The time changed this weekend and so I had my first night time commute of the season on Sunday. Riding at night is different. It is easy to become paranoid with all of the lights and shadows. Not only do I find myself scrutinizing every bump in the road, but I have to keep a constant mental inventory of the other road users around me. All of this is made even more difficult thanks to the frequent negligence on the part of cyclists and pedestrians when it comes to making themselves visible.
I have good night vision. With a little boldness, I could ride without a light most nights. I don’t anymore, but I did for a while during my reckless youth. These days, I always carry a pair of lights, but just now is it dark enough that I will be using them both every day. A moderately sized red flasher goes on my backpack and a middle-of the road white led light mounts on my handlebars as a headlight.
I’m pretty finicky about lights and I am a strong advocate for their use. Sunday night was my first real commute in darkness. I saw eight other cyclists while I rode along the river. Two of them had no lights whatsoever. One had a single red led flashing at his back that was so faint as to be invisible. The other 5 had lights. I also passed a number of pedestrians during my ride. None of them were carrying lights or reflective garments. About half of them were wearing dark colors from head to toe.
On Monday night’s commute, I ran into the other end of the spectrum. Twice I had to nearly stop as cyclists with overly bright lights passed in the other direction. Some cyclists like to use lights that are so bright as to be blinding and more than once I’ve nearly ridden off the trail, my night vision ruined. So, here I am despising the bike ninjas and the halogen hellions.
Night riding is often an adventure. I’ve collided with small animals. I’ve nearly collided with black-clad partiers and sundry homeless folks. I’ve also had some simply wonderful rides, with the wind my face and the darkness rushing by all around. I could bitch and moan and gripe about the idiosyncrasies of other people’s lighting habits for days, but most of the time it doesn’t matter. I’m just glad to be riding my bike.