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Whoa there, night rider


Recently I was cycling home from work in the wee hours when movement up ahead caught my eye.I've encountered all sort of animals during my late-night/early-morning commutes and figured I'd caught a glimpse of a critter up ahead.Before long, I learned what I had spied was, in fact, another cyclist coming toward me. It was a dark, moonless night. He had no reflectors that I could see, no headlight and no taillight. He wore dark clothes and no reflective gear. And as he pedaled past, before disappearing back into the night, I noticed he was riding no-handed - dialing or perhaps texting someone on the cell phone he had in hand.Amazing.I'm all for individual rights, but this struck me as lunacy at best. Never mind that the phantom cyclist was riding illegally. It also was irresponsible and, well, stupid.I'm of the opinion that folks should be held accountable for their actions. In the case of cyclists, I figure if you run a red light or a stop sign and get plowed, well, sorry, it's your fault, and you're bound to bear the brunt of the repercussions. And if you ride in the middle of the night in stealth mode, don't be surprised if you get hit.Personally, I tend more toward Oh Tannenbaum for my night rides. I have a bright red blinky light out back that doubles as a reflector, reflectors on my wheels - though they might be frowned upon by my hardcore cycling brethren - and reflective accents on my shoes. And I have a pretty serious headlight that's worth more than the bike to which it's attached, plus a backup headlight, just in case.It all ratchets up the dork factor, but I'd rather be seen as a dork than not seen until I'm a dead dork. And, to be honest, nobody ever rode a bike to look cool.I might not be as bright - in any sense of the word - as some night cyclists I see, with reflective vests, reflective tape, headlights on the handlebars and helmets, etc. But never have I had a near-miss I considered to have been the result of not being seen, nor have I ever had somebody yell out the window that they couldn't see me. And given the frequency with which drivers share their opinions of me with me, I'm sure I would have heard by now if I were hard to see.A bit of advice often given to cyclists is to ride like they're invisible. In other words, assume you won't be seen and ride defensively.A faction of cyclists, I've heard, takes that advice to another extreme by trying to be invisible. According to this school of thought, cyclists should ride under the radar so they're not seen. Drivers can't hit what they can't see, after all.I disagree. The more visible, I believe, the better.Personally, I like riding at night. It's often cooler and calmer, and there's far less traffic. And I reckon drivers can see me better at night than they can during the day.So in many ways I feel safer riding after the sun goes down than I do before.As long as I can steer clear of the idiots riding in the dark of their own creation.


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