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Utility Cycling Want to haul groceries, beer, maybe even your kids? You don't have to live car free to put your bike to use as a workhorse. Here's the place to share and learn about the bicycle as a utility vehicle.

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Old 06-09-07, 09:28 AM   #1
mwhindy
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Biking at night

Good Saturday to everyone!
I'm soon to be completely car free and have a question about riding at night. My ride will be about 3.8 miles through downtown and take me through a 'not exactly safe' neighborhood'. I'll have all the requisite equipment ie lights and what not but any other advice on staying safe?
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Old 06-09-07, 10:15 AM   #2
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1. Consult with the appropriate police station on your route and time of travel.
2. Stick to the main streets that always have some passerby's and traffic. Never go into any alleys or side-streets.
3. Get a sense of what other bikers are wearing and copy them. Do not stick out. Do not ride a $4000 shiny bike with a club jersey.
4. Consider NOT lighting yourself up so much. Tail lights and street lights are usually enough for cars behind to see you. A head light that announces your coming to every street thug should be avoided.
5. If legal (or even if not) clip a mace spray to the shoulder strap of your bag.
6. Carry a cell phone where you can reach it quickly as well.
7. Become a confident city rider. Take an entire lane. Stay away from the curb as much as possible.
8. Don't loiter at stop lights. Either bust through them (safely) or time the light so that you never stop.

Finally if you are a woman it is an unfortunate fact that you will get hassled more often. If you have long hair tuck it up underneath your hemet. Wear baggy clothing. No PINK!
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Old 06-09-07, 10:28 AM   #3
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Thanks for the advice. I hadn't thought that lighting myself up could be a bad thing. The road I'll be taking is a pretty busy road and has pretty good lighting.
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Old 06-09-07, 12:58 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Slow Train
1. Consult with the appropriate police station on your route and time of travel.
2. Stick to the main streets that always have some passerby's and traffic. Never go into any alleys or side-streets.
3. Get a sense of what other bikers are wearing and copy them. Do not stick out. Do not ride a $4000 shiny bike with a club jersey.
4. Consider NOT lighting yourself up so much. Tail lights and street lights are usually enough for cars behind to see you. A head light that announces your coming to every street thug should be avoided.
5. If legal (or even if not) clip a mace spray to the shoulder strap of your bag.
6. Carry a cell phone where you can reach it quickly as well.
7. Become a confident city rider. Take an entire lane. Stay away from the curb as much as possible.
8. Don't loiter at stop lights. Either bust through them (safely) or time the light so that you never stop.

Finally if you are a woman it is an unfortunate fact that you will get hassled more often. If you have long hair tuck it up underneath your hemet. Wear baggy clothing. No PINK!
Wow! I agree with every point you made. I rode for six years at all times and all places throughout all Philadelphia neighborhoods and I had no problems by doing just as you recommend, other than that I had no lights at all back in the 70's. I would recommend, as you do, the rear blinkies; and good reflectors front and back.
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Old 06-09-07, 01:29 PM   #5
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You might also consider one of those Airzounds air horns. I actually used it a couple of weeks ago to get the attention of a police officer at night, and I'm glad I had it. I don't shout too loudly.
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Old 06-09-07, 02:58 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mwhindy
Thanks for the advice. I hadn't thought that lighting myself up could be a bad thing. The road I'll be taking is a pretty busy road and has pretty good lighting.
On the occasion or two when I've felt in danger, I've found that having a bright helmet light makes a good bit of difference. Police shine their lights in suspects' eyes to disorient them and give the light-wielder the advantage.

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Old 06-09-07, 04:59 PM   #7
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Eugene Sloan (The Complete Book of Bicycling--1970) mentioned a group of thugs suddenly waiting for him on his path through a park one evening. He waited until the last moment and gave them a long blast on his canned air horn. It frightened them and they jumped back, giving him just enough time to sprint away.

I rode at night past a tavern surrounded by imbibing patrons "not of my race." I always shut off my generator light a block or so before. Later I talked with someone raised in that neighborhood and he told me I was in relatively little danger there. According to him, the dangerous area was a seemingly nicer area I rode through during daylight hours. Who would have thought it? Anyway, I never had any problems in either location.
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Old 06-09-07, 08:42 PM   #8
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Slow train already advised you to use major roads when you can and to give yourself plenty of space in the lane but I'll mention it too because I think it is so important.

If you haven't ridden the route before, familiarize yourself with it in the daytime before trying it at night.

If your lights run on batteries, have spare batteries.

In general, don't be aggressive but do be assertive. Move purposefully but don't hurry.
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Old 06-09-07, 09:58 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mwhindy
Good Saturday to everyone!
I'm soon to be completely car free and have a question about riding at night. My ride will be about 3.8 miles through downtown and take me through a 'not exactly safe' neighborhood'. I'll have all the requisite equipment ie lights and what not but any other advice on staying safe?
Get a Take A Look Mirror and use it after you clear the bad areas. You don't want to look like a professional cyclists and that means turning off the front headlamp because it draws attention. Once you clear the bad area, put the mirror back on.

I've been wearing this very portable reflector vest. It's small enough to fit in your pocket and it's not hot like a traditional vest. I wear this even in bad areas because it works in the dead of night.

If you see a large crowd of kids, take another avenue.


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Old 06-10-07, 10:54 AM   #10
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My ansi 2 vest has given me comments that I look like a cop.

I would also scout out a emergency plan. That leads to a place that is open with people or police substation.
You might want to also call a person when you leave so they will be waiting for you to call back . Give all your routes and time it will take you. My parents do this for me and are a 1000 miles away. I just leave my camping plans at my house.

Of course what other people said.
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Old 06-10-07, 11:13 AM   #11
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Mind your own business and don't be a sucker.

A lot of people (especially women, perhaps) assist the thug who's trying to mug them by being polite and helpful. Remember, if somebody really needs your help, they will respect your "space."

People are dangerous only when they are close enough to touch you (unless armed, of course). So, if somebody gets too close, tell them to back away while you yourself are backing off. If they continue to approach you, they are bad people. Just take off as fast as you can and be prepared to defend yourself.

As for lights, I feel safer with them than without them, but that's up to you. My view is that a close encounter with a car will always harm you, but a close encounter with a bad guy gives you a fighting (or running) chance. Also, I like to see road debris, as I had a very serious fall while riding unlighted at night.
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Old 06-10-07, 03:26 PM   #12
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I'd say at least some form of headlight is a good idea. You don't have to keep it on full-beam, or on all the time, but there are instances where being able to see and be seen outweighs the benefit of camoflage.
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Old 06-11-07, 05:48 PM   #13
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I'd say at least some form of headlight is a good idea. You don't have to keep it on full-beam, or on all the time, but there are instances where being able to see and be seen outweighs the benefit of camoflage.
I pretty much agree with this.

I don't have any statistics to back this up, but one situation scares me when riding at night in the city. That's cars pulling out of a side street or driveway right into my path.

Reflectors won't work in this situation because the cars' headlights are not pointed directly at them. I think that drivers at night are expecting to see headlights, not shadowy objects like bikes, so they are likely to pull out into your path. And I'm dead or seriously hurt, most likely.

One thing I do is ride a little more toward the center of the street at night, whenever traffic conditions allow. This gives me more time/space to react if a car does pull out in front of me. And I do keep the headlight turned on at all times.
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Old 06-11-07, 11:01 PM   #14
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These are great ideas that have already been posted. Somethings I'd like to add:

1. If you use OC spray, you may also be legally required to provide or call for medical aid when you use it.

2. Be aware of your surroundings. This doesn't just apply to what's going on around you at any given time, but things that occur overtime. Are you seeing the same person at the same place in time all of the sudden? Is the same car popping up? Those kinds of things.

3. Have a few different routes and randomly ride them. You don't want someone planning to mug you. If they do, you don't want them to be successful.

4. Don't draw negative attention to yourself, ie. don't make yourself a target.

5. Keep riding and don't stop unless you have to due to unsafe conditions, mechanical issues, etc.
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Old 06-12-07, 02:22 AM   #15
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It's really sad to see most of these posts are from the United States where crime seems to be so bad you take your life in your hands just riding through a city at night.. So what's the difference between that and Iraq or Lebenon? Are people in the US really that dangerous? I wouldn't think twice about riding through any city in Canada or the UK at night. Sure in the 'bad' areas i'd be more aware but not to the point of clipping pepper spray to myself or figuring out my best escape plan when "they" come to get me. Seems like alot of Americans are already living in a prison of thier own society. Has it gone from Home of the brave to home of the paranoid?
Really really sad..
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Old 06-12-07, 02:59 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by heywood
It's really sad to see most of these posts are from the United States where crime seems to be so bad you take your life in your hands just riding through a city at night.. So what's the difference between that and Iraq or Lebenon? Are people in the US really that dangerous? I wouldn't think twice about riding through any city in Canada or the UK at night. Sure in the 'bad' areas i'd be more aware but not to the point of clipping pepper spray to myself or figuring out my best escape plan when "they" come to get me. Seems like alot of Americans are already living in a prison of thier own society. Has it gone from Home of the brave to home of the paranoid?
Really really sad..
I agree. How sad!
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Old 06-12-07, 03:12 AM   #17
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Judging from these posts (and the posts in "do you carry a gun" -threads) US does seem like a different planet. One day I'll go and see for myself.

By the way, OP never mentioned the country he rides in.

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Old 06-12-07, 03:41 AM   #18
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Judging from these posts (and the posts in "do you carry a gun" -threads) US does seem like a different planet. One day I'll go and see for myself.
Good luck! Hope you make it back in one piece.
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Old 06-12-07, 06:22 AM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by heywood
It's really sad to see most of these posts are from the United States where crime seems to be so bad you take your life in your hands just riding through a city at night.. So what's the difference between that and Iraq or Lebenon? Are people in the US really that dangerous? I wouldn't think twice about riding through any city in Canada or the UK at night. Sure in the 'bad' areas i'd be more aware but not to the point of clipping pepper spray to myself or figuring out my best escape plan when "they" come to get me. Seems like alot of Americans are already living in a prison of thier own society. Has it gone from Home of the brave to home of the paranoid?
Really really sad..
It is the perception promoted by news outlets. The reporters live in the suburbs. I don't carry weapons but bike through neighborhoods where many suburban friends are afraid to drive. I read in the newspaper about a bunch of suburban teachers taking a daytime field trip to my neighborhood to see where their immigrant students "come from". They visited a strip of restaurants and nightclubs that cater to suburbanites and were given strict instructions to not leave the block because of the "danger". The problem is the reporter didn't point out how silly the whole idea is. Any students would have lived blocks away from the nightclub strip and those blocks would not have been dangerous to a busload of gawking teachers. I'm not saying there isn't crime and gangs in the city just that the problems are over hyped by reporters. If reporters would make an attempt to subtract the criminal-on-criminal crime from the gross statistics they'd give readers a more accurate impression of the risks. Also, if you live here you pay attention to the localization in time and space of the crimes where the victem is a law abiding person.
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Old 06-12-07, 07:32 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Juha
Judging from these posts (and the posts in "do you carry a gun" -threads) US does seem like a different planet. One day I'll go and see for myself.

By the way, OP never mentioned the country he rides in.

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Old 06-12-07, 07:52 AM   #21
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Carry a big ass knife on a chest sheath. Something about a weapon being displayed calms down even the hard ones.
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Old 06-12-07, 08:39 AM   #22
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I live in a smaller city of about 90,000 and the only crime that happens here is one criminal killing another. That happens about 4 or 5 times per year.

If you are a drug dealer you will probably eventually get killed because thats a pretty dangerous line of work to be in.

I certainly do not feel like the US is a dangerous place to live but I dont live in NYC for example.
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Old 06-12-07, 09:14 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by gwd
It is the perception promoted by news outlets. The reporters live in the suburbs. I don't carry weapons but bike through neighborhoods where many suburban friends are afraid to drive.
Me too. Portland's pretty tame but formerly in San Francisco I regularly passed through (and lived in) areas considered dangerous by ... drivers. Yes I think the habit of seldom or never leaving home without a couple tons of steel cage, glass etc. isolating one from subtle social cues tends to make one rather paranoid, and probably more likely to support political agendas emphasizing more police power, tougher immigration law enforcement, property rights over commonwealth, majoritarianism over democracy, and a disproportionate level of concern about "monsters in our midst" -- pedophiles, child abductors etc. Basically the FOX news affiliate program, half or so of whose ad revenue comes from motor interests and the balance from germophobe cleaning products, lawn care items, and Baby Einstein DVDs to assure one's progeny can afford to keep out of the city.

While living in one of these "crime infested neighborhoods" (and I won't deny that crime was a big issue, just not to the extent represented in popular media), I analyzed property crime statistics for the area, adjusted for population density, and determined that the crime rate was double that of the suburbs per capita. Then I observed that slightly more than half of the property crimes were car break-ins, car theft, car vandalism. So, having a car basically doubled one's chance of being a crime victim. No car: pretty much the same as the most staid suburbs. The vast majority of violent crime was gang-related, inter-gang. There was dope-dealing territory to defend if one was to be able to make car payments, after all.
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Old 06-12-07, 11:35 AM   #24
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Most police departments have web sites that display statistics on the types of crimes reported in a given area. the ones to watch out for are categories like "armed robbery" and "larceny from a person." These are the main crimes that affect commuters on bikes. **** is a concern for women, but the sex crime statistics are not very helpful, as they lump acquaintance **** with stranger ****. Most "assaults" are either domestic or criminal on criminal, I believe.

I found it was very reassuring to check my PD's web site and find that most of the crimes along my inner city route were drug related or domestic. I ride (literally) right through an open-air crack maret every night at 11:45. I have not had any problems with these dealers in the last 5 years. I worry much more about their intoxicated customers crashing into me with their cars.

The other thing I worry about is crazy sadistic people looking to hassle or even hurt me "just for fun." But this is quite rare, of course. And this is where it's important not to let any strangers get physically close to you.
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Old 06-12-07, 11:50 AM   #25
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I I have not had any problems with these dealers in the last 5 years. I worry much more about their intoxicated customers crashing into me with their cars.
Right. The one time I made a wrong turn into an open air drug market ( in a car) I got boxed in. When they guys who approached the window "Whatcha want? Watcha want?" found out I was lost they were super polite and gave excellent directions. Then they gave some hand signals toward the house and I just waited for the young runners to service the cars ahead and I was on my way. The dealers at those highly organized operations don't need trouble, they have a huge interest in maintaining a safe environment for their suburban customers.
They don't need cops coming around investigating assault or robbery it scares customers away. Now the lower level guys who are dealing casually to support a habit or lifestyle won't be so sweet if they think you have anything of value on you. My info about the lower level guys comes from the DA office not any direct experience.
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