I ride in at 5:15 am and leave for home at 3:00 to 4:00 pm most days, so I don't usually ride in much traffic even though my route takes me through the densest part of downtown, a busy bridge, and then up a major commute street. I avoid rush hour. Most days.
Tonight I left at 5:30 pm and rode home in the heart of rush hour. It was already dark. There were cars everywhere, headlights and brake lights thick and blinking, like being a ranch dog in a big herd of steel cattle. Traffic was so thick that for some of the ride, I was moving faster than traffic, passing them in my bike lane, even up a modest grade.
This made me nervous. Most drivers figure if they haven't recently passed a cyclist then they can turn right no problem. So I was worried about being right hooked. To my surprise the drivers did in fact seem to be checking the bike lane before turning, on several occasions a car clearly waited until I passed to make its right turn. Then again, there was the lady who pulled without looking into the bike lane to get to a parking space, but I saw that coming and it only slowed me down. I hate losing momentum on an uphill but there's not always a choice.
I had switched on all my lights, the NiteRider on the bars and the generic Cree XML T6 spot on the helmet. This really helped. When I'm coming up behind a car that is slowing or edging over, whose driver might just be thinking about pulling into that driveway or side street, I put the spot right into his rear window, the whole cabin lights up and his rear view mirror is suddenly blinding bright. I'm fairly sure it helps me get noticed. Same if I'm approaching an intersection and a car is creeping out into my path, the driver's face gets lit up and the car lurches to a stop.
My lights seem to make me unpopular with other riders, as I come up behind them, they see their shadows in the growing pool of bright light, then they swerve and look around for the bright menacing thing, when they see it is another cyclist and I can sort of feel their irritation. Or maybe I'm imagining it. We commuters seem like a surly lot, there's never any chit chat or even hellos or waves as pleasure riders often exchange. It feels like we are grimly, intently forging through the minefields and dangers, and have no thought to spare for each other beyond "I hope it's him and not me".
On the rear I had double red blinkies, which felt just a little inadequate in that sea of red lights. I think I will investigate amber blinkies and more reflective tape. Some riders with panniers put big patches of reflective tape on the back side of the bags, and they stand out like glowing warning squares. Seems like a good thing.
And then there are the (deleted) bike ninjas. The riders with no lights at all, invisible ghosts who appear from nowhere in their fashionably dark clothing. I hate them, almost ran into, or was run into by, two of those prick heads tonight. I wish the police would ticket them just like they'd ticket a car driving at night with no lights.
I guess it wasn't really a relaxing ride home. But in a sort of aggressive, pumping, teeth-gritted way, I enjoyed it. Glad I don't get to have this particular kind of fun too often.