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Old 08-21-07, 10:58 AM   #1
kmcrawford111
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Family Begs Me To Not Commute At Night

I'm sure I'm not the only one here who has been in this situation. I've only recently started bicycle commuting. I work rotating shifts. About 1/3 is the midnight shift (midnight to 8 AM), 1/3 is the day shift (8 AM to 4 PM), and 1/3 is the evening shift (4 PM to midnight). The full commute is about 6.7 miles, but I've been doing that only on the day shift. At the steel mill I work, there's an outer parking lot for people who work at sea on the shipping barges, and for parking nicer cars at while the "beaters" that are normally kept there are driven further into the (dirty) mill area. I suppose I'm fortunate that we have such a lot. During the evening and night shifts, I park my truck there and bike the rest of the way in (about 1.7 miles).

I am just burning to do the full commute on the bike on all three shifts, weather permitting, but my family (parents and wife-to-be) just won't have it. They think it's too dangerous. Not so much the ride itself, but they are worried about me getting hit by a car. I think it can be safe. I am willing to get the very brightest lights and as much reflective tape/vest as possible but they still won't have it. I work an hour later than almost everyone else in the plant, so when I am arriving for midnights almost everyone from the previous shift is gone, and when I am leaving evenings that is the case even more so. The traffic all the way is very light, I'd say about 10% of what it is when coming to or going from the day shift. I have spoken to coworkers who do bike or have biked. One said that he feels it's actually safer at night because the cars can see his rear blinker easily and give him more room when passing. The other didn't say much about it other than saying he would wear a white shirt. In my opinion both of their routes are more dangerous than mine. Despite this my family still won't have it. I understand and appreciate their concern, but it still really burns me that this could be a missed opportunity. I love riding at night, especially the relative peace and quiet. They don't share my desire to replace driving with biking. They aren't more than at the most very casual recreational cyclists. Still, it would only be fair to be objectionable about this. I think they see me wanting to bike at night as madness.

My commute is mainly through small-city streets, and one section of highway with a wide shoulder (and I ride in that shoulder).

One of the concerns raised is with drunks on the road, though I have never seen any drunk behavior from drivers. There is one small bar at one of the intersections. Other than a few drivers passing more closely than I feel they should have I have not had problems with motorists.

They are OK with the partial commute inside the plant. I suppose I should be thankful for that, but I still want to do more. I also believe that the people actually doing this, those of you, have the most relevant opinion on the matter.

What do you do in this situation?

Last edited by kmcrawford111; 08-21-07 at 11:11 AM.
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Old 08-21-07, 11:01 AM   #2
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With a solid lighting setup, I'd be willing to guess that riding at night is safer than during the day. Fewer cars and lights make your odd presence easier to detect.
With a dinote setup, reflective tape on your bike, illuminite jacket you could be seen from probably farther away than during the daytime.
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Old 08-21-07, 11:02 AM   #3
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I'd just load up on blinkies for your back/back of the bike, and make sure you have good lights for the front. When I first started commuting at night and/or poor conditions (Rain storms, snow etc) my family was concerned, now they don't care.

I have 2 5 LED headlights, and 5 5 LED blinkies set to different strobe patterns, 2 of which were visible from the side and back.
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Old 08-21-07, 11:05 AM   #4
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With a solid lighting setup, I'd be willing to guess that riding at night is safer than during the day.
Agreed. I feel much safer riding at night when the cars are few and far between and I'm sure to be seen due to being lit up like a Christmas tree.

I wear a helmet mount headlight, so I can shine it where I need to in order to make sure I'm seen before I get left hooked or someone in a cross street pulls out in front of me.
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Old 08-21-07, 11:18 AM   #5
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With a solid lighting setup, I'd be willing to guess that riding at night is safer than during the day. Fewer cars and lights make your odd presence easier to detect.
With a dinote setup, reflective tape on your bike, illuminite jacket you could be seen from probably farther away than during the daytime.
Agreed, not to mention a more calm ride.
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Old 08-21-07, 11:22 AM   #6
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Wrap your bike in EL wire!
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Old 08-21-07, 11:25 AM   #7
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I have been doing a 20 mile RT on my 3 PM to 1:30 AM shift. I am more concerned going into work with all the traffic (lot of traffic from shift changes) than I am going home (usually no traffic). My ride home is my favorite ride.

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Old 08-21-07, 11:43 AM   #8
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Load up with the brightest lights and geekiest reflective equipment you can find. Then invite them to drive a road that you're riding on at night; once they see how garishly visible you are, it might ease their minds.

Or it might not...in which case, my advice is to ride anyway. I don't understand your remark that your family "won't have it." It's not their decision. They don't need your permission to drive a car, and you don't need theirs to ride a bike.

I don't want to sound cold; it's never easy to see your loved ones unhappy about something, and by all means you should do everything you can to help them understand that your commute is not dangerous.

But trying to keep them happy by letting them make your decisions for you is not healthy; they will learn that (however well-intentioned) emotional blackmail "works", and will keep using the technique. And you will end up resenting them for it. Better to let them know that, while you love them and their concerns matter to you, they don't get to dictate your behavior, nor will you try to dictate theirs.

Last edited by divergence; 08-21-07 at 11:48 AM.
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Old 08-21-07, 11:52 AM   #9
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Yep go with lots of lights so you feel safe.

I love riding at night. In fact I was out a couple times last week from 10 pm to 12:30 am - city and city downtown.

There's been a couple times where something just didn't feel right about the ride that night or something - so I actually cancelled. Need to feel safe and confident.
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Old 08-21-07, 12:13 PM   #10
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What would I do? Ride the bike.

Then again, I wouldn't be engaged to someone who would tell me I couldn't do something - so your situation is clearly different than mine.
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Old 08-21-07, 12:50 PM   #11
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I wouldn't be engaged to someone who would tell me I couldn't do something
Oh man, that's funny.
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Old 08-21-07, 12:52 PM   #12
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How so?
My wife and I give each other our space. No one tells each other what to do. We ask.
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Old 08-21-07, 12:58 PM   #13
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With a solid lighting setup, I'd be willing to guess that riding at night is safer than during the day. Fewer cars and lights make your odd presence easier to detect.
+1. I generally feel safer at night than during the day (especially at rush hour... boy, I'm so glad to have my flexible schedule and irregular hours, so I can avoid rush hour on main roads as much as possible...)
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Old 08-21-07, 01:01 PM   #14
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How so?
My wife and I give each other our space. No one tells each other what to do. We ask.
And what happens when she asks to to either not ride in at night, or to sleep on the couch?
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Old 08-21-07, 01:04 PM   #15
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Personally, I feel safer riding through the bar district at 2am than past an elementary school at 7:45 am.
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Old 08-21-07, 01:05 PM   #16
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I have three PB Superflashes on the back of my bike.

My family and friends are no longer worried of my night riding. In fact, they're almost gleeful of the way I light up the area behind me.

Currently, my only worry is that the space shuttle is going to land on me.
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Old 08-21-07, 01:10 PM   #17
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My wife's got her tentacles everywhere with me, but I just started riding one day. Sooner or later, I was riding in more and more often. One thing led to another, and now I ride all the time/all year. She's used to it.

Get well prepared. Tell her what it means to you. Then, just do it. You'll love it and she'll soon appreciate you for it.
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Old 08-21-07, 01:31 PM   #18
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Tell them "too bad". It's your life, not theirs, and this topic has *nothing at all* to do with the actual safety of riding at night, only your family's perception of that safety.

Your family's perception of your safety has *absolutely no effect at all* on whether or not you get hit by a car.
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Old 08-21-07, 01:36 PM   #19
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I ride in the dark because up here in Seattle, its not light early enough or late enough for me to ride in the daylight in the deep winter hours. Even now I'm leaving at dawn and arriving at dusk. Add to that the fun of riding in the rain along city streets during the regular commute time and you've got some concerns. I use lots of lights, a reflective vest, reflectors on the wheels, front, back, and on my pedals. No problems so far.

I've been hit twice. Both times were in broad daylight.
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Old 08-21-07, 01:44 PM   #20
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Agreed. I feel much safer riding at night when the cars are few and far between and I'm sure to be seen due to being lit up like a Christmas tree.

I wear a helmet mount headlight, so I can shine it where I need to in order to make sure I'm seen before I get left hooked or someone in a cross street pulls out in front of me.
+2! less traffic at night, use lights, the drivers will see you because their eyes are drawn to light. Not necessarily the case in the daytime... so many drivers are on autopilot.

Personally I have come close to getting hit many times in daylight, hit once. Never even come close at night. I have a good but not spectacular lighting setup.

You have a Cree LED headlight, get yourself a blinky & reflective gear, and have your spouse-to-be drive drive back and forth past you at night. She will probably be convinced.

tell your folks to take a hike... Time to make your own decisions, my man



Cheers & best of luck to you.
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Old 08-21-07, 02:03 PM   #21
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+2! less traffic at night, use lights, the drivers will see you because their eyes are drawn to light. Not necessarily the case in the daytime... so many drivers are on autopilot.

Personally I have come close to getting hit many times in daylight, hit once. Never even come close at night. I have a good but not spectacular lighting setup.

You have a Cree LED headlight, get yourself a blinky & reflective gear, and have your spouse-to-be drive drive back and forth past you at night. She will probably be convinced.

tell your folks to take a hike... Time to make your own decisions, my man
+1, Dusk and Dawn are the danger times. Just enough light that headlights and reflective things don't stand out yet to little to make shapes and objects show up clearly. Every single incident I've had has been when there was more than enough light to 'see by'. Whenever my wife starts to act like she is kind of worried, I just conviently leave my last cholesterol test results laying on the kitchen table, I highlighted the note at the bottom 'get more excersise'. Seriously the heart attack and a host of other illnesses you are preventing by getting regular excersise more than makes up for a slight increase of traumatic injury.
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Old 08-21-07, 02:14 PM   #22
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+1, Dusk and Dawn are the danger times. Just enough light that headlights and reflective things don't stand out yet to little to make shapes and objects show up clearly. Every single incident I've had has been when there was more than enough light to 'see by'. Whenever my wife starts to act like she is kind of worried, I just conviently leave my last cholesterol test results laying on the kitchen table, I highlighted the note at the bottom 'get more excersise'. Seriously the heart attack and a host of other illnesses you are preventing by getting regular excersise more than makes up for a slight increase of traumatic injury.
Exactly, stress your overall mental and physical health. A little more education is necessary. There must be small risks your fiancee and family run for you to make some analogies. Yes, cycling on roads can be dangerous, like so many things, but people who don't do it blow the dangers way out of proportion. Your lowered stress, better health, better outlook, higher energy level (she gotta love that!) etc., etc., etc., far outweigh the small risk.
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Old 08-21-07, 02:16 PM   #23
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And what happens when she asks to to either not ride in at night, or to sleep on the couch?
Couch? I have been married for 11 years and that has never come up.
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Old 08-21-07, 02:49 PM   #24
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I also believe that the people actually doing this, those of you, have the most relevant opinion on the matter.
Don't let your wife-to-be hear you say that the opinions of strangers on the Internet are more relevant than her's on ANY issue.
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Old 08-21-07, 02:57 PM   #25
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With a solid lighting setup, I'd be willing to guess that riding at night is safer than during the day. Fewer cars and lights make your odd presence easier to detect.
With a dinote setup, reflective tape on your bike, illuminite jacket you could be seen from probably farther away than during the daytime.
I do most of that for evening rides and like you say, it's going to stand out more when it's darker. for my old job my morning commute was early (4 am) and I was amazed at how much glow the reflective tape put off from every headlight. As a lot of people have said, it's great to ride with that few cars around.
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