Fall is here, which means it's getting darker sooner, and anyone who bikes to work will be biking back in the dark. Visibility is a big issue for bikers even during the day, so learning how to bike at night is extra important. Here are the best ways we've found to be seen and stay safe on our city bikes!
Outfit Your Bicycle
Lights & Reflectors
Make sure your bicycle is properly equipped. In most states, bicyclists are required by law to have BOTH a white light on the front and a red light on the back of their bicycle. Many lights are relatively inexpensive (think $15), but consider paying a few dollars more for rechargeable ones. (Our city bikes are all outfitted with USB-powered lights for charging while we work!)
Similarly, most states require a bicycle to be outfitted with a white reflector in front, and a red in back. Under federal law, all new bikes come with reflectors, but if you're buying used, make sure you check before you decide to bike at night.
It's also important to note that when visibility is decreased (like at night, or in the rain), you'll do well to get noticed in other ways--especially by making noise. New York law requires every bicycle to be equipped with a bell, but just because that might not be the case in your state, doesn't mean it's not a good idea. It will help you communicate your whereabouts to pedestrians and drivers who might not have seen you in the dark. (Now might be a good time to check out the cutest bells we've found for city bikes...)
The more of you is visible when you bike at night, the safer you'll be, and adding reflective strips to your clothes & gear--or even purchasing garments specifically designed to be reflective--is a great way to make this happen. Check out our recommendations for various jeans and other reflective clothes!
Lose the Earbud
We all love to spend summer days on our city bikes cruising to some awesome tunes. But at night, it's a different story. Here in Brooklyn, it's legal to ride with one earbud in--but that doesn't mean it's advisable at night, when you need to be able to rely on your other senses--specifically your hearing. If you do want to listen to music, consider a small speaker. It will keep you in the groove and actually help you stand out to drivers who might not see you.
Change Your Behavior
Choose a Route with a Bike Path
While riding in traffic isn't dangerous per se, it certainly gets more dangerous at night, when drivers who probably aren't expecting you may now also be unable to see you. Making sure you stay in a bike lane for the duration of your commute is a great way to limit the dangers of riding at night.
Use Crosswalks Instead of the Turn Lane
There are usually at least two ways to make a turn when riding. The first way is to ride across the intersection, stop at the crosswalk, wait for the light, cross with the pedestrians, then merge back into traffic and continue on your way. The second is to wait in the turn lane (i.e. in the middle of the street) with all the other cars. The former can be a time suck, but it's definitely the safer choice when visibility is decreased, and waiting in the middle of the street to turn becomes a dangerous choice.
Have other strategies that help you bike at night? We'd love to hear them! Leave a comment below or tweet them at us.