In the Dark

Between extremely cold temps and an actual cold that I’ve managed to acquire, I’m not sure I’ll have more new commutes to share this week (though I’ve got my fingers crossed for Thursday and Friday).

But! I do have some photos from my rides home last week, and I thought I’d use those to share some thoughts on cycling at night.

Hillsboro/Acklen at night.

Hillsboro/Acklen at night.

Riding in the dark was one of the biggest walls for me with winter bike commuting. During the summer, it wasn’t an issue — I was coming in early to escape riding in the heat anyway, so I was always out of the office hours before sunset. But by early November, unless I left at 4:30 I was guaranteed a ride home in the dark.

luckily most streets are better lit than this!

One headlight: luckily most streets are better lit than this!

That first ride in the dark, when all I had was what amounted to a dim flashlight on the front (the blinkie was in the back but that didn’t help me see anything!), was kind of scary. As you can see from the photo above, some of the streets are barely lit at all. But I gradually added my LED light and some reflective tape, and now I feel much safer, save for a left turn off of a fairly busy (at rush hour, anyway) road.  I have to leave the bike lane and cut into traffic to make it. My gloves are black and not at all reflective, so though there are streetlights, cars may not be able to see me indicating a turn. I’ve been thinking of getting a safe turn, which I think I first saw on cyclicious — anyone heard any opinions on it?

Over the last few months, I’ve become much more comfortable riding at night. I try to remember to

1.) Slow down! If a pothole has sprung up overnight, I’m less likely to see it.

2.) Be more cautious — if there’s any chance a car is going too fast for me to get in front of it, I don’t. As I approach intersections, I make a special effort to make eye contact with drivers to be sure they see me.

and

3.) Enjoy the night-time views, like this one.

Christmas in January

Christmas in January

I’m glad these people left their tree up longer for me to enjoy.

  • msdottie

    Some may complain about never being able to see the stars in the city, but I’m happy to trade that for well-lit streets! Riding in the dark is definitely a challenge, especially for women (or maybe I’m a scaredy cat projecting my fears onto an entire gender).

    Cool night pics!

  • http://www.twitter.com/hyperactive Jason Runyan

    Don’t be a weenie Trish, a real commuter wouldn’t let a tiny cold hold her down. Have you thought about wearing a ski mask on your commute?

  • http://adrianspokesman.blogspot.com/ the village scribe

    Good point about reflective gloves for clearer signaling in low-light )(or no-light!) conditions. I hadn’t thought of that. I have a taillight but haven’t yet purchased a headlamp because I’m having trouble deciding the best setup/option. On the few occasions I’ve ridden at night, I’ve made much heavier use of sidewalks, too. I know there’s a lot of controversy there. But my own safety was at stake, and pedestrian traffic at that hour was not an issue.

  • editrish

    Thanks guys. Dot, I know what you mean about being scared, but I have yet to see a criminal riding a bike so I’m pretty sure I could get away from someone threatening…unless they were smart enough to jam a stick in my wheel or something. However I don’t know if I would ride home at midnight or anything!

    Jason, I have thought about wearing a ski mask but I don’t want to be taken for Nashville’s first bike-riding criminal. ;)

    Adrian, good headlight setups are tricky. Mine certainly isn’t optimal, but it works for now, and I do think it’s safer than sidewalk riding. There’s a strong argument (made on the How Not to Get Hit by Cars page in our sidebar, as well as other places) that it’s actually more dangerous than riding on the street, because drivers are not looking for bikes coming from a sidewalk at intersections. Of course, you have to make a judgment call based on the traffic patterns in your area.

  • msdottie

    I agree that sidewalk riding is generally more dangerous, but I have no shame sidewalk-riding when I deem it (in my infinite wisdom) the best option (for example, roads with fast cars and few pedestrians, which I always avoid if possible).

  • AK

    FYI, that “safeturn” link goes to a very explicit porn site. Might want to remove it. Eek!

    • http://letsgorideabike.com Trisha

      Eek is right — what happened? Thanks. :)

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