Author Topic: Bike commuting at night.  (Read 5215 times)

SpareChange

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Bike commuting at night.
« on: July 18, 2014, 12:47:51 PM »
Hey guys! I'm throwing around the idea of commuting with my bike. I've thought some stuff through... think I have some decent possible routes identified...think I know where I can stow the bike at work...will have access to a locker to store clothes, etc. The commute is approx. 12.5 miles each way. I've done casual cycling for about 3 years now. Participated in a few organized rides this year so far (21, 41, and 39 miles last week). However, I've never ridden at night. My work schedule is 3pm-1130pm, M-F. What suggestions do you guys have for the ride home at midnight? What kind/how many lights or other gear do you find useful, or even legally necessary? Any other tips for night commuting or commuting in general? I plan to do a test run of the routes in question soon. Thanks!!

gimp

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #1 on: July 18, 2014, 12:51:43 PM »
Here's my perspective as a driver: Blinky lights. Not just lights, not just a blinky light, but several blinky lights, which are ideally off-sync so they blink at different rates. Preferably at least two in the back, and at least one in the front in addition to your normal headlight. And preferably at least one in your wheel so I see you from both sides. If you can do that, I will love you.

Any reflective plastic pieces on your bike, or reflective tape or cloth, or whatever, will be nice too. So would a white bike, and light-colored clothes. But the blinking is absolutely crucial, and paramount.

fallstoclimb

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #2 on: July 18, 2014, 12:58:36 PM »
Buy ALL OF THE LIGHTS.  Preferably USB-chargeable ones, and remember to charge them.  Don't skimp out here, lights keep you safe. 

When I commute home in the winter, I usually do it in the dark.  I have two red blinkys in the back (one on the bike, one on the helmet) and two white lights in the front (again, one on the bike, one on the helmet).  If its full dark I generally don't blink the front lights as I'm not sure how it affects drivers visibility and its better for me to see. 

Biking at night is really fun, and I think safer than during the daytime.  Drivers can't help but see you when you are lit up like a Christmas tree and its dark out.  I also wear a reflective vest, which helps if you are in a very well lit area. 

GuitarStv

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #3 on: July 18, 2014, 01:08:50 PM »
I bike to work at 5:30 or 6:00 during the winter when it's pitch black in Toronto.  There is sporadic street lighting on about 90% of my route.  Here's my approach:

- Bright red blinking light at the back of the bike (I like the Planet Bike Superflash Turbo), I use two on my seatpost.
- Bright white blinking light at the front of the bike (I like the Cygo‑Lite Metro 500)
- Bright blinking light attached to the back of my helmet
- High Visibility Jacket (fluorescent yellow) with reflective patches
- Reflective ankle cuffs
- Reflectors on the bike
- Reflective tape on the bike


I have had no problems using this setup for two dark winters now.  People can see me very well through the snow and darkness.  The minimum requirements for me are the high viz jacket, and a bright blinking light front and back.  Without these I notice that cars do not see me very well.

It is more important to take the lane in the dark because it's harder to see potholes and road debris . . . so you may need more room to swerve unexpectedly.  Don't ride at night with headphones in.  Less light means you need your hearing more to determine car positions around you.

allergic2average

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #4 on: July 18, 2014, 01:19:32 PM »
If you're gonna ride your bike at night, get one of those bright orange or neon green construction vests.  This way cars will see you at all times.

Rickk

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #5 on: July 18, 2014, 01:24:56 PM »
Just some shopping ideas (I agree with everyone - you want lots of visibility and lights).

Really bright front light (1200 Lumen CREE XML T6 Bulb LED) http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006QQX3C4/ref=oh_details_o09_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1
Lens to go in light above - spreads the beam really nicely - Wide Angle Lens for MagicShine - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004WLCLQY/ref=oh_details_o08_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1#
Tail light I have - it is ok - if I was going to do it again I might pick a different one - Portland Design Works Danger Zone Tail Light - http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00435IPFK/ref=oh_details_o09_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

I can't even begin to say how happy I am with the light and the lens for the price of the outfit ($25).  This thing seems car headlight bright.  I ride paved paths in the dark and it lights the way like nothing I have had before.
« Last Edit: July 18, 2014, 01:49:06 PM by Rickk »

Eric

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #6 on: July 18, 2014, 01:31:11 PM »
Biking at night is really fun, and I think safer than during the daytime.  Drivers can't help but see you when you are lit up like a Christmas tree and its dark out.  I also wear a reflective vest, which helps if you are in a very well lit area.

I agree with this.  I also feel more visible when it's dark, assuming proper lighting of course.

Doomspark

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2014, 01:32:10 PM »
From the perspective of a vehicle driver:

Wear light-colored clothing, preferably with reflective striping.
Have multiple rear lights.
Visibility. Visibility. Visibility.

crazy jane

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #8 on: July 18, 2014, 02:24:08 PM »
Utility pro wear. I got my outfits at Fleet Farm in Wisconsin. It's so bright, that when my friends try to take my picture the resulting flash from the reflective material is all that shows up. Also, the winter gear is super warm. I'm sweating in January even when it's 19 below. And I agree with everyone about lots of blinking lights.

yyc-phil

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #9 on: July 18, 2014, 02:34:12 PM »
Quick question for those who commute in frigid temperatures (-20 and below). Do you leave your lights attached to your bike when parked outside for hours or overnight, and if so, how does it affect battery life? Because of the extreme winter temperatures in Yellowknife, the plastic clip holding my lights on their cradle broke so many times, so I am considering a more secure way to attach the lights on the bike. I am now using rechargeable USB lights with a rubber band clip but they are a real PITA to clip and unclip at -45 twice a day. I am totally uneducated about that and I assume that those small batteries are no different from car batteries, so at low temperature, they stop working. It's beautiful biking weather for now, but that won't last, so I am already planning my winter biking.

PindyStache

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #10 on: July 18, 2014, 02:58:46 PM »
If you're gonna ride your bike at night, get one of those bright orange or neon green construction vests.  This way cars will see you at all times.

I think this advice holds true in day, but at night it is more important to have retro-reflective clothing elements.

TrMama

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #11 on: July 18, 2014, 03:04:36 PM »
Quick question for those who commute in frigid temperatures (-20 and below). Do you leave your lights attached to your bike when parked outside for hours or overnight, and if so, how does it affect battery life? Because of the extreme winter temperatures in Yellowknife, the plastic clip holding my lights on their cradle broke so many times, so I am considering a more secure way to attach the lights on the bike. I am now using rechargeable USB lights with a rubber band clip but they are a real PITA to clip and unclip at -45 twice a day. I am totally uneducated about that and I assume that those small batteries are no different from car batteries, so at low temperature, they stop working. It's beautiful biking weather for now, but that won't last, so I am already planning my winter biking.

I don't bike in super cold temps, but small batteries are absolutely affected by cold. I used to use a baby monitor in cold temps when we lived in Quebec and the batteries only lasted a few hours. As you've already figured out, many plastics also aren't cold stable. Is there anyway to bring the entire bike inside? That seems like the simplest solution. This seems like a good question to forward on to the good people at MEC. Maybe they'll have some solutions.

yandz

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #12 on: July 18, 2014, 03:34:23 PM »
Have not used and not the cheapest, but I desperately want these: http://revolights.com/

Seems worth it if you plan to do a lot of night biking because you know what is really expensive? A funeral ;)

GuitarStv

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2014, 03:57:21 PM »
Quick question for those who commute in frigid temperatures (-20 and below). Do you leave your lights attached to your bike when parked outside for hours or overnight, and if so, how does it affect battery life? Because of the extreme winter temperatures in Yellowknife, the plastic clip holding my lights on their cradle broke so many times, so I am considering a more secure way to attach the lights on the bike. I am now using rechargeable USB lights with a rubber band clip but they are a real PITA to clip and unclip at -45 twice a day. I am totally uneducated about that and I assume that those small batteries are no different from car batteries, so at low temperature, they stop working. It's beautiful biking weather for now, but that won't last, so I am already planning my winter biking.

I don't bike in super cold temps, but small batteries are absolutely affected by cold. I used to use a baby monitor in cold temps when we lived in Quebec and the batteries only lasted a few hours. As you've already figured out, many plastics also aren't cold stable. Is there anyway to bring the entire bike inside? That seems like the simplest solution. This seems like a good question to forward on to the good people at MEC. Maybe they'll have some solutions.

I take the lights out of my warm house and put them on my bike in the morning when it's dark and leave them on the bike while at work . . . but it's usually light out for the ride home.  I've broken several of those plastic clips too . . . they get super brittle when it's very cold.  Maybe try mounting the lights on your helmet rather than the bike so you're always bringing them inside without unclipping?

Christof

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #14 on: July 18, 2014, 04:05:16 PM »
What country are you in? In Germany you would have a lot less possibilities than in the US. In general, dress as bright as possible as someone on a bike or a motor bke as possible and legally allowed.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #15 on: July 18, 2014, 05:26:31 PM »
If you are riding in street lights, the lights need to be bright, but not super bright. If you are riding without lights or on trails, something in the vicinity of 300 lumens on the front is a bare minimum unless you're creeping along.

I should probably grab a high-vis vest, but currently I just have one light on each end of the bike. Rear is always blinky. Front is blinky at dusk, full on when dark.

@ykphil - my lights last winter were AAA powered and we got temps regularly down to -30C. I didn't notice appreciably lower battery life but I hear you on plastic being super brittle. Lithium cells hate, hate, hate the cold. My phone would regularly die on the ride home because the battery would freeze drain.

superone!

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #16 on: July 18, 2014, 06:02:05 PM »
Buy ALL OF THE LIGHTS. 

This.

Blinky front, back and spoke lights and a reflective vest. And don't skimp on lumens!

I also have an awesome back light that is bright and blinky and makes a lazer beam bike lane for me. It's awesome and rechargeable and available on Amazon for $12.50. Highly recommend.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00AUV7KPC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o03_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

SpareChange

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #17 on: July 19, 2014, 08:28:45 PM »
You guys are great. Thank you for all the wonderful suggestions!

stripey

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #18 on: July 20, 2014, 02:58:57 AM »
Best thing I have done is do a 'test run' and get a friend to drive up behind me riding, and provide feedback on how visible I was. I highly reccomend this!

Next day I went and purchased brighter lights, and spokelights too.

bikecob

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #19 on: July 20, 2014, 07:41:21 AM »
commuted in DC for 10 years (before escaping)
as others have said, lights, the light on the helmet is a must and should be bright engh to be seen during the day - that saved me many times.
I found the helmet light the most important one.
I saw several studies done that found most accidents happen from the front/side. (only 5% from behind)
I used 3 blinky on back, helmet and handlebar mounted head light.
have had very good luck with lights and motion products.
stay off multi-use trails in the summer - they are much more dangerous.
Find a copy of effective cycling by John A Forester.
I love commuting by bike and felt i was safer and faster than in a car/train.

LennStar

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #20 on: July 20, 2014, 09:24:54 AM »
Buy ALL OF THE LIGHTS.
A bit (but not much) in constradiction to the others: Dont be a christmas tree ;) That could mean that people dont know what you are and misjudge your distance - which is the most important point.
But I wrote this as a german, we dont have lots of blinking lights for example. They just got legal to mount.  So cars are not used to lots of blinking.

Definitely get a good lamp in front and back. Have a bike dynamo lighting on your bike. You can use the battery ones, but if you forget to change batteries or something else happens - your dynamo will always work, its powered by your legs. It's a very useful backup.
Also use reflective elements front, back and most important sides. We call it cat's eyes for obvious reasons. (I mean this http://www.amazon.com/Bicycle-Spoke-Reflector-Set-Reflective/dp/B00JJ8LPQW/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top ) Put 4 of them in each wheel.
The most important point in these reflectors is that they always work and adjust to your "enemy". If a truck has large lights, you light up more, too.

You definitely want reflective clothing. Best is on both legs and both arms, torso and if possible head. The human brain is astounding - people can recognize you are a human just from these 5 points (rings), especially if you are moving. If you ride a bike, you are a very very unique picture with these 5 points. It also means that people can judge your distance fairly good. (Same applies to the cats eyes)


jabber

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Re: Bike commuting at night.
« Reply #21 on: July 20, 2014, 03:29:30 PM »
I'll second the recommendations for blinkies and reflective clothing.  Some Mustachian options include:

-3m Reflective Cloth (sold at my local walmart or amazon, I'm sure) which can be sewn onto existing clothing.
-Ikea sells traffic safety vests for reasonable prices.

For cold weather, another few Mustachian tips:

-To avoid the brittle plastic concerns already voiced, most new LED lights are available with silicon tension straps, instead of clips.0
-Remember to keep tubes well inflated.  Normal pressures in your garage or even normal daytime can fall in the cold of the night to PSIs that allow pinch flats much easier.  This was a problem for me when I used to commute in Boston winters.

Be willing to create a route that minimizes blind corners or other low visibility situations, even if this means a longer commute.

Avoid wearing earphones, audio traffic cues are as important as visual ones.  Especially from the rear.