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Old 03-21-05, 03:55 PM   #1
veloiseau
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Girls Riding at Night

Ok, so I live in Downtown LA, and ride my bike all the time during the daylight hours. Lately I've been riding more often at night (of course with the appropriate safety equipment like lights and reflectors). I am never more than 5 miles away from home when it's dark out, and since I live with 4 other people, I ALWAYS let at least one of them know where I am going and when I plan to be back. I try to ride on the most well-lit streets, and carry an easily accessible cell phone at all times...

Anyway... People (like my mom, other non-biker friends) have been freaking me out lately about how it's TERRIBLE to ride at night because of not only car-related issues, but because bikers (male and female) get robbed all the time, etc. etc. I know so many riders (girls included) who don't take hardly any of the precautions that I do and who have never run into trouble. However, I am wondering if I should quit my incredible late night rides because of the supposed "grievous danger" involved.

Has anyone, especially girls in big cities, had any nasty experiences at night? If so, how did you deal? What would you suggest? Self-defense classes? Getting pepper spray? Guys, please answer too!

Oh... and if any of you are ever itching for a midnight ride Downtown, count me in.
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Old 03-21-05, 04:28 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by veloiseau
Anyway... People (like my mom, other non-biker friends) have been freaking me out lately about how it's TERRIBLE to ride at night because of not only car-related issues, but because bikers (male and female) get robbed all the time, etc. etc.
Remember that according to non-bikers, we should all be dead. Such is the hyperbolic estimation of the dangers of cycling.
I'm not so sure if bikers get robbed "all the time". If I was out looking to jack people I'd look for pedestrians--cyclists can be rather elusive.
I think carrying pepper spray in a spot where it is easily accessible (not in a bike bag, a poket or clip), proper lighting, and a dose of street smarts about where to be and not be late at night would keep you as safe as you could reasonably hope to be.
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Old 03-21-05, 04:37 PM   #3
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I know downtown L.A. REAL well. I used to run a delivery route there for a year and a half. I would say that it is safe to ride in any place as long as there are other people around. In other words, stay away from the produce districts, toy districts, and other places that bring large crowds during the day but deserted at night. Also, don't stop to drink or make phone calls next to parked vans. There are other places that I would say are great to ride (Bunker Hill) but for the most part also avoid places that are near freeway entrances/exits for obvious reasons. Just my two cents. Good luck and carry a spare tube or two!
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Old 03-21-05, 04:42 PM   #4
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I'm a pretty good size guy. And I've been pistol whipped and robbed in Pittsburgh while walking home after work. Scumbag thieves only got $10 and my pride.

Riding at night is one thing, if you have proper lighting, its fairly safe. I find it very enjoyable and do it frequently.

But I'm behind the Orange Curtain and ride in Newport Beach/Irvine/Huntington Beach. Even there I've had a few run-ins with some fart-nozzles who just want to make somebody's life just a little tougher, Plus there is always the wildlife that keeps you on your toes. Lots of rabbits darting out in front of you, plus quite a few Coyotes. Plus some trails are corridors for the Homeless and transients (read: the criminally insane) and gangbangers.

Best advice is to ride with a trusted friend or group.
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Old 03-21-05, 04:54 PM   #5
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Rocketsredglare's advice is good. I used to ride alone in the hills all the time, but I have recently promised my wife I will not ride alone any more. Thar's tigers in the hills here!

If someone wants my money and is waving a weapon at me, I'll give him my wallet. The one I use while cycling is filled with phony credit cards and a little bit of money. It's not worth it to me to get shot over a couple of dollars.

Being a woman by yourself carries someone different risks. Pepper spray works in most instances, but you have to keep hold of it. If someone were to actually grab you, it may be nice to know a bit of basic self-defense. I'm not an instructor, but if I were grabbed I would recommend going for the eyes and groin. You need to disable your attacker quickly. It's no time to be nice. A few basic classes in self-defense may be in order. Many Community Centers have these classes specifically for women.

If no weapon is involved, you can get a lot of attention by yelling "FIRE"

If your attacker has a gun...well, everything gets much more complex. I don't know what I'd do in that situation. Probably do what he said and try to keep him (and myself) calm.

As for how dangerous cycling in the dark is, I do about half my cycling in the dark and have never had any problems. But it only takes one time...

Last edited by eubi; 03-21-05 at 05:00 PM.
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Old 03-21-05, 06:10 PM   #6
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If you can, try to disguise the fact that you are female. If you have long hair, tuck it up under your helmet (you do wear a helmet, right?).

Don't be predictable. Don't ride the same route all the time and vary your departure times to avoid ambushes.

Maybe a hands-free cell phone setup with earpiece and microphone. Make it obvious--helmet mounted antenae even if it doesn't work. Pretend you're talking to someone if approached.

Good luck.
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Old 03-21-05, 06:21 PM   #7
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Remember Sandra Bullock in "Miss Congeniality"? SING. S-I-N-G

S - Solar Plexus
I - Instep
N - Nose
G - Groin

Whack 'em HARD. (and Benjamin doubles over in great pain...)

Poking eyes isn't a bad idea either - per eubi.
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Old 03-21-05, 06:51 PM   #8
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I second riding with someone. You should find someone to ride with anyway, otherwise it gets real boring.
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Old 03-21-05, 07:09 PM   #9
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i ride in some pretty rough parts of town every night,i like it it makes me faster,i dont stop for anything and keep to myself,of course in my town if you ride a bike your broke.my uncle was picked up by the cops one morning at like seven. he was bleeding from the head and hi bike was noware to be found, of course i saw him at the store at like eleven thirty and he had two 40 oz,and he got a bad crack habit but he said he got beat up.
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Old 03-21-05, 08:25 PM   #10
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The warmer it gets, the earlier I start with my riding. Eventually, I get to the point where it's about a 4am start for me. I rarely get into trouble with folks. If I do, it's usually because they're not paying attention or because they act like idiots when they're driving.

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Old 03-21-05, 08:36 PM   #11
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I once taught a class that ended at 10pm. I was a bit nervous about riding about running into some hassle at night. Bought some pepper spray which I carried on the strap of my messenger bag. However, never ran into a single bit of trouble. No one even yelled out the window at me.
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Old 03-21-05, 08:51 PM   #12
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Well, I a geek thatís close to being a girl. I have pepper spray, but I canít get to it that fast, if at all. I live in Madison, WI; also I donít live in the best part of the town. Stay where there are people, light and an open place of business. A good place to run in at late at night is a bar. IF YOU FEEL THAT SOMETHING IS WRONG GET OUT OF THERE. Most likely there is, so get to a safe place. If someone grabs you go for the gold and get them in the balls and run like hell. Know where you are at, at all time. This is very key, donít talk fun rides at night with out someone with you. Well I have being riding at night for a long time, it is fun and relaxing. I happen to go in and out of town, but I know the roads. Also it does help if you look like a guy, get the hair out of the way, bigger jacket or something.

Good Luck,
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Old 03-21-05, 09:00 PM   #13
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I love riding at night ... but I do try to avoid city riding.

The worst night experiences I've had have to do with wildlife and weather conditions.
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Old 03-21-05, 09:01 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by veloiseau
Anyway... People (like my mom, other non-biker friends) have been freaking me out lately about how it's TERRIBLE to ride at night because of not only car-related issues, but because bikers (male and female) get robbed all the time, etc. etc. I know so many riders (girls included) who don't take hardly any of the precautions that I do and who have never run into trouble. However, I am wondering if I should quit my incredible late night rides because of the supposed "grievous danger" involved.
Getting attacked at night is so overrated. I've ridden in slums all over New York City at night and nothing ever happend. Everywhere from Harlem, South Bronx, East New York and nothing ever happend. I knew this touring biker who traveled in third world slums on a 16' inch wheel folder and nothing happened. Here's why.

First, the transportation cyclist is thought to be a very poor individual who can't even afford public transportation let alone a car. In poor neighborhoods, these cyclist are thought to be practically homeless and his bicycle worthless. By the time potential robbers see your bicycle, (if they can determine it's value) you're long gone and they won't be able to catch you. I do think a helmet works against you because poor transportation cyclist usually do not wear helmets. Unfortunately, you still have to wear one.

Second, On street robberies are usually not done at the spur of the moment. They are have to be planned minutes or sometimes hours in advance and targets tend to be slow walking peds. I've seen potential robbers look at my bicycle lights and possibly considered an assult. It never happned because I zoomed past them within seconds.

If I were you, I'd invest in two more red blinkies. Put one on the back of your helmet and make sure it has at least seven LEDs! If anyone is going to hurt you it will be the motorist. Almost half of all cyclists that are killed happend at night. I suspect the number of people riding bicycles drops very low yet it's at this time that half are killed. Therefore, the numbers work against you at night so it's imperative that you have two or three red blinkies on the rear. It would be a good idea to put another white flasher in the front.

If your're going to ride in poor neighborhoods, don't even think of weaing a police mans vest!
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Old 03-21-05, 09:04 PM   #15
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I almost forgot to mention the following. You have to be very very carful of street hazards at night. If you don't have a 4 watt headlight, I would travel slowly because "Waves" and potholes can take the handlebar right from you!
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Old 03-21-05, 09:33 PM   #16
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When I ride late at night, I keep moving. I live in the inner city, and moving is better. One night, I was riding fast, and rode right through a bunch of guys conducting some sort of business in the middle of the street...just kept going at a good clip. Not many people want to get run over by a fast moving bike.

But, I feel more relaxed when I ride in a group of two or three. But, even then, it is better to keep moving. It also helps to know where you are. In my neighborhood, there is an area that has about six or seven street corners within a small area. Most are centers for drug dealers, pimps, hookers, panhandlers, and two-bit crooks. Gun fire most nights. But, two corners are quiet and safe for the people eating in restaurants or shopping in stores. Got to know which corner is which.
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Old 03-21-05, 10:51 PM   #17
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I have been riding at night through LA for about 5 years. I have more problems with dogs than anything else. I have had 2 problems with people though. But I am 200 lb. I do recommend that you know where the local police station is and where you usually find police eating donuts. Also, make sure everything is in working order and carry a patch kit.
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Old 03-22-05, 03:14 AM   #18
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sorry. not a girl, but i live and ride my bike around downtown la all the time. i have not had anything remotely bad happen to me in the few years i've been riding around downtown. i live near 7th and los angeles and my commute to and from school takes me through skid row every night, often times past 2pm. at that hour i don't stop for lights, i just make sure the intersection is clear. make sure you keep on the move and you'll be safe. i guess i would recommend a hat or helmet or hoodie to make you appear more gender neutral as a poster suggested above. it couldn't hurt. i would refrain from doing anything that attracts a lot of attention. ride your beater bike, not the $2000 one. don't wear expensive clothes, jeans and a sweater or jacket would be ideal. i love riding through downtown la at night. nothing compares to cruising down a quite road with tall buildings all around you. use common sense and you'll be fine.
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Old 03-22-05, 04:08 AM   #19
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I ride in the dark all the time. You need a very good lighting system.

As for danger from people, I think cycling is rather safe. As has been pointed out, cyclists do not look like valuable targets because no one thinks they are carrying money. Another thing is cyclists are moving faster than is convenient to chase down. Generally, you see them and they are gone. Of course, the exception here are traffic lights but then you are usually not alone because of the vehicles stopped with you. You can not stalk them like you can a pedestrian (that is if you are a mugger or a predator). Also the gender of females is obvious from a long distance if they are walking or running. But the gender of a cyclist is not unless you get close (assuming you are not wearing a two piece bathing suit or something). Also, cyclist are out in the street. When one is walking, one is on the sidewalk. That is a more private spot and a mugger can get you and get your money in a place that is rather "private" or secluded pretty easily. Getting someone on the street is far more public and high risk. I would suggest that cycling is far more safe than walking home, jogging or waiting for a bus.
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Old 03-22-05, 04:26 AM   #20
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I for one live in the LA area and have found that riding at night feels much safer than riding during the daylight hours.. There is usually at least 60-70% less traffic which is more likely to harm you than a mugger.. That being said I would recommend what others have said and get pepper spray.. I would find a well lighted and defined route, if necessary do a couple of laps and of course tell your roomates which route you are taking.. Topeak makes a couple of phone bags that would accomodate pepper spray if needed.. They work well, I use them for my phone and attach to your top tube of stem if long enough.. Here is a link

http://www.topeak.com/products/bag_phone_lead.html
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Old 03-22-05, 04:55 AM   #21
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I ride at night in places that I would never walk, druggy neighbourhodds, parks, canal tow paths etc.
As long as you can keep moving, you are pretty safe. Avoid hanging around junctions, ride further away from the pavement and watch out for gaps between vans or other places where people can hide. Speed and space are your friends.
The worst case scenario is a mechanical failure in a dodgy neighbourhood. Use the most puncture proof tyres you can, with good rim tape.
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Old 03-22-05, 08:06 AM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sylvan
Remember Sandra Bullock in "Miss Congeniality"? SING. S-I-N-G

S - Solar Plexus
I - Instep
N - Nose
G - Groin

Whack 'em HARD. (and Benjamin doubles over in great pain...)

Poking eyes isn't a bad idea either - per eubi.
Eyes should be put on the top of this list. Dont' just go for them once then run like they teach you in "victim school" go deep and hard into the eyes with multiple strikes to destroy the eye tissue. When their hands come up to protect their face is when you should go for other targets.

In any self defense situation also always remember to assume multiple opponents.

I know some will say hurt the guy eneough to get a head start and get away, to me this is just a way to get shot in the back or targeted again later by the same scumbag who will be more on their toes next time.
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Old 03-22-05, 09:53 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by geeklpc1985
Well, I a geek thatís close to being a girl. I have pepper spray, but I canít get to it that fast, if at all. I live in Madison, WI; also I donít live in the best part of the town. Stay where there are people, light and an open place of business. A good place to run in at late at night is a bar. IF YOU FEEL THAT SOMETHING IS WRONG GET OUT OF THERE. Most likely there is, so get to a safe place. If someone grabs you go for the gold and get them in the balls and run like hell. Know where you are at, at all time. This is very key, donít talk fun rides at night with out someone with you. Well I have being riding at night for a long time, it is fun and relaxing. I happen to go in and out of town, but I know the roads. Also it does help if you look like a guy, get the hair out of the way, bigger jacket or something.

Good Luck,
GEEK
I am also a geek in Madison, and I wasn't aware that there was a bad part of town. If there is, I probably live in it. Out of curiousity, where do you consider the bad part of town?

I've ridden at all hours of the day between 7am and 4am in just about every neighborhood in the city. The only time I've been hassled is around the University campus during "party hours" by drunk frat boys and their ilk. Let's just say that I have yet to feel threatened. Then again, I am definitely larger than most girls. I'm not the Incredible Hulk or anything, but I am 6'0" and 180lbs, and not afraid to defend myself from jackasses.

IMHO people generally have much more fear of this scenario than is warranted.
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Old 03-22-05, 12:52 PM   #24
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I'm a man who rides in the inner city day and night. I have about the same problems with bad people regardless of ambient light levels. That is to say, infrequent minor problems. Teenage boys sometimes rush me while yelling, "I want your bike!" I don't think they are really trying to take my bike. Unless they are stupid (a distinct possibility), they must know that they would also be injured if I fell on top of them at a good speed.

One thing--I am very careful about which stores and restaurants I will stop at. There are many parking lots where crackheads and the like congregate. They are likely to go after your bike, even if they could get only four or five dollars or a rock for it. Not to mention your wallet.

If you are not big or strong--try to talk your way out of trouble before fighting or running. I think a u-lock is a better weapon than pepper spray. Crackheads can take a lot of pepper but only so much case-hardened steel.

But basically I think all of this advice is a waste of time because you are unlikely to get in trouble, and all trouble is different, anyway. So just be aware and alert, and have a good time cruising the dark streets!
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Old 03-22-05, 12:57 PM   #25
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Regarding the U-lock, it makes a fine blunt instrument but keep it handy not locked onto a bracket or inside a bag. I put mine on the rear rack under a bunji chord. If you are low down attending the bike, then aim for the shins/knees. If you are standing then the elbows are a good target. A quick flick with the wrist is more effective than drawing your arm back for a big hit. Just hurting someone wont stop a crack-head, you need to disable them.
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