Wednesday, 18 January 2017

In which choosing a night-time route can be a stab in the dark

At the darkest time of the year, another cycle route test has occurred to me. Is this route usable in the dark?

Do you feel safe there at night? Women and children in particular may worry about this - is there anyone else around? Am I likely to get ambushed? 
Places that feel unsafe after dark are likely not the best places to be in daylight, either. Social safety is important - though if a new route is convenient enough to attract large numbers of passing pedestrians and cyclists, then a safe place can be created where there previously wasn't one.

Do you need a floodlight to check for potholes, thorns and broken glass? Or is the surface smooth enough to ride nearly blind? 
The smoother surface will be both easier to navigate and more comfortable in broad daylight, too.

Do drivers go too fast? Routes which have walking-pace traffic at rush hour may have very fast-moving cars late at night.

Do you feel worry about being visible? Would you feel safe even if your lights failed?
If the driver doesn't have time to see you in their headlights, then traffic on that road is going too fast for mixing with.
If your lights are hidden by parked vehicles, then the street is too cluttered for drivers to easily pick out other people.
I would have no qualms about sailing down the Embankment cycle track without any lights on my bike. Given the street lights, wide smooth track and no interactions with motor vehicles, I wouldn't be in danger from or endangering anyone else.

And finally -
Is the route there at all?
London's parks are often touted as perfect alternatives to busy main roads. But if the entrance is locked when it gets dark at 6pm, 5pm, 4pm, then what use is it?
Worse, if the entrance is open but there's a chance the exit isn't, do you risk getting trapped?

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