Written by Amanda Wilks
There’s no question about it, biking at night is significantly more dangerous than riding during the day. It’s also a whole lot of fun, and sometimes the only way to get home. Let’s look into what you can do to ensure your after dark cycling trips remain safe and enjoyable.
Having lights on your bike is vitally important to night riding – to see where you’re going, of course, but more importantly, to be seen by others.
At a minimum, you should have flashing front and back lights on your bike – flashing lights are significantly more visible to drivers than static lights. But even better than that: ankle lights. Studies have found that lights that trace the movement of your feet as you peddle are the most eye-catching of all.
2. Reflective Gear
According to the Denver Post, the number of cycling fatalities is increasing each year. The most dangerous mistake casual cyclists make is overestimating their visibility when riding. Fluorescent colors are great during the day but don’t cut it at night. Make sure that you have plenty of retroreflective surfaces on your bike and clothing when cycling at night.
Most bikes will come with some reflective areas, but if you’re serious about staying safe at night, you’ll want to beef these up. Get some reflective tape, and use it liberally: helmet, clothing, bike frame, rims, and pedals.
3. Know Your Route
Try to choose routes you’re very familiar with when biking at night. Roads with potholes and gravel become much more dangerous when traveling for the first time at night.
If you have to take a new route, do some research first. Is there a bike lane? Is it well lit? It’s helpful to hop on Google street view when planning your trip, so you can be away from tricky intersections, blind corners, and large potholes.
4. Obey Traffic Laws
It’s tempting to ignore the rules of the road, especially if there’s traffic and you’re in a hurry, but this is the cause of a large percentage of bike accidents. Weaving through traffic or around parked cars is especially dangerous at night. Ride like you’re invisible – because to inattentive drivers, you often are.
If there isn’t a comfortable bike lane, it’s safer to ride in the middle of the lane than squeezing along the side, where getting clipped by passing cars is a real possibility. The vast majority of drivers will understand, and even if they don’t, it’s much better to annoy a couple of cars stuck behind you than compromise your safety.
5. Make Sure Your Bike is in Tip-Top Shape
Anyone who’s had to change their tire in poorly lit conditions knows it’s not fun. Not to mention dangerous, if you don’t have plenty of space away from the road, or if you get a flat in a rough area.
Minimize the chances of breaking down by taking extra care of your bike. Don’t forget to inspect your tires, chain, and brakes before setting off at night. Also, make sure to always keep your cell phone on you when riding alone in the dark.
6. Keeping Your Bike Safe at Night
The vast majority of bike thefts happen at night. Simply chaining your bike up isn’t enough – anything but the most heavy-duty chains can be cut through with bolt cutters relatively easily. The best possible place to store a bike, outside of your own home, would be a durable and secure bike locker. You’ll find these on many campuses, city squares, or subway/bus stations.
The next best solution is the U-lock and cable combo. A good U-lock at least 13mm thick may cost more than $50, but it’s worth it! The cable is to wrap through the lock and around your front wheel, which can be removed in seconds if not protected.
Biking at night can be intimidating if you’re not used to it, but there’s something very special about a peaceful night-time bike ride that everyone should experience occasionally. If you stay alert and follow the safety tips above, you’ll be able to safely enjoy the beauty of night time riding.
Author Bio: Amanda Wilks is a professional writer, contributing reviewer for MountainBikeReviewed and veteran MTBer. As a cycling advocate, Amanda believes it’s highly important for urban bike commuters to always take the necessary precautions and safety measures before going for a ride in the city during the day or at night. Find out more about Amanda on Twitter.