Safety tips for biking at night

Biking is a healthy and eco-friendly way to get around, and many people across Australia have taken up the practise of biking to and from work and school. This can be a great way to help the environment. In fact, according to the Australian government's Department of the Environment, transportation emissions make up about 14 per cent of the country's total CO2 emissions.

If you're hoping to reduce your personal carbon footprint, biking to and from work is a great way to do so. However, safety remains a major concern, particularly at night. Stay safe while hitting the streets in the dark with the following tips.

Wear reflective gear

First and foremost, make sure you're wearing appropriately reflective gear any time you ride at night. Researchers at Queensland University of Technology examined the habits of 184 cyclists who'd been hit by cars, and they discovered that a lack of reflective clothing was a major contributor to the collisions.

"We found that crashes disproportionately occurred during low-light conditions such as at dawn, dusk or at night," Dr Philippe Lacherez, author of the study, said in a statement. "Only 34 per cent of cyclists in these low-light crashes were wearing reflective clothing and 19 per cent of them said they weren't using bicycle lights at the time of the crash. We're concerned that this means cyclists are making themselves more vulnerable by not being adequately visible to an oncoming driver."

Wear a bright jacket and consider a reflective adhesive sticker for your bike helmet. 

Think about your lights

It's beneficial to mount lights on the front and back of your bike to enable you to be seen by motorists. However, some of today's super-bright LED lights may cause unnecessary strain on the sight of other cyclists. If you're riding on city streets, environmental blog Grist advises choosing lights that will make you visible to drivers without compromising the vision of your fellow cyclists. If, on the other hand, you need to ride on country roads or trails, ultra-bright lights are a must.

Cycle defensively

While cruising through intersections at green lights may not be a big deal during the day, doing so at night makes you vulnerable. Think about it this way: In broad daylight, a driver approaching the intersection from your left, hoping to make a left-hand turn, will likely see and avoid hitting you. At night time, he or she won't have as much visibility, and could decide to turn if no pedestrians are in the crosswalk. Exercise caution at intersections and consider walking your bike across the crosswalk rather than riding through.

You may also want to consider applying indicators to signal your turns. While hand motions can be easily read during the day, they will be more difficult to see at night.

Finally, be extra-aware of cars parked on the street when riding at night. Even during the day, cars parked along the side of the street present hazards to bikers when drivers open the door in the bath of an oncoming cyclist. Drivers will be even less likely to see you at night, so practise defensive cycling when riding next to parked cars.

Carry gear with you

Nothing's worse than getting stranded at night and not having the proper gear. Make sure to carry your mobile phone, a flashlight, a tire pump and spare batteries for your bike lights in a handy eco-friendly backpack. You might also want to take along numbers for towing services, nearby petrol stations and non-emergency police hotlines if you don't have a smartphone, or if you will be out of range of 3 and 4G services.