October 4, 2018
On the whole, cycling is a safe mode of transportation. While it’s true that if a cyclist and a motorist collide it’s the cyclist who’s more likely to be injured, those collisions aren’t as frequent as you might think. However, accidents do happen, and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), most of those accidents happen at night and in urban areas. To that end, let’s go over a few useful tips for how you can cycle safely at night, particularly in urban areas with heavy traffic.
High-visibility gear is one of your best defenses against cycling injuries when traveling at night. If it lights up, reflects, or otherwise indicates your presence to motorists, use it. Reflective tape, for instance, can be placed on your seat, wheels, gear, and even onto your clothing while you travel at night. When headlights hit the tape, it lights up and tells drivers you’re there. Flashing tail lights that clip or screw onto your bike are also advisable, as are reflective helmets and headlights.
If you’re an experienced cyclist, you know the basics, but it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself of them once in a while. This is particularly true if you’re traveling in a riskier-than-usual environment, such as cycling at night. The League of American Bicyclists advises cyclists to use a system called “ABC Quick Check”. A is for air, B is for brakes, C is for cranks and chain, Quick is for quick releases, and Check is to check the entire bike over. Again, this might seem rudimentary to someone who’s been cycling for a long time, but it’s worth doing when heading out at night. The more responsibly you cycle, the less of a chance there is that you’ll get injured.
Many cyclists, even those with years of experience, feel tempted to ride on sidewalks at night thinking they’ll reduce their risk of getting hit by a car if they stay off the road. However, most cyclist safety guides, like those provided by the Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota, warn cyclists that riding on sidewalks can actually put them at a higher risk. The reason for this is that motorists are looking for cyclists on the roads. They don’t expect cyclists to be on sidewalks. When you’re on a sidewalk, you’re invisible, so if you suddenly have to go back onto the road or you fall off the sidewalk for some reason, they’ll never see you coming. Of course, that means they’ll have very little time, if any, to correct their course. Never assume the motorists can see you. Stay on the road, be vigilant, remain observant, and don’t let your guard down.
Follow these tips, and you can go a long way to preventing an accident when cycling at night.
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