When living in the United Kingdom you either give up cycling for winter or get used to cycling at night. Let’s face it, in December it can get almost dark as early as 3 pm! There is no real reason, however, to stop cycling just because the nights are drawing in. In fact, nighttime cycling is just as convenient and enjoyable as it is when it is daylight. What’s more, by cycling at night throughout the winter months, you’ll be in better shape come springtime.
- Cycling at night
- Having a backup
- Travelling at a safe speed
- Knowing your route and the road
- Glare and dazzles
- Manage risks
- Parking your bike at night
When cycling at night, you need to make sure your bike has a set of good lights. There’s no reason why you can’t commute safely by bike in the dark. Drivers do give you more respect for being out there in the cold and in the dark on your bike and they will give you a wider berth when they’re overtaking. By having white front lights and red backlights, other drivers are reminded that you are traffic too.
It’s also a good idea to have reflective items to highlight your presence too. Most bikes already come equipped with pedal reflectors and reflectors on the frame and wheels. You can also use ankle reflectors that help drivers recognise you as a cyclist due to your up and down movements.
It is critical to be seen and to be visible when you commute by bike in the dark. Not only that though, but cycling in the dark might also require you to make adjustments to your route or to your speed.
Always have your lights with you
If your lights are removable, make sure that they stay in a bag that you use specifically for commuting. This means that you will never forget to pack them or attach them. If you’re in a rush to get to work, you might easily forget your lights. You might even not expect to use them one day due to an earlier finish but at least you can rest easy knowing they’re always there.
There will be times when lights break or run out of power or get lost. It’s worth investing in a spare set of lights, particularly if your commute is long. You could even have a head torch, which is great as you can use it to do bike maintenance or repairs at the roadside easily.
Even with great lights, your visibility is massively reduced when it’s dark. You need to be aware of your stopping distances and keep that in mind when going fast in the dark. If you are cycling at 10 mph, your stopping distance will be around six metres. At 20 mph, it will be around 18 metres. Don’t forget that wet roads and your level of alertness can increase those distances considerably too.
If you know your route really well then you will find it much easier to use it in the dark. You will know where all of the dodgy potholes are or where you need to be extra vigilant.
When you’re on a bike, a driver’s full-beam headlights will dazzle you much worse than if you were driving. Unlike being in a car, you can’t flash your lights at a driver to tell them to dip their lights. Sometimes if you wave your hand in front of your light, they will recognise the need to take off their full beam. If you’re still being dazzled, lower your gaze and look at the floor near your wheel.
There are some routes that are probably best avoided at night time – unlit paths or underpasses for example. Don’t worry too much though as you are less likely than a pedestrian to be accosted due to your speed but it can happen. If you’re sensible and know the areas you’re cycling in, you will feel more comfortable. If you’re in any doubt, stick to busy and well-lit routes where there are plenty of others about.
Sometimes you will need to park your bicycle somewhere at night. Perhaps you are visiting a friend, going to the cinema or simply just working late. Whatever your reasons for parking your bike at night, you need to make sure it is locked up really securely. You should use a lock through the frame and attach it to something that is solid. Choose a place that is in plain view and that is well lit. You should even try to look for somewhere that has a local CCTV camera, which will deter thieves. If you park somewhere unlit, in a dark alley with no one around, thieves will have plenty of time to break even the toughest of bike locks.