In the beginning of my bike commuting journey, I never thought I would be riding my bike at night. I still felt shaky bike commuting to work in broad daylight; I definitely did not want to complicate the process anymore than necessary!
But thanks to Daylight Savings Time and, well, LIFE, I quickly realized that I needed to conquer my fears of biking at night and learn how to do it safely. Luckily, riding in the dark is not so different from riding during the day; there are only a couple of extra considerations to take into account.
Read on for 3 essential tips on how to bike at night that keep you safe and cycling – day in and night out!
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1. Light It Up
The main challenge of biking at night is visibility. You not only need to see your surroundings, but cars and others also need to see you.
Bike lights to the rescue! Very much like with a car or any vehicle, you will need a white light for the front of your bike that helps with your visibility and a red light for the back of your bike that helps others see you. Bike lights are affordable, durable and easy to find. Get your bike lights the same day you get your bike and you’re set!
Some bikes come with a reflective component already attached to the back. I would recommend still purchasing a set of bike lights because unlike the static reflector, bike lights usually come with settings that allow you to control settings such as brightness and flash modes.
Flashing lights are proven to be significantly more visible to vehicles than static lights, so I always use the flash mode on my rear light (I rarely use flash mode on my front light as this is helping illuminate the path in front of me). I recently also learned that studies have shown that lights that trace the movement of your legs as you ride are the most eye catching of all.
Check out the bike lights I use here!
Last but not least – don’t sleep on reflective gear! They are absolutely necessary for riding at night and are often overlooked. When the light from a car’s headlights shines on reflective material, almost all of the light will be directed back to the driver – better guaranteeing your visibility.
You can buy reflective tape and attach it literally wherever you want – frames, pedals, rims, even your helmet and clothing!
2. Know Your Route
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: for any bike commuter, the route you take is just as important as the bike itself – especially at night. If you don’t know where to begin, read this post for tips on planning your bike route.
Always go with routes you are very familiar with when biking in the dark. You will be instinctively more aware of potholes, cracks and obstacles you may not see as easily at night. Alternatively, use a route that is very well-lit at night if you’re setting out for the first time.
Whether your route is known or new, if you’re biking at night make sure to take it slow and increase your level of alertness. Which brings me to my last and final tip…
3. Follow the Rules of the Road
You should always be following the rules of the road as a bike commuter. But I cannot stress the importance of this during nighttime rides!
Do not underestimate how difficult it is for cars to see you at night (even if you follow tips 1 and 2 above). As a result, a key component to riding at night is to be as predictable as possible. Resist the urge to ignore traffic lights and stop signs or weave through traffic – aka unpredictable behaviors.
In addition, you may find that biking at night requires you to take the lane more often to ensure your visibility. Read How to Bike with No Bike Lane for all the tips on that, but if you only remember one thing – ride defensively! Don’t ever assume that drivers can see you and always ride at night with visibility in mind.
Those are my 3 tips for biking at night that keep you safe and steady – day in and night out! Check out the other How-To Posts on the blog for more info on everything bike commuting!