Night cycling is not only a good alternative way to get from point A to point B, but also some sort of therapy and meditation. You have a chance to ride the paths, otherwise overcrowded during day hours, literally on your own.
At the same time, cycling at night is oftentimes considered dangerous, and for a reason. According to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report, 45% of fatal accidents involving cyclists happened during dark hours. Hours after 6 PM have significantly more accidents compared to other hours of the day.
Now, given the fact that the vast majority of people use their bikes during daytime, it’s clear that cycling at night is significantly more dangerous.
Most of the accidents involving cyclists and motorists happen because the latter simply didn’t see a bike approaching. Obviously, at night visibility worsens and even with less cyclists riding at night, these accidents happen more often.
We have put down a list of tips you should follow if you want to cycle safely at night and enjoy the whole experience.
Your main goal now is to be as visible for people around you. One of best way to achieve this is to purchase reflective gear for yourself and your bike. Try to avoid dark colors – they become absolutely invisible at night. If you still want that dark jacket that bad – make sure reflective straps are big in will be seen.
A great budget-friendly option that we suggest for those who don’t want any more cycling clothing is reflective tape. It will make your favorite clothing safe for night riding. Make sure to apply it on your pants, arms and helmet.
When it comes to reflective gear on your bike, In most of the cases, if purchased new, you will have everything you need out of the box – reflectors for handlebar (white), seatpost and saddle (red or yellow) and wheels (yellow and white). Otherwise you can purchase them for cheap at any bike store.
At a minimum, you should have a red blinking rear light and front white light. There’s no need to go crazy and spend hundreds on the most bright lights out there. In fact, using extremely bright lights can oftentimes become more dangerous than not using any lights at all.
Speaking about the front (handlebar) light, we suggest purchasing a 400-600 lumen model, which will be absolutely enough. How did we come to this number? Well, regular auto light is about 600-700 lumens turned on low beam. Using more than that will create unnecessary distraction for oncoming drivers.
Rear light is where you don’t want to spare. It’s a good idea to have waterproof light with impressive battery life. Finding yourself in a situation when your rear light is off and there are cars approaching from behind is not the best option out there.
Also, you shouldn’t forget about rear light for your helmet. Remember, we want to be as visible as possible.
Empty night roads tend to create a false sense of safety. In reality, that’s when you need to use extreme caution and repeat all traffic rules.
If you’re cycling in urban areas, just use common sense and avoid areas with lots of intersections – choose quiet roads where possible – it’s better to cycle for ten extra minutes in tranquility.
If you’re new to cycling at night, it’s better to ride the routes you are already familiar with, or at least have ridden at least couple of times in the daylight. Alternatively, you can choose the paths that are lit at night. Again, try to avoid complex intersections.
If you’re going to ride an unfamiliar route, use a GPS at your phone and plan ahead using Strava or Google Maps.
How many of us check our bikes before a ride? I mean, each ride? Well, not many. However, this often missed routine becomes extremely important before a night ride. Of course, it will not be a hundred-percent guarantee against all possible problems. However, some of the most common issues with your bike will be easily found and fixed in advance.
Taking your tools (at least the most basic of them) will help you fix the issue when and where there will likely be no fellow cyclists around to help.
Be aware of what is going on around you – do shoulder checks and avoid using headphones.
It may be tempting to listen to your favourite tunes when there’s noone around, but in conditions when visibility is limited, you need to make sure you’re using all your senses to evaluate the surrounding situation.
We can’t stress enough how important this is. An empty route at night. The whole city is yours. Perfect time to imagine yourself a Tour de France contestant and push as many watts as possible. However, we strongly suggest not to do so.
As sun goes down, so does the visibility. Response time and stopping distance go up, big time. In a situation where hardly everything depends on your skills, you don’t want to give other people around you, either cyclists or motorists more control over the outcome of the situation.
Having a buddy for night rides is a great idea not only from personal safety perspective, but also a perfect way to explore new routes with someone who knows them already.
In case you run into an unexpected issue with your bike, having someone to help is a great idea, too.