One of the reasons people tell me that they don’t cycle is because they are scared that they won’t be seen by drivers on the road.
For those who are international readers here in Scotland we have few segregated cycle lanes. Often we have to cycle in the bus lane or have a strip of red coloured paint on the road, which let’s face it drivers don’t always respect for various reasons. Luckily the route I take to uni (the canal path) is off-road. However, this path is not well lit in sections and as November is taking its toll and the hours of daylight is getting shorter (it starts to get dark here around 1530 now) I have started asking myself if I should cycle on the road. Now you maybe thinking Lucy stop being a wimp, put some bike lights on and the canal will be fine but before you do, let me tell you a story.
It was a summers evening around 2100 and the light was just starting to fade, I was cycling home along the canal from Uni. I was about 10 minutes into my commute home and I was cycling along the section of the canal path that goes through Wester Hailes (a less salubrious council estate in Edinburgh). When I saw four people walking across the path towards me, nothing unusual so I politely rung my bell but as I was doing so something in my head was telling me they weren’t going to move. Sure enough, I was soon surrounded by them with one kicking my tires, another pushing and shaking my shoulder and the others shouting and laughing. I didn’t say anything, perhaps I should have screamed but I was concentrating too hard on staying on my bike, I was very close to the edge of the canal and shockingly I didn’t fancy taking a late night dip. I managed to stay on and cycle off, at this point I would like to thank the girl who was with them (it was 3 guys and a girl) for shouting at them to stop it I’m sure they are alright people really, but you can do better than anyone of them. Shaken and on the verge of tears I still had roughly a 20-minute cycle ahead. I gritted my teeth and cycled my heart out to get back as soon as possible. When I got back I am not ashamed to say that when Jamie opened the door I burst into tears. In fact, this incident still gives me anxiety.
Now yes this was “late” (kinda but not really) at night and so I should have no fear of riding home during commuting hours in the semi-dark. Unfortunately, I’m not the only one to experience this kind of thing on the canal path. I’ve heard of the same thing happening to people at 1630 on a winters night. So I don’t think I’m being overdramatic when I’m asking myself would it be better to take my life in my hands and cycle on the road during commuting hours, rather than cycle on an off road path and risk being physically assaulted. So currently my only solutions are a) cycle with someone else, which isn’t always possible or b) try cycle when it’s still light or out with commuting hours so the road is safer. Hopefully, this will change in the near future as the Scottish government have pledged to set aside more money for more segregated cycle lanes, YAY!
Now I didn’t tell you this story to make you nervous about cycling because commuting by bike is great in so many ways. I just wanted to highlight and make people aware of the dangers as yes a major one can be cars but unfortunately it can be people outside of cars too.
As I’m choosing to cycle home via the road in the dark due to the anxiety I’ve now got over cycling via the canal, it’s even more important for me to be seen in the dark. To really minimise the chance of a car not seeing you, you at least have to give the driver a chance. That’s why I’ve really invested in some kickass night gear for Misty and myself.
First comes the lights, probably the one that comes to most people’s minds first. I have super bright rechargeable lights for both the front and the back of Misty. They are by a company called Knog and are super light weight, easy to take on and off (a must in cities as lights get stolen all the time!) and are charged using a USB port which makes them really convenient charge, I’m actually charging mine as we speak! Sorry the link is in euros but that is the company’s site and there are various bike shops in the UK selling them. As for the type of settings I keep them on, I always have my red backlight on flashing but the front white light depends on the time of day. If it is just starting to get light or dark I like to have it on flashing as it is more likely to catch the drivers eye. While when it is completely dark I like to have it on full so I can see the potholes ahead!
The most recent piece of equipment to my armour is my awesome luminous jacket! This reflects any light placed upon it so that it looks like you are glowing from within, this really helps drivers see you. The exact jacket that I’ve got is from a company called proviz whilst it is pretty expensive, it really works! I’ve recently just gotten this so if you would like a full review on this just mention in the comments down below.
The final thing that I think is pretty amazing to get you seen in the dark is lights on the spokes of your wheels. While I don’t have a set myself I did get Jamie some for his birthday and they look amazing! You can set them to white and red or multicoloured, people actually stop and stare in the street when he has them on a pattern. These lights help increase your visibility from the side, so say when you’re coming out of a junction or you’re on a roundabout. The set I got for Jamie are from a company called monkeylectric and I think it will only be a matter of time before I invest in some myself…
I hope this article helped you on how to stay seen in the dark! I would be interested to hear if anyone else has also had a similar experience to myself when cycling along a path at night and if you have any suggestions. Also if you have any other ways of being seen in the dark please pop them down in the comments too! Let’s light up the streets like Christmas trees.
All the wonderful photos on this post were taken by the amazing Margie Boom, check out her blog!