As daylight wanes, more people on bikes will find themselves needing to ride in dark conditions. Riding at night can present more dangerous challenges than riding in the day, but if you’re prepared, you can find that it’s equally viable as a transportation option and can be pretty fun, too!
- Lights! Lights! Lights!
The more visible you are, the better. There are many kinds of cool bike lights you can get nowadays, but at minimum you need a front white light and rear red light (just like on a car!). Riding without lights not only makes people on bikes difficult to see in dark conditions, it’s also a ticketable offense. Louisiana law RS 32:329.1 requires a lamp mounted on the front to emit a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet to the front as well as a lamp mounted on the rear that shall emit either a flashing or steady red light visible from a distance of five hundred feet to the rear.
Lights are for you to be seen as well as for you to see obstacles in the road – be sure to keep your front handlebar light illuminated to the ground. Keep your rear red light flashing to be seen from behind. The most visible lights of all strap around your ankle to bring attention to the movement of pedaling feet.
Keep extra lights or batteries with you. USB rechargeable lights are great but need frequent recharging so bring them in to charge with your phone at night! Know how to take your lights off and on – and remember to do so – as bike lights frequently fall victim to theft.
Wear bright colored clothing and reflective gear. Get reflective tape and cover as much as you can – your bike frame, pedals, crank, bags, gear and clothing.
Louisiana law RS 32:329.1 also requires a red reflector mounted on the rear and a reflector on each side facing outward at a right angle to the bicycle frame visible to 600 feet from the headlights of a motor vehicle.
- Ride Smart
Diagnose any problems on your bike BEFORE you ride. Better to deal with it then than break down or fall into any unsafe situation out on the road. Check your tires, brakes and chain. Make sure bolts and quick releases are tightened. Be sure nothing will come loose or get stuck in your bike while riding. Keep a phone with you in case of emergency when riding alone.
Riding smart also means obeying the law and riding predictably. Always ride in the direction of traffic, obey all stop signs and signals, and avoid swerving between traffic or parked cars. Ride defensively and remember you are entitled to the space you need to operate safely on the road.
- Know Where You’re Going
Plan your route in advance. Use a bike map to find the most bike-friendly routes. Take a well-lit path or a street you’ve become familiar with in the daytime so you know what kind of obstacles to expect so you don’t fall into an unseen pothole or get stuck in some tricky streetcar tracks.