Biking is a great way to exercise or commute. However, when the sun goes down, your relaxing ride can turn into a nightmare. Without the proper gear, biking at night is unsafe and unwise. Many avid bikers have found that night riding is possible, and even preferable as long as precautions are taken to prevent nighttime bike accidents.
Always Wear a Helmet
Although wearing a helmet won’t prevent an accident from happening, it could save your life. According to Selena H. of Dallas Car Accident Lawyer, wearing a helmet can reduce the risk of head injury by 50%. Most bicyclists that die in traffic accidents do not wear a helmet.
A perk to wearing a helmet at night is that it makes an excellent mount for reflective gear or additional lights.
Protect Your Eyes
Any time you are riding a bike, there is the chance of debris hitting your eyes. It is best to protect them at all times, whether riding during the day or at night. There are glasses made with clear, yellow, or rose-tinted lenses that can be worn at night. If those are too costly or you are in a bind, safety glasses or goggles from a hardware store will work just as well.
Ride Through Well-Lit Areas
Not only do well-let areas help you avoid bumps and divots in the road, but it helps others see you. Drivers are also more apt to notice a biker on a lit bike path than one on a dark road. Depending on how well-lit the trail is, you may not need any additional equipment for your night ride than you would during the day.
Before opting for a lit path at night, double check that the lights don’t shut off at a specific time. The last thing you’d want is to start on a ride planning for some lights around you, then find that they turn off half-way home.
Use Reflective Gear
Reflective tape and clothing will help keep you visible to others around you, especially vehicles. The light from a vehicle’s headlights will reflect off of the tape or apparel in such a way that drivers should see you. Reflective tape or clothing should be worn on your back/backpack, legs, the front of your shirt, and your bike frame if it does not have reflectors or other reflective properties already.
There is currently a great selection of clothing available for bicyclists and other outdoor enthusiasts. If you plan to make night riding a habit, you might want to consider investing in some quality pieces that you can regularly wear.
Research has shown that the up-and-down movements from pedaling will catch the attention of a driver more so than anywhere else. Consider placing reflective strips of tape on your pedals, the sides of your legs, or your shoes.
Install Lights on Your Bicycle
Lights are the best way to see and be seen when riding in the dark, especially if you will not be riding on a lit path or roadway. The brightness of the light you will need depends on where you will be riding. The darker the area you will be riding, the stronger a light you will need.
You will need a light shining steadily in front of you, and a flashing light (preferably red) behind you. Consider bringing back-up lights or extra batteries so you won’t be left in the dark without a functioning light.
Night riding decreases visibility, so it is imperative that you slow down and pay more attention to your surroundings. The darker your surroundings, the less reaction time you will have. An average light should shoot 50-75 feet in front of you. If you’re traveling at high speed, this will not leave much time to react to things in your path. Slow down to give yourself more reaction time for unexpected obstacles.
Pay Attention to the Road Ahead
Riding at night is much different than riding during the day. Plan to hit some bumps or holes that you usually would be able to avoid during the day. Assume that other cars don’t see you until you are sure that they do. Although many individuals find night riding refreshing, it also requires much more attention to your surroundings.
Know Your Route
Nighttime isn’t the best time of day to explore a new route. Try to choose familiar paths and routes. This way, you will know when to expect major potholes, changes in direction, traffic patterns, and other types of influencing factors.
Follow Traffic Laws
Bikers are expected to follow traffic laws, just like drivers of vehicles. Other drivers may expect you to follow the relevant traffic laws, including stopping and using hand signals to indicate lane or direction changes. Keep in mind that if involved in an accident, bicyclists can be found just as much at fault as the driver of a vehicle.
Bring a Buddy
When possible, bring a friend along. It is much easier for a driver to notice two cyclists than one. Having another person also comes in handy if one of you happens to hit something or have a mechanical failure on your ride.