By Pico Triano
I pedalled my way down the dark freshly paved road. The night air was still while lights flickered off in the distance. Part of me felt like I was travelling at unbelievable speed while another part of me felt motionless.
My purpose here is not to convince you to cycle at night. That’s a choice you make on your own. I hope to give you information that might help you do it a little safer if you choose to do so.
There are only two real issues with riding at night. They are simply put: Seeing and being seen.
Seeing where you are going is a relatively easy issue to deal with. Get an LED headlight. An LED flashlight purchased at the dollar store duct taped to your handlebars will do in a pinch (they don’t handle getting wet though). Only one word of advice here, make sure it isn’t aimed high enough to shine directly into the eyes of motorists. LED’s are bright and the retinas of those motorists will appreciate your consideration.
Being seen is more complicated. What you wear is just important as your lighting.
Wearing bright coloured clothing is the goal but it isn’t as simple as that. I wear pants that are weather proof. Problem is they come in two colours, black and blue. I’m sure if you hunt for them you can find yellow and orange ones. My jacket shell is a bright blue with reflectors. I go a step further. I wear a reflective construction vest at night. Other cyclists in Moncton, New Brunswick now wear them as well. I’ve seen a cyclist there dressed exactly as I did when I rode there one night. I would recommend reflective armbands and especially leg bands, which give a lot of movement.
For lighting I will skimp on my headlight but not my taillight. Get a good one with several different flash modes if possible.
There is some divided opinion on flashing lights. There are cases when drunk or very sleepy drivers will steer into a flashing light. They shouldn’t be on the road at all but let it serve to make you more alert while riding at night.
I think the flashing taillight is a must especially riding in the city. In my experience the steady small red light will get tuned out by drivers or get lost amoung all the other red lights that are out there on the road at night. The flashing headlight is just annoying. It will warn drivers that you are there but I’m paranoid enough that if I don’t think they see me I stop and just let them go. The flashing headlight won’t make any difference in that instance.
Night riding is not for everyone. It does take a great deal more alertness than riding during the day. I don’t want to overstate the risks. I’ve been night riding for years without incident.
I find dark coloured dogs loose at night far more frightening than traffic. Dogs are a whole other subject though.
Happy and safe cycling.