Practically speaking, three years of night shift commuting (6:00 p.m./6:00 a.m., and 5:00 p.m./1:00 a.m.) allowed me a glimpse at the dark side of commuting, pun intended. No matter when one commutes by bike and shares a road with motorists, danger lurks in places unaware. While during the day we deal with traffic in volume and sunlight decreasing visibility during certain months, at night there are nocturnal wildlife and…the other nocturnal wildlife: the drunks.
While some of this may sound like common sense, there was a time when each and every point following were eschewed due to either ignorance or inconvenience. How I am still alive to be riding today is something I ponder during my brief daily conversation with the man upstairs.
- Light: You cannot have enough of it. A pothole sucks when you see it, and it sucks harder when you don’t.
- Route: You cannot know it well enough. Helps in planning for the unexpected. When you know what to expect, especially at night, the better your loved ones feel.
- Defense: You should be carrying something to ward off would be assailants, such as bears and dogs (frightening experience with both, and both times Wasp spray ended the conflict). This did not help in the bunny-induced endo I unwillingly performed which resulted in a hairline fracture to my elbone.
- Dog Tags: You need to be identified in the event of an accident, but this also applies to daytime riders.
Bottom line is you cannot plan for everything, but you can most certainly maintain heightened awareness for the duration of a ride at night. There aren’t many of us who dare roll during the hours ungodly, but plan well, and you will not find yourself lamenting time and miles lost due to working the graveyard shift.
At times I prefer the late night commute. Streets are quieter, and I expect my flashing tail light makes me stand out more at night then in the day. Generally the fewer vehicles I pass, the safer I feel, so night rides often feel safest.
I must be unlucky, I have had two incidences where my commute was ended in the back of an ambulance, number one was when the wheel got caught in a newly replaced rain grate, with Dogtags they knew who I was and called my wife for help and information.
The second time, D**m car, with my Road ID they had everything they needed and more much more than my wife could tell them.
Not an advertisement just an endorsement. I wear one all the time now so does my wife.
I love late night rides too. The world is still and serene, even in the hectic Bay Area.
Five years ago I would have agreed w/ Viking’s “you can’t have too much lighting.” These days, I’m finally happy with the lighting that’s available for bikes.
MagicShine for the win?
Except for the whole lithium battery fire thing.
Don’t do any night commuting, but if you live in a nice quiet residential area, and put plenty of lights on your bike (http://www.monkeylectric.com !!!), a night ride around the neighborhood during summer is awesome. Like you said, it’s serene–plus there’s the thrill of feeling like you’re doing something you’re not quite supposed to.
I used to live on the SW side of Redwood City, and would pedal around Atherton at night, and man, it’s *dark* in there!
This reminds me of a ride in the very early morning (to avoid the heat) from Austin to Lampasas. Learned a lot of these lessons the hard way. Good advice. Light and repellant, doubly so.
If you want to light up the night and get motorists attention check out these lights. http://nordicgroup.us/s78/headlights.html You can find the seal beams at Home Depot and the strobes are available online. It will light up the darkest road but be prepared to carry a 5ah gel cell battery.