Urban Night Biking
May is National Bike Month
Since May is National Bike Month and more of us are hitting the streets on two wheels to run errands, commute to work, or rendezvous with friends at the local watering hole. The League of American Bicyclists reported that more people are riding bikes than ever before. While you are riding more, it is also a good bet that you are riding more at night as well.
While the rise in commuter biking will put you on the road at night, many cities and organizations sponsor Owl Ride meetups to take advantage of the unique experience of urban night biking. These urban night biking expeditions can help you see and appreciate your city in a whole new way. While you are enjoying the sights, sounds, and comradery of urban night biking, it is also important to be safe. Urban night biking can bring some added considerations that are important to keep in mind while peddling the city. Here are some common night time biking hazards and how to avoid them.
How to avoid biking hazards
- The Right Cross. Cars don’t always look both ways before turning, especially at night when shadows can give motorists the sense they don’t have to follow the rules. Make sure you have a powerful bike light that won’t be missed. Next, get a headlamp so you can direct your light where you are looking and make eye contact with the driver before proceeding.
- The Door Prize. If you ride the streets you know this hazard. The driver suddenly opens the car door and catches you without time to react. This biking accident is actually one of the most common accidents involving bicycles and motorists. Riding further to the left of the lane will give you added room and reaction time. Also, consider getting a bike light that flashes and has a combination of white and red light. The flashing light combination will get the driver’s attention more when he looks in the rear-view or side mirror.
- Stop Light Smack. When you are urban night biking, the odds are you will stop at several red lights. The common practice is to ride up to the stop line on the right side of waiting cars. Often at night the car won’t see you in this semi-blind spot and when the light turns green the driver might suddenly turn right causing you some serious concerns. To avoid this accident, stay directly behind the car where you are clearly visible in the rear-view mirror with your flashing bike light and headlamp.
- The Left Cross. This is a common hazard, especially during nighttime commutes. You are going straight on a green light, but an oncoming car is fixated on the traffic light and approaching motorists. When traffic clears, the car makes a quick left turn without checking for bikes. This can be a difficult accident to anticipate, we assume motorists are going to follow basic road safety. To ride safely in an urban environment it is important to consider each intersection as a danger area. Slow down, look mindfully in all directions, and don’t attempt to pass cars on the right. Use your head lamp to try and make eye contact with oncoming drivers, if you can’t get the driver’s attention consider stopping.
- Pot Hole Blues. Reaction times slow at night for both bikes and cars. Recognizing pot holes and reacting appropriately can be more difficult at night. A bike light that has a Dual Distance Beam System can help you spot potential hazards well in advance while also lighting dangers closer to the bike. Recognizing hazards early gives you a chance to react appropriately without making sudden movements that could cause an accident. When you approach the hazard make sure to slow down, look behind you, and give an arm signal to let the cars following you know that you are moving over.
Check out Fenix’s Ultimate Bike Combinations for May!