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Commuting Bicycle commuting is easier than you think, before you know it, you'll be hooked. Learn the tips, hints, equipment, safety requirements for safely riding your bike to work.

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Old 10-04-07, 10:50 PM   #1
Ronocerous
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Night ride - got spooked

I commute year-round which includes in the dark. My daytime rides are on the streets, but at night (I just realized) my rides are on paths or side streets. Tonight I rode my usual (daytime) way home which included riding with traffic, traffic lights, etc, except it was dark.

I was really spooked. All of a sudden I was afraid...of everything! I didn't feel that people could see me, I was worried about dudes heading home from the bar...it was awful. I nearly got clipped by a minivan, which didn't help. I don't think I'll ever ride at night on main roads again.

Is it something you get used to? I don't understand why it bothered me so much, but I hadn't felt that way in years - not since I first got used to riding in traffic.

I was running a Planet Bike Insight up front (15 watts) and a BRT-7 (I think its called) on the back. My panniers and jacket have reflective tape.

It was pretty scary to me. I guess I'm not the big commuter-guy after all. At least not after dark.

Stay safe and thanks for "listening".

R
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Old 10-04-07, 10:53 PM   #2
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I work swing shift and commute home at 12:30AM. I get spooked somtimes too. I just listen to that innervoice. Sometimes I ride the main road other times I ride the side streets and mups. I have noticed that on the nights I do get spooked I cut 10 min off of my normal time.
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Old 10-04-07, 11:06 PM   #3
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I run a minimum of three red blinkie type lights on the back. It sounds like you have plenty up front but at night I want my back to look like a red christmas tree. I actually feel safer at night because people tend to see me more at least their driving style appears that way. I would not feel comfortable with only reflective tape.
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Old 10-04-07, 11:14 PM   #4
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I often commute at night and quite late at night at that. Sometimes I'm in some pretty dicey places as well. You have to listen to your instincts and trust your intuition but balance it with resisting the urge to psych yourself out.

Judging from the time stamp on your post you just got in from the ride. Give yourself some time to let the experience settle and take another look at things in the light of day. See if you can determine how much of it was legitimate and justifiable (useful) and how much of it was imagined (destructive). Let go of the imagined/unreasonable fears and see if you can make adjustments to reduce the legitimate fears to a more manageable level. Lots of people alter their route home after dark out of safety considerations. Sometimes streets that are too busy for daytime riding are well-lit, safe and ridable late at night.

You did not mention your gender and, though I loathe to admit it, women have to be even more particularly on-guard. I'm 6'3" and ride pretty hard and fast so I'm less of a target than a smaller, lighter person riding at a slower speed might be.

Good luck and good night!
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Old 10-05-07, 12:27 AM   #5
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There should be a campaign touting the importance of using lights and wearing reflective vests- I have a slogan already: Get Lit!
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Old 10-05-07, 03:03 AM   #6
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I love riding at night. Less cars on the road, and the motorists out there seem to give me more room than during the day. See this thread from electronics, lighting, & gadgets. Pictures of me and my bike in the dark in post #11, description of the setup in post #19.

My commute usually involves riding to work during daylight, and riding home at night. Most of my riding is on 4-lane 40/45mph roads with and without bike lanes, and a 2-lane 55mph road with no shoulder/no bike lane. I've had more problems with things being thrown at me, being intentionally run off the road, etc. during the day than at night (although statistically speaking my sample size is small...only 1775 miles of cycling as an adult since I started riding this year). I've actually had more positive things yelled at me at night (usually "nice lights" or "I saw you a mile away") than negative things.
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Old 10-05-07, 03:43 AM   #7
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I'd rather ride at night than any other time. The only time I've been scared is when an owl dove at me and screeched just as it pulled up from almost hitting my head. I don't know if it thought I had a squirrel on my head or what. It was a loud sound in a silent dark night, so that woke me up.

There are coyotes and such around; one was watching me this morning on the way in, but they don't bother me. I actually rode in at 4AM this morning, and I saw a grand total of 4 cars on an 11 mile commute.

I've not had anyone come close to me in ages. More than a couple of years, probably. At night I ride with a superflash set on "constant on" and a xenon strobe. You can easily see me from over a mile away.
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Old 10-05-07, 03:45 AM   #8
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I think it's probably a lot worse riding in the dark in the evening than in the morning. In the evening people are still stressed from the day and are mad at the world and anyone that gets in their way.
In the morning, people are just waking up and are generally not starting out angry, so I tend not to see anyone cranky.
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Old 10-05-07, 03:51 AM   #9
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I run a minimum of three red blinkie type lights on the back. It sounds like you have plenty up front but at night I want my back to look like a red christmas tree. I actually feel safer at night because people tend to see me more at least their driving style appears that way. I would not feel comfortable with only reflective tape.
"Oh a tree, I can hit that no problem" thinks the drunk.
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Old 10-05-07, 04:01 AM   #10
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My reflective vest actually has a two flashing stips across the whole width of the vest. I hope that is enough. Usually the bike lanes I use are wide enough, i hope my sense of security is warranted.
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Old 10-05-07, 04:14 AM   #11
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OMG I thought I was the only one. I was literally ready to jump out of my skin like in a cartoon.

First of all, strange things happen when I am tired. I was riding home one night the week before last around 8pm after working over 12 hrs. I hit the crappy part of a trail I ride (many trees, low light, transients, etc) and freaked out.
The end result was me determining an alternate route, deciding I needed a better headlight, and realizing I should be a tad more prepared when I am exhausted.
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Old 10-05-07, 05:13 AM   #12
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You are not the only one. Early summer I was riding my old hardware store MTB home at 10 at night on rural roads with no lights and it suddenly occurred to me with incredible, undeniable force: , oh, gee, I could get killed! I was profoundly relieved to be home in one piece and resolved to get lights etc. That led me on a long path and now I'm lit up in a way that keeps cars back until they know they can pass safely. I do mean they follow me and wait, which I appreciate. And I'm speedy, but no racer if you get my drift. So get good lights. My initial combo was a cateye410 and Mars3.0 on the back. Both were nice, but ultimately inadequate. There are a lot of good solutions. But I chose DiNotte rechargeable lith-ion front and back and a reflective vest and I still pull over when I get a weird feeling about someone coming up. Could NOT be happier with my lights and find the rear is the best of all -- and an easy install w/ and 0-ring loop-de-loop on my rack under my pack. Keep us posted and stay safe.
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Old 10-05-07, 05:40 AM   #13
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Wait until Halloween!

Actually, this morning I almost hit what I call Zombies -- joggers who were dark clothing and no lights or reflective equipment. This guy was running in my lane toward me on a section of road with no streetlights. Fortunately I have a good headlight and was paying attention, but he really wasn't visible until I was about 30 feet away. And, of course, he made no attempt to get out of my way.
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Old 10-05-07, 06:49 AM   #14
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Wait until Halloween!

Actually, this morning I almost hit what I call Zombies -- joggers who were dark clothing and no lights or reflective equipment. This guy was running in my lane toward me on a section of road with no streetlights. Fortunately I have a good headlight and was paying attention, but he really wasn't visible until I was about 30 feet away. And, of course, he made no attempt to get out of my way.
I'm occasionally guilty as charged on running in stealth mode - with the exception that I'm extremely attentive and stay out of the path of anything. I can't fathom seeing a headlight coming at you and not taking evasive maneuvers. Insane.
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Old 10-05-07, 06:52 AM   #15
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I'm the opposite. I get spooked out on the MUP late at night. I start thinking how far I am from anywhere, how my cell phone doesn't work so well out there, and then I remember all the down and out people I see hanging around the path during the day. I get myself pretty spooked sometimes. I just keep telling myself that I've been doing this for years and nothing has ever happened out there.
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Old 10-05-07, 08:49 AM   #16
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Thanks for the replies. It is good to hear that people are out there successfully (and safely) commuting at night. I do feel a little better about it this morning. I was a mess out there last night. Twice I hopped up onto the sidewalk and twice I just pulled over and stopped.

Back lighting was certainly a concern. I thought I might bolt a 12 inch bar horizontally to my rack and put a Planet Bike Super Flash on each end to start with. I also think I'll get a reflective vest, too. I liked the pictures of the vests posted here a lot.

Next, I will avoid that busy street for the time being and stick to alternative routes where I can (I will have to go through one busy, bike unfriendly intersection, but I may walk my bike across that using the ped crossing rather than line up with the cars on the road like I do during the day).

Hopefully, I feel a bit better on my next ride.
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Old 10-05-07, 01:36 PM   #17
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Sometimes on my early morning commutes to work my helmet light will illuminate the eyes of unidentified animals looking at me from off in the woods.

One morning I had a glowing spot float slowly across the road in front of me. My initial instict was to accelerate and see what it was, but it was across the road and into the trees before I could get close enough. Figured it must have been a deer that never looked directly at me, so I was only seeing the reflection from one eye.

This stuff is spooky enough to be humorous.

I don't ever see anything that really spooks me. Except maybe the black guy that I sometimes see on a bike with no lights or relectors. He comes out of nowhere. I guess he gets off the road when he sees a car coming, because I've only ever seen him on a 55 mph speed limit, NOL, two lane highway. It would only be luck if a driver going the speed limit at night were able to avoid him after seeing him.
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Old 10-05-07, 01:51 PM   #18
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I commute at 5 AM through bear country. I'm on edge every day and I have to make sure to make noise. So far, so good. In two years, my only mishap has been with a skunk.

Sometimes if I dwell on my surroundings I can get spooked.
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Old 10-05-07, 03:28 PM   #19
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I think riding at night is safer than riding in bright sunlight. If you want to figure out how visible you are, set up your bike and get way back. Try to get road reports from people who aren't specifically looking for you.

I'm not familiar with the BRT-T, but there's no way I'd trust my safety to something powered by a couple wimpy AAA's because I've never seen one that comes close to being bright even if I think they significantly improve visibility. I would strongly recommend either the NiteRider Universal or the Dinotte. The NR runs about $60 and the Dinotte runs double that. These lights are expensive, but they are way better than any cheapie I've seen and are bright enough to be seen in full sun. Your safety is definitely worth the money (note that the NR requires one of their batteries)

There are also some homebrew solutions some people have that are as bright (or brighter) but they tend to be large, heavy, and not particularly cheap.
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Old 10-05-07, 04:17 PM   #20
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I feel safer riding at night than in the daytime. I was out on my bike the other morning at 5AM. Went to check my PO box then rode north along a divided 4 lane until I got to Walgreen's. As I was locking up, a motorist exiting the store told me how much she liked my lighting----"I didn't know what the hell that was but you sure got my attention.". My setup? Two Planet Bike Superflashes(one on my Carradice bag, and one on my helmet), a BLT Super Doppler DX taillight on my right seatstay, a Flash Flag on my left seatstay, a HUGE reflector made from 3M Diamond Grade reflective tape ziptied to my Carradice support, and a DiNotte 200L.

More rear lighting is better. Be redundent. A helmet mounted blinkie helps to ID you as a person, AND it's closer to the driver's eye level.
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Old 10-05-07, 04:21 PM   #21
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Sometimes on my early morning commutes to work my helmet light will illuminate the eyes of unidentified animals looking at me from off in the woods.

One morning I had a glowing spot float slowly across the road in front of me. My initial instict was to accelerate and see what it was, but it was across the road and into the trees before I could get close enough. Figured it must have been a deer that never looked directly at me, so I was only seeing the reflection from one eye.

This stuff is spooky enough to be humorous.

I don't ever see anything that really spooks me. Except maybe the black guy that I sometimes see on a bike with no lights or relectors. He comes out of nowhere. I guess he gets off the road when he sees a car coming, because I've only ever seen him on a 55 mph speed limit, NOL, two lane highway. It would only be luck if a driver going the speed limit at night were able to avoid him after seeing him.
I really don't understand the guys who ride with no lighting whatsoever. I can understand being poor---but you can buy "be seen" lights at WalMart for really, really cheap. I mean, bottle of wine cheap. I saw one a couple of months ago. Pitch black darkness, no moon, and this guy is riding down the side of US 19 wearing a black t-shirt, dark jeans, AND NO FREAKING BLINKIE. Not even a reflector. I chased him down and gave him a cheap blinkie I had in my bag. His response? He pedalled off---HOLDING IT IN FRONT OF HIM. Unreal.
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Old 10-05-07, 04:47 PM   #22
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i have to admit that i love riding at night. most of my non-a-to-b rides, pleasure rides, are at night -- but i always stick to residential roads.

now, on the occasion when i do commute in the dark, i actually make a point of avoiding the mups. maybe it's just my municipality, but the mup areas tend to be where the homeless folks bed down for the night and i'm always worried about running someone over in the dark. and, let's face it, if you're homeless your life is probably already pretty miserable. last thing you need is to get creamed by some dude on a bike, right?
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Old 10-05-07, 05:28 PM   #23
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Count me in with the night riders. So much less traffic, the air is cleaner, so much more enjoyable! I feel safer too; lit up as I am, drivers seem much more aware of me and tend to give me much more room when passing. I have had far fewer close calls with cars since switching largely over to night riding. So far, the MUPs in my area haven't been discovered by the homeless, and at night they're mostly clear of the long-leash and three-abreast walking crowd that makes them difficult by day. Nowadays I usually just put my bike on the bus in the morning and ride home after 7:30PM; commute is 25 miles one way so it's still a decent ride. Last week's rides were stunning under the full moon!
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Old 10-05-07, 06:15 PM   #24
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I night commute as well, seven days a week. (I'll be leaving home at 10pm tonight). I much prefer it, particularly when it snows. I love the smell of chimneys, the white veil of purity that snow blankets the street with, and the cool night air. I can't wait.
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Old 10-05-07, 07:40 PM   #25
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I night commute every workday starting at midnight. I actually feel more comfortable riding at night than during the day. I feel 10x more visible at night with my bike that's plastered with reflective tape, 3x blackburn mars blinkies out back and a dinotte 600L up front. Blazing down mountain bike trails at night will get most of the fear out of you. The rest of the fear goes when you live in semi-rural New Hampshire and have 0 fear of getting attacked by anything scarier than a skunk.

Ever since I moved to NH, I've never had any fear of riding at night. Now back when I still lived in Southern California it was a completely different story.
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