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  1. #1
    Senior Member cooperwx's Avatar
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    Calling all late-evening commuters

    Guys/Gals,

    I am a day commuter. But I'm working this Saturday from 4:30pm until about 11pm. Right now I'm planning on biking it home after work.

    I have lights and a reflective jersey. I'm wondering what you folks do to feel safer when riding after dark, especially on a weekend evening when the average blood alcohol levels are slightly elevated. I feel like I'm going to be terrified every time a car approaches from behind, especially on the 2-lane, no shoulder, 45mph part of the trip.

    Or should I forget about it and beg for a ride, or call a cab?
    06 Trek 7.5 FX

  2. #2
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    I commute home every night around midnight. I enjoy this commute and feel pretty safe. Here are a couple things I've learned.

    I ride a little further to the left at night. I feel the greatest danger is from cars pulling in front of me from driveways and side streets. Riding further to the left, they see me a little better, and I have a little more space/time if they do cross my path.

    All but the strongest lights (> $200) will leave you with a poor view of debris in the road. Watch carefully, and slow down a bit. My only night time crash so far was probably due to unseen debris. this crash was a doozy--I was off work and off the bike for five months.

    Unfortunately, Saturday at 11:00 is probably not the ideal time to be riding, as there is more traffic compared to other nights--and a lot of that is bar traffic. Watch for drunks. if somebody is driving squirrely, pull off the road and wait until they are well past you.


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  3. #3
    Senior Member mister's Avatar
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    I wouldn't worry too much. Just do your thing and get home safe. I usually commute home in the dark as I get off between 8 and 9 pm. Once I get out of the busy part of town, I feel a lot safer since I'm usually the only one on the road. I don't hug the shoulder at night and I try to be more aware of my surroundings.
    Brilliant!

  4. #4
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    Night riding seems to increase substantially the number of drivers who pull wider to pass you if you are well illuminated (as you seem to be).

    How fixed is your route home? Try to find an alternative route that you perceive as more comfortable if any aspect of the one you plan on taking worries you.

    Have you been out on the roads at 11pm in your area? What is the traffic like at that time? Usually it drops off considerably on anything but freeways.

    Ensure your rear light is all charged up (dimming lights aren't good).

    If you hearing obnoxious loud noise or shouting, avoid it if possible as it usually means drunken behaviour.


    Approach this with adventurous confidence. When you complete the return journey, you'll probably feel elated.

  5. #5
    Sophomoric Member Roody's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cooperwx
    ..... I feel like I'm going to be terrified every time a car approaches from behind, especially on the 2-lane, no shoulder, 45mph part of the trip.

    Or should I forget about it and beg for a ride, or call a cab?
    If you have a blinkie and reflectors, drivers can see you just fine from behind, although good blinkie and reflectors is necessary for this part of your trip. Reflectors work BEST for cars from your rear, because you are right in the path of their headlights. I worry more about cars from the side, since they are not in a good position to see your lights and reflectors.

    Call a cab if you're really worried. No shame in that!


    "Think Outside the Cage"

  6. #6
    SERENITY NOW!!! jyossarian's Avatar
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    Be visible. Lots of blinkies in the back if you have extras. Good headlights up front to help you spot those hidden potholes in unlit areas. I like riding at night cuz there's less traffic and I can move faster.
    HHCMF - Take pride in your ability to amaze lesser mortals! - MikeR



    We demand rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty!

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Roody
    I commute home every night around midnight. I enjoy this commute and feel pretty safe. Here are a couple things I've learned.

    I ride a little further to the left at night. I feel the greatest danger is from cars pulling in front of me from driveways and side streets. Riding further to the left, they see me a little better, and I have a little more space/time if they do cross my path.

    All but the strongest lights (> $200) will leave you with a poor view of debris in the road. Watch carefully, and slow down a bit. My only night time crash so far was probably due to unseen debris. this crash was a doozy--I was off work and off the bike for five months.

    Unfortunately, Saturday at 11:00 is probably not the ideal time to be riding, as there is more traffic compared to other nights--and a lot of that is bar traffic. Watch for drunks. if somebody is driving squirrely, pull off the road and wait until they are well past you.
    I completely agree, although I may not ride further left. The biggest change I make while riding late night, is SLOW DOWN. I literally do 10-12mph while on the bike so I can see/avoid debris, hazards, and stop for cars that pull out.
    the lion from within must guard his palace, because everybody's going to try to take a sip from his chalice

  8. #8
    There are no short cuts
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    I leave at about 5:15 in the mornings and it's dark then. I prefere to ride when its dark bcause I can see the cars moving much easyer.

    When its light outside it's more difficult to make out parked cars and moving cars at a glance.

    May you never feel a pothole

  9. #9
    Senior Member cooperwx's Avatar
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    Interesting take on riding farther to the left. There will be exponentially less traffic than my usual 4pm ride on this route. I have a good blinkie and a decent headlight. Riding further to the left will also decrease the debris field, too.

    Probably wouldn't have thought to ride slower, either. There is an alternate route I use sometimes if I don't feel like dealing with traffic, but the neighborhood is questionable at night. I'll be on the main route.
    06 Trek 7.5 FX

  10. #10
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    Ever think about taking a differant route? Or is that possible for you?
    When I leave work at 3:00am sometimes, which is ironically the time the bars let out around here, I change my route to accomodate. Even though I am riding an extra 3-4 miles it is worth it to me.

  11. #11
    No one carries the DogBoy
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    I use two cateye blinkie/reflectors on blink with a NR tail-light on solid along with a refelector and lots of reflective tape, including the strip that goes across my back. In front I have an HID for forward light and use a Planet Bike 3-LED blinkie to help with visibility, as well as a front reflector. I also have pedal reflectors. I watch my mirror for headlights and I ride in the right tire-track of the road. Cars pull wider than during the day and I actually feel safer, but most of my ride is rural, and the rest is neighborhood, well away from the nearest bars.

  12. #12
    Senior Member librarian's Avatar
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    And consider getting a mirror. You can buy handlebar or eyeglass mirrors for a aprox. $10 or you can make your own. (Mine is a paperclip and 1x2" mirror tile.)

    There have been several times over the pase 50 years when I have noticed a car weaving behind me. That's a good time to get off the road.

  13. #13
    Senior Member rule's Avatar
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    Look like a cross between a UFO and a parade float. Use the sidewalk if necessary, or just look at other routes.

    I learned how to jump a curb on the fly for this reason. It has come in handy a couple of times on late night commutes. Most of the time though, I have the roads more to myself than not.

  14. #14
    Two H's!!! TWO!!!!! chephy's Avatar
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    I love night riding. I can see cars much better (headlights stand out and as somebody mentioned above it's easy to see which are moving and which are parked cars), cars can see me better (I am well-illuminated and on a dark road my blinkies and front light really stand out and command attention), there is a lot less traffic and the air is fresher. One bonus is that since cars use headlights at night, it's easy to know when a car is approaching from behind before you even hear it: it'll illuminate your path. I've never had to deal with drunks on the road, thankfully, and in general I perceive late-night commute as less stressful because there are so few cars out. The slightly elevated levels of alcohol in blood of drivers is, I feel, compensated for by less complicated road situations which require less of the driver's attention and allow for longer reaction times. However, I've never ridden at night on a narrow and somewhat busy road. It was either roads in the city with 30-ish speed limits or nearly deserted roads in the country (a car once every ten minutes to half an hour). In the latter case I was worried about wildlife, dog and mugger attacks, but not at all about traffic: at that rate I wouldn't've been delayed more than a few seconds overall even if I'd pulled off the road for every car that was coming up behind me...

  15. #15
    Designated Drinker Wulfheir's Avatar
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    Go straight from work to the pub, get a buzz, then ride home!
    My Bike Journal Profile

    Oh, you hate your job? There's a support group for that, it's called EVERYONE and they meet at the PUB!

  16. #16
    Member johnnycoke's Avatar
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    Riding at night isn't bad. I ride home at about 10:30pm on most nights. There's less cars in general, but there is an upswing of obnoxious people out and about on Fridays and Saturdays. I get way more people honking to try and spook me, or people yelling things at me than weeknights. Try to avoid the roads that run right past the bars. If your town is like mine, most of the drunks aren't on the road until midnight or 1.

  17. #17
    Sensible shoes. CastIron's Avatar
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    I ride home at about that time every night. Some things to consider:
    More refelctive and light colored stuff than you think. Lots more.
    Wear a reflective/lighted ankle band. The pedaling motion really helps folks dope out what you are.
    Two lights each front and back.
    RIDE FASTER! It's less time and opportunity for folks to try anything stupid. Sure you might hit a pothole. BFD.
    Mike
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