sexy and as lame as mine. I mean, I already put fenders on this beautiful racing frame so I might as well go all out.
Unless you are wearing something reflective… but I stick with my light-colored thermal jackets or my obnoxious bright pink jacket.
Lights are a MUST.
Front lights will let others see you are coming and prevent accidents such as being doored by motorists getting out of their parked cars because they most likely cannot see you. Rear lights will let people behind you see you. If you regularly commute at night, carry spare batteries for your lights and keep an extra charger at work if they are USB-rechargeable. Check out this guide for choosing bike lights.
I got caught out on a late summer night with no lights… and to make it worse, prescription sunnies that I couldn’t take off. I didn’t plan to be out that late but we stopped for one too many pig out sessions. We were riding on busy roads so it was quite scary! Now I always have lights on my bike, even in the summer.
Consider the brightness of your lights (lumen).
I’ve been blinded by other cyclists’ ridiculously bright lights and it’s annoying! Especially when it’s raining or foggy. You don’t need high lumen if you are riding on mainly lit and well-paved roads but you may consider them if you ride on rural roads and need to see where you are going because of potholes and other road hazards. Lights with adjustable settings are always the best choice. Don’t cheap out on your lights either!!
Turn off your tunes.
I ride with one ear bud during the day (and pause my music when I hit busy roads) but I would never wear them at night. When you ride at night, do you notice how you seem to be riding much faster than you are during the day? Well, you’re not. Your perception will already be wonky so throwing extra noise in there is total distraction.
I may stay at work later to avoid rush hour traffic, especially in rain or fog.
Always assume they can’t see you.
You can never be too careful. Always be stay aware of your surroundings and keep your ego at the door… don’t take risky chances especially when visibility is low. I was in the car making a right turn downtown in the rain and did not see a cyclist coming up the bike path until she was literally right beside my car. Luckily I was stopped but even with her bike lights, the rain can play tricks with your eyes.
Consider ditching the bike in the rain or fog.
Seriously… visibility can get really limited. No matter how experienced you are, there are a lot of careless drivers out there.
Pedestrians and runners: follow the same rules.
You are in the same boat!! We are invisible!