Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cycling at Night

I visited a friend today that lives on East 6th street. Naturally, I took my bike. The ride itself was alright, although this was my least favorite experience downtown.

When I was ready to leave he asked me if I wanted a ride home, that my bike could fit in his car. I was actually looking forward to riding home, but could tell he was seriously worried so I let him.

After the ten minute ride to my place, he said as he got out my bike, "See, its in one piece, like you, which was my goal."  I looked at him and said, "You realize I've ridden home at night before, right?" His reply was "just because people do dangerous things and get away with it doesn't mean they should do it again and again."  I replied the fact that I've managed to get myself home in one piece more than once actually did mean something.

So, is cycling at night inherently more dangerous than during the day? My bicycle company sure thinks so, a bright sticker warned me not to, and it did take me a gathering of nerves to get out there in the "dark". (I put that in quotations because I grew up the country, and so I know what true darkness is.)  I see people out on their bikes at night all the time, going about their business like the sun was fully out. In other countries its the norm and not seen as dangerous.

I guess the biggest fear is that you're not as visible at night.  I get that, I have my  lights and use them at all times, even if its especially cloudy outside. That's a valid concern, but I can't help but think its not necessarily the night that makes cycling dangerous. It's the drivers who aren't really looking out for others.  And why aren't they? Because people don't cycle at night because its perceived as dangerous. So, the only way to get out of that vicious cycle is to get out there and just do it. Lit up like a Christmas tree if it makes you feel better.

Now he could just be worried because I'm a woman out at night by myself.  That's a whole other set of issues, but I'd rather be on my bike than on foot on any of those scary scenarios. My literature professor in college said something once that has stuck with me.  She said, "women shouldn't have to limit themselves to certain hours just because its supposed to be safer. You should have the freedom to go out anytime without fearing rape." The onus isn't on women to stay home to protect themselves from rape, cyclists shouldn't have to stay home to protect themselves from cars.


  1. I ride home from work in the dark about half the year. If anything, I feel like I am more visible at night with lights than during the day. It is a pretty common occurrence during the day to have some car act like they just don't see you, or least don't until you are quite close, whereas in the dark with lights, this doesn't seem to happen.

    I can't prove the above, but it is instructive to go out at night and test how visible your bike light set up is - have a friend ride it past you and the like. A good set up is hard to miss.

  2. Thanks! I just got new, smaller lights so I will take your suggestion. They are LED, but they still appear to be flimsy.

    I feel safer at night because there are less cars out. Less to watch out for I suppose.