Reassuring the family that its ok to commute in the dark

topcattimtopcattim Posts: 1,075
edited December 2013 in Commuting general
I've been cycle commuting (and a weekend warrior) for some time now and my wife is reconciled to this. She worries, but she knows that it makes me happy and healthy and that the daytime risks are low.

I'm planning to cycle commute through the winter, i.e. through the dark, and this is where the trouble begins. My route is relatively safe, I think, along the less busy roads between Winchester and Southampton. I have a great set of lights, and a high viz jacket. I know my roadcraft and all about positioning. But the issue is that, whatever the perceived risk level that I feel, and the actions that I take to reduce these, it still leaves my wife with real concern.

Does anybody have any advice about how to reassure her? I'm conscious that this is as much about emotional as it is about rational argument. I'm sure I'm not the only one that has been in this situation and I don't want to do something that I know makes her unhappy. But I want to do something that makes me happy. How do I fit these together?
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  • andy46andy46 Posts: 1,666
    I commute in the dark, I have 2 good quality lights front and rear. I also wear lots of "reflective" gear, Hi-Viz yellow is no good in pitch black IMO whereas reflective panels light up as soon as car headlights hit them. I wear Altura Night Vision trousers as these are really eye catching with your legs constantly moving.

    My girlfriend also worries a bit, we both use endomondo which is free. If she's at home when I'm leaving work at 10pm she can log onto the site on her computer and track me on a map, that gives her peace of mind that she can actually see me moving.

    Family do worry, but TBH I feel safer on a night than through the day :)
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  • tilttilt Posts: 214
    Can't offer much in the way of advice for re-assuring the wife, sounds like you are doing everything you can already. It's their job to worry about us ;)

    If it helps I do the (presumably) same commute as I live in Southampton and work in Winchester and I do agree it feels like a relatively 'safe' route.
  • topcattimtopcattim Posts: 1,075
    andy46 wrote:
    I wear Altura Night Vision trousers as these are really eye catching with your legs constantly moving.
    That's really helpful advice, I'd not thought of that.
    andy46 wrote:
    My girlfriend also worries a bit, we both use endomondo which is free. If she's at home when I'm leaving work at 10pm she can log onto the site on her computer and track me on a map, that gives her peace of mind that she can actually see me moving.
    Yes, I use cyclemeter, which can send out updates. Its good, but its not (yet) enough, as while it means that she will know when I'm not moving, it won't stop the incident (in her mind) that leads to me not moving
    andy46 wrote:
    Family do worry, but TBH I feel safer on a night than through the day :)
    Absolutely agree. I love the peacefulness.

    Thanks for your thoughts.
  • topcattimtopcattim Posts: 1,075
    tilt wrote:
    It's their job to worry about us ;)
    Agreed! :D
    tilt wrote:
    If it helps I do the (presumably) same commute as I live in Southampton and work in Winchester and I do agree it feels like a relatively 'safe' route.
    Maybe its you I wave to in the mornings! I go through Hursley and then along the A3090 Romsey Road out to Potters Heron and turn back along Hook Road towards Valley Park. This slightly longer route avoids the slow twisty hill up Ladwell Hill. Its the stretch along the A3090 though, that causes concern I think, but I can't find a better one.
  • chris_basschris_bass Posts: 4,810
    on a weekend you could ask them to drive behind you while cycling in daylight, then wait till its dark, get all your kit on, decent lights and reflectors etc and then do the same.

    I'm fairly sure they'll see you are much more visible in the dark with decent lights than in daylight.

    should do the trick :) might make them stop you cycling in the day though so be careful!!
    www.conjunctivitis.com - a site for sore eyes
  • tilttilt Posts: 214
    topcattim wrote:
    tilt wrote:
    It's their job to worry about us ;)
    Agreed! :D
    tilt wrote:
    If it helps I do the (presumably) same commute as I live in Southampton and work in Winchester and I do agree it feels like a relatively 'safe' route.
    Maybe its you I wave to in the mornings! I go through Hursley and then along the A3090 Romsey Road out to Potters Heron and turn back along Hook Road towards Valley Park. This slightly longer route avoids the slow twisty hill up Ladwell Hill. Its the stretch along the A3090 though, that causes concern I think, but I can't find a better one.

    Ah, different route afterall...I go from Bassett, through Chandler's Ford, Otterbourne then either St Cross Road or the cycle path. Coincidentally I was considering a longer ride in tomorrow going through North Baddesley (maybe out to Romsey)then the A3090. If you see someone in a bright orange night vision top on a white boardman with panniers, that'll probably be me :)
  • spen666spen666 Posts: 17,709
    Chris Bass wrote:
    on a weekend you could ask them to drive behind you while cycling in daylight, then wait till its dark, get all your kit on, decent lights and reflectors etc and then do the same.

    I'm fairly sure they'll see you are much more visible in the dark with decent lights than in daylight.

    should do the trick :) might make them stop you cycling in the day though so be careful!!


    More importantly do you trust them enough in a car to feel safe with them behind you?
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  • topcattimtopcattim Posts: 1,075
    tilt wrote:
    topcattim wrote:
    tilt wrote:
    It's their job to worry about us ;)
    Agreed! :D
    tilt wrote:
    If it helps I do the (presumably) same commute as I live in Southampton and work in Winchester and I do agree it feels like a relatively 'safe' route.
    Maybe its you I wave to in the mornings! I go through Hursley and then along the A3090 Romsey Road out to Potters Heron and turn back along Hook Road towards Valley Park. This slightly longer route avoids the slow twisty hill up Ladwell Hill. Its the stretch along the A3090 though, that causes concern I think, but I can't find a better one.

    Ah, different route afterall...I go from Bassett, through Chandler's Ford, Otterbourne then either St Cross Road or the cycle path. Coincidentally I was considering a longer ride in tomorrow going through North Baddesley (maybe out to Romsey)then the A3090. If you see someone in a bright orange night vision top on a white boardman with panniers, that'll probably be me :)
    Interesting route. I've avoided that route because of the pinch point after the motorway bridge (coming from Southampton) where you go past Compton Street (ironically, that's where my wife works!) Horses for courses.
  • andy46 wrote:
    I commute in the dark, I have 2 good quality lights front and rear. I also wear lots of "reflective" gear, Hi-Viz yellow is no good in pitch black IMO whereas reflective panels light up as soon as car headlights hit them. I wear Altura Night Vision trousers as these are really eye catching with your legs constantly moving.

    My girlfriend also worries a bit, we both use endomondo which is free. If she's at home when I'm leaving work at 10pm she can log onto the site on her computer and track me on a map, that gives her peace of mind that she can actually see me moving.

    Family do worry, but TBH I feel safer on a night than through the day :)

    Agree with all but when I'm cycling or driving I like cyclists that are wearing a light coloured top, whether that's white or hi-vis yellow. The lights and reflectives are fantastic for being seen in the first place but I find that large blocks of light coloured material far easier to focus on to get more info like speed, direction, if the cyclist is indicating, are they turning (body angle). All of this is very useful infomation (particually if I'm cycling as most cyclists will hear cars and not suddenly swing out right into their path).
  • The RookieThe Rookie Posts: 27,520
    Chris Bass wrote:
    on a weekend you could ask them to drive behind you while cycling in daylight, then wait till its dark, get all your kit on, decent lights and reflectors etc and then do the same.

    I'm fairly sure they'll see you are much more visible in the dark with decent lights than in daylight.
    This, my wife complained my lights were 'too bright' until I pointed out that in safety terms there was no such thing!

    I also have some quality red 3M 'diamond' tape on the back of the seatpost and both panniers and some silver on the rear of the crank arms (so they flash) plus wear a hi-vis thin waistcoat thingy.
  • andy46andy46 Posts: 1,666
    http://www.halfords.com/webapp/wcs/stor ... yId_273966

    This is the jacket I wear most nights, it has a lot of large reflective panels on the front, arms, and rear and is a bargain for £14.
    I also have a Hi Viz reflective rucksack cover, along with the Night Vision trousers/tights the lads at work say I look like Tron when they follow me out :lol:

    Even though I use all this and have good lights, I still have the odd driver pull out on me. I can usually anticipate it though and can see it happening before it does, it's almost like a sixth sense I think most regular cyclists have :lol:
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    2015 Specialized Roubaix Sport sl4

    2014 Specialized Allez Sport
  • topcattimtopcattim Posts: 1,075
    What's interesting about all this debate so far is that it focuses on the rational bit of the argument - what we can do to reduce the risk. The trouble is that none of this really touches the root of my wife's concern which is that if something were to happen, it would have serious consequences. So while she might see what I've done rationally to reduce risk, it doesn't stop her emotional side worrying. Does anybody have any advice about this bit?
  • While I think commuting in the dark is no problem, avoid the dark and wet. Makes it very hard to see when driving a car, plus the glare of oncoming lights gets reflected off the water on the windscreen plus all the grime from winter etc.
  • veronese68veronese68 Posts: 21,960 Lives Here
    The problem is you can't use a rational argument against an irrational fear. All you can do is reassure her that you've done everything you can to make yourself visible and that you are careful.
  • tilttilt Posts: 214
    veronese68 wrote:
    The problem is you can't use a rational argument against a woman

    FTFY
  • tilttilt Posts: 214
    topcattim wrote:
    tilt wrote:
    topcattim wrote:
    tilt wrote:
    It's their job to worry about us ;)
    Agreed! :D
    tilt wrote:
    If it helps I do the (presumably) same commute as I live in Southampton and work in Winchester and I do agree it feels like a relatively 'safe' route.
    Maybe its you I wave to in the mornings! I go through Hursley and then along the A3090 Romsey Road out to Potters Heron and turn back along Hook Road towards Valley Park. This slightly longer route avoids the slow twisty hill up Ladwell Hill. Its the stretch along the A3090 though, that causes concern I think, but I can't find a better one.

    Ah, different route afterall...I go from Bassett, through Chandler's Ford, Otterbourne then either St Cross Road or the cycle path. Coincidentally I was considering a longer ride in tomorrow going through North Baddesley (maybe out to Romsey)then the A3090. If you see someone in a bright orange night vision top on a white boardman with panniers, that'll probably be me :)
    Interesting route. I've avoided that route because of the pinch point after the motorway bridge (coming from Southampton) where you go past Compton Street (ironically, that's where my wife works!) Horses for courses.

    That bit's fine tbh, worst part of my commute is Chandler's Ford as there's often a LOT of traffic which means a lot of filtering
  • The Rookie wrote:
    This, my wife complained my lights were 'too bright' until I pointed out that in safety terms there was no such thing!

    I also have some quality red 3M 'diamond' tape on the back of the seatpost and both panniers and some silver on the rear of the crank arms (so they flash) plus wear a hi-vis thin waistcoat thingy.

    Yes there is. Maybe not for your safety but the safety of people around you. Whenever I go onto a bike path at night there's normally at least one person with a too bright light that ensures I'm nicely unaware of the cyclist/pedestrian just behind them until the last second. On the road I've had similar experiences, but fewer near misses, with not knowing what is in front of me because of someone elses front light, there's a reason cars don't drive around with full beam on and some front lights are now getting to be that bad.

    Rear lights are less of an issue as no rear light I've come across makes it impossible to see anything else (although I've had a least one person with a fairly bright rear light think that I should have seen his black clad, gloved arm point right so he could swing out into me).

    Back on topic on the emotional side: maybe take her through your route plan showing how safety of the route has been chosen over speed, even tweak the route so it's a bit longer at night but on quiter roads? Making a change could show you aren't dismissing her worries and are acting on them, even if it's just a cosmetic change that makes no real difference to safety.

    What is her main concern, is it that she thinks you're a bit reckless or that she doesn't trust motorists? Be seen to be doing something based on that: would she support you if you went on a bikability course? (say that the saving in fuel/bus fare will cover it). Plus mention the positives - my wife has pointed out if I stop doing exercise I get grumpy, it's quicker so you can spend more time with her, it's cheaper. I'm just chucking ideas out here, hope some of it is helpful.
  • topcattimtopcattim Posts: 1,075

    Back on topic on the emotional side: maybe take her through your route plan showing how safety of the route has been chosen over speed, even tweak the route so it's a bit longer at night but on quiter roads? Making a change could show you aren't dismissing her worries and are acting on them, even if it's just a cosmetic change that makes no real difference to safety.

    What is her main concern, is it that she thinks you're a bit reckless or that she doesn't trust motorists? Be seen to be doing something based on that: would she support you if you went on a bikability course? (say that the saving in fuel/bus fare will cover it). Plus mention the positives - my wife has pointed out if I stop doing exercise I get grumpy, it's quicker so you can spend more time with her, it's cheaper. I'm just chucking ideas out here, hope some of it is helpful.

    Helpful thoughts. Genuinely, part of my plan is to show her this thread, to show her that I am taking this seriously. And Tilt's advice route planning has made me think about a possible alternative but longer (and I don't mind that!) route, which I shall check out on my way home. And I plan to follow markhewitt's advice about not cycling in the rain and dark - I think that this is a major part of her concern.

    And she totally gets the bit about me being huffy if I haven't cycled - sadly that bit is all too obvious!

    TBH, I think at the root of the concern is that she knows that she sometimes sees cyclists too late for her own comfort when she is driving. She's never hit anyone, or had any near misses, as far as I am aware, but her experience just reminds her that it is possible.
  • veronese68 wrote:
    The problem is you can't use a rational argument against an irrational fear. All you can do is reassure her that you've done everything you can to make yourself visible and that you are careful.

    I'm not sure it is an irrational fear - 118 cyclists were killed on Britian's roads last year and his wife is understandably worried. Plus if he's anything like me then when I come across an idiot driver on the way home I rant about it in front of my wife, not giving her the safest impression of the roads or of the risks involved.

    Also you can do more: make a small change (preferably so it looks like you came up with it together) and it may help. For example last weekend I decided that while my wife drove to a family get together of hers I'd like to cycle, it was only 45 miles so why not? My wife was intially against it but after a few route tweaks I could show it was a relatively quiet route and more importantly showed her that I cared more about getting there in one peice that getting there quickly (a common concern of hers).
  • topcattimtopcattim Posts: 1,075
    veronese68 wrote:
    The problem is you can't use a rational argument against an irrational fear. All you can do is reassure her that you've done everything you can to make yourself visible and that you are careful.

    I'm not sure it is an irrational fear - 118 cyclists were killed on Britian's roads last year.

    Might not show her this bit! :wink:
    but of course that is part of the issue - we discount some risks (i.e. that people die in car accidents) while exaggerating others (i.e. that people die in cycle accidents).
  • chris_basschris_bass Posts: 4,810
    topcattim wrote:
    veronese68 wrote:
    The problem is you can't use a rational argument against an irrational fear. All you can do is reassure her that you've done everything you can to make yourself visible and that you are careful.

    I'm not sure it is an irrational fear - 118 cyclists were killed on Britian's roads last year.

    Might not show her this bit! :wink:
    but of course that is part of the issue - we discount some risks (i.e. that people die in car accidents) while exaggerating others (i.e. that people die in cycle accidents).

    but then from ROSPA:
    It is estimated that the total number of road casualties in Great Britain is between 660,000 and 880,000 per year, with a best estimate of around 730,000.

    so if you arent cycling then you are far from 'safe' as well! i know its impossible to argue this point but its worth noting its not as if you are safe in a car and unsafe on a bike.

    and of those 118 deaths, how many were due to the cyclist being at fault? if you eliminate those i bet that figure would be much lower, so if you highlight you take all the procautions you can, light yourself properly you'll be as fine as you can be.

    failing that, leave a bike at a friends house not to far away, drive to their house hop on the bike and away you go, she'll be none the wiser!! :D
    www.conjunctivitis.com - a site for sore eyes
  • I'm in the same position in that my wife doesn't like me commuting in the dark. I have pointed out to her that I feel it is safer in the dark since I have very good lights I am more visible to car drivers. As a compromise during the winter months I drive the first 5 miles & ride the last 10 miles. This means I miss the worst of the traffic coming home. Also during the winter I often commute on my MTB thus avoiding the busiest sections by going off-road.

    It is their job to worry so no amount of hi-viz gear & lights will stop them worrying!
    Winter commuter: Planet X London Road
    Winter road bike/commuter: Specialized Langster
    Best road bike: Planet X RTD90
    MTBs: Giant XTC 650B / On-One C456 singlespeed
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  • My Mrs just doubles my life insurance payout and turfs me out each morning.....bar a few incidents with pedals and wheels dropping of at random the commutes are going fine at present...
  • chris_basschris_bass Posts: 4,810
    My Mrs just doubles my life insurance payout and turfs me out each morning.....bar a few incidents with pedals and wheels dropping of at random the commutes are going fine at present...

    i think i'm overdue a clipless moment (last time a driver stopped to see if I had had a heart attck! laughed at me when he realised I hadn't and saw I was laughing!)

    wheels dropping off?! That's a new one on me!
    www.conjunctivitis.com - a site for sore eyes
  • veronese68veronese68 Posts: 21,960 Lives Here
    veronese68 wrote:
    The problem is you can't use a rational argument against an irrational fear. All you can do is reassure her that you've done everything you can to make yourself visible and that you are careful.

    I'm not sure it is an irrational fear - 118 cyclists were killed on Britian's roads last year and his wife is understandably worried.
    How many are killed in the dark compared to daylight? How many people are killed doing DIY, climbing the stairs or doing any other menial task? It sounds like her fear of the OP riding at night is disproportionate, hence my comment about it being irrational. Life is dangerous if you look at it in those terms, compared to a lot of other activities riding a bike is not that dangerous.
    I understand why his wife would worry, my wife worries about me all the time. I have to let her know when I've arrived at work or if I'm going to be late home. This is as a result of me being knocked off (in broad daylight) even though I was able to phone her and tell her what had happened. She worries more about me on a bicycle than she does when I'm on a motorbike, that is irrational (and she knows it) as the motorbike is probably more dangerous.
  • I do what most people do in regards lights and clothing, my commute takes me down a lot of unlit country roads, biggest problem is the low sun at this time of year with a easterly commute in the morning and West in the evening.

    I also use Endomondo so my wife can track me if she chooses and I also wear ID dogtags in case something horrid occurs.
    They were a few quid on ebay and just give me some reassurance that she can be contacted just in case.
  • simon_esimon_e Posts: 1,669
    I'm not sure it is an irrational fear - 118 cyclists were killed on Britian's roads last year and his wife is understandably worried.
    Over 1,700 people were killed on the roads last year. 801 of them were in cars and 420 were pedestrians but it doesn't stop you driving or walking. The fear is rational but it is disproportionate. Even if there were zero deaths in a year that would not stop someone worrying.

    My son is 12 and rides 3 miles to secondary school. We did practice rides in the summer and I rode with him in the morning for 3 weeks but in the end I had to 'let go' and trust him to ride safely. Tracking him on a computer wouldn't make him any safer.

    There is no magic answer. I'd suggest you demonstrate that you are a safe and alert road user and acutely aware of the more risky scenarios (junctions, roundabouts, filter lanes, bad weather and so on). You can only do your part, your wife has to work on her fear. And it can be done, these things are not set in stone - managing 'the chimp', NLP and such methods do work.
    Aspire not to have more, but to be more.
  • Driving my car, waiting to turn left at a roundabout in the rain and dark this morning. To my right I can see car headlights and the outlines of cars. And a bright flashing light - aha, a cyclist! But as he approached I noticed I couldn't see the cyclist at all, very faint black outline among all the blackness. So my conclusion is that a powerful headlight is a must!
  • InitialisedInitialised Posts: 3,047
    Get a good life insurance policy just in case, if it's your time, it's your time and no amount of LEDs, Hi Viz and road craft is going to save you. I'd rather die cycling than in my sleep or of some disease.

    Seriously though, the first year I stuck it out through Winter I stuck to the off road paths (until the snow came) but still had a fall due to some twunt riding on the right. Oh and if you do ride unlit routes dim your lights for other users like cars do on unlit roads. If you find other cyclists failing to dim their lights then ride straight at them and yell "dim your bloody lights", remember they can see you and will stop as they realise they are blinding you, causing you to stray into their path!

    Drivers are only dangerous if they can't see/haven't seen you or want to hurt you. Most don't want to hurt you so make sure you are seen with reflectives, lights and good road craft (from the OP it sounds like you have this covered) and even if they do they will usually avoid damaging their car to do so. We'll deal with that next.

    These days I mostly stick to the road, use primary where needed and am quite prepared to use my gloves with integrated knuckle and wrist protection a pump or even my bike for defense if a moton wants to take issue with me exercising my right to ride assertively on the public highway.

    So far I've found all you need to do is make it clear there's a road full of witnesses, block as much traffic as possible if a moton or their passenger gets out of their cage to try and intimidate you and stand your ground (never strike the first blow) they tend to get back in their cages and go on their agitated way rather than commit assault in front of all the traffic you've just blocked since they are easily traceable by the police with CCTV and VRMs.

    When the ice and snow comes get studded tyres for traction and consider full body armour and a full face helmet like you see on proper DH MTB events. I'm sure the prospect of spending a few hundred on an exoskeleton will soon bring home the reality and relative safety of the situation.
    I used to just ride my bike to work but now I find myself going out looking for bigger and bigger hills.
  • crakercraker Posts: 2,060
    I had this conversation with Mrs C some weeks back (her mum worries about my commute more than anyone), followed shortly by a spate of serious car accidents in our vicinity. There's no such thing as safe commuting, all we can do is manage the risks sensibly.

    IMO It's up to the worrier to be reasonable, I don't think I'd be happy accepting I was being tracked every bike ride - would you place a similar requirement on your o/h's mode of commuting?
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