5 Essential Tips For Safe Night Cycling
Cycling at night may seem like a daunting task and understandably so. Cycling in the dark provides a large number of problems, including your own visibility, the observational skills of other road users and a whole host of other hazards. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be such a struggle, providing that you follow the government rules and regulations, dress accordingly and use a little bit of common sense.
There are hundreds of methods and guides written online about how to ride at night but this one here is the definitive guide. Follow these instructions and use your head and you should be able to ride at night as easily as you would be able to in the daytime.
If you’re enjoying a nice summer’s evening ride this year, don’t get caught out in the dark without knowing what to do.
Light Up Your Bike
In the UK, if you’re riding at night it’s mandatory to have a headlight fitted to the front of your bike and a tail light to the rear, white at the front and red at the back. The law also states that you should have a red rear reflector and amber pedal reflectors. That’s the bare minimum that you’re allowed ride with but it’s also worth fitting white or yellow reflectors in your spokes to really emphasise your presence.
These days you can buy cycling lights everywhere, from discount shops to professional cycling shops; wherever you go the choice is endless. Many of these lights have differing functions; some are static lights whereas some have flashing options. Flashing lights are useful if you’re riding in a well lit area but if you’re out in the dark, having a steady front lamp will help you see where you’re going.
Make sure you buy lights that offer you an optimum level of brightness and visibility without blinding any oncoming drivers!
Not having the mandatory lighting can land you with an on-the-spot fine of £30 or up £1000 if the Police fancy taking you to court.
It’s worth keeping the law in mind when going out for an evening ride; follow the rules as closely as you can and don’t try to interpret it your own way. Some riders insist that wearing a lamp on their helmet counts as having one ‘fitted’ to the bike and if you’re caught out like that it’s up to the Police to decide how they interpret the law. Play it safe and have a bike mounted lamp instead.
If you think you require a helmet lamp or a head torch, feel free to wear one but make sure that you have your bike mounted one on too! There is also a lot of talk and debate about wearing lights that are sewn into a vest or worn on a backpack. Theoretically these should be fine by law providing that the lights facing backwards are red in colour. It’s a bit of a legal grey area and an enforcement nightmare but as long as you’re taking the necessary steps to making yourself and the traffic around you safe, it’s a step in the right direction.
Make Yourself Visible
Aside from lights, there are many other ways you can make yourself seen to other road users, the most popular being reflective clothing and Hi-Vis vests in particular. Many cyclists advocate wearing reflective stickers on their helmets, along with reflective ankle and wrist bands. If you wear these with a reflective vest, then there should be no reason for the traffic to miss you!
Plan Your Route
Many cyclists debate the best course of action when planning their routes in the evening and there are two main schools of thought:
- Avoid the busier, street lit roads and take the quieter side streets. Taking a ride in the darker streets may make you more visible to any passing motorists but there’s also the danger that these narrower and darker roads may hide many potential hazards, including pot-holes and bad road surfaces.
- The other thought is to stick to the main roads, with more light but run the risk of dealing with heavier traffic. If you’re constantly under the street-lights, you won’t be so reflective and therefore not so visible. You’ll have more visibility on the road though which could play to your advantage.
This is the gamble and it’s up to you to make the right decision depending on your circumstances. Of course, the solution is to take the darker road providing that you’ve ridden it before in daylight and intimately know the road and every crack on it’s surface.
Keep Your Head In The Game
Riding on two wheels requires you to be much more vigilant on the road in both day and night scenarios. You should always assume that every other road user is an unobservant idiot; don’t rely on them to see you because usually – they don’t. With that in mind, always remember to ride with the same mindset as you’d have in the day time; don’t assume the road is clear; don’t assume the vehicle in front is in the right lane; don’t assume that because you’re lit up like Blackpool Illuminations that the car behind has seen you.
At night, you’ll want to sharpen your senses and do everything that you would normally do in the daytime with a little more care and attention, taking no risks whatsoever. Do that and you’ll be fine!