When I went out this evening to visit a late opening DIY store, I took my camera in the hope of catching some typical night-time cyclists.
I'd not really thought of doing this before, as taking photos at night doesn't work very well. However, a few days ago I read a post on the American blog a few days ago which posed the question of whether night riding was "Safe or Insane?"
Over here, you'll perhaps not be surprised to learn, it's definitely "safe". The first photo shows a boy of perhaps about 12 who was cycling along on his own. The segregated cycle path provides a good degree of safety.
The second photo shows a family's bikes parked outside the store that I visited. There is one adult bike and two different size children's bikes. The one with the blue panniers probably suits a child up to 12 or so, while the smaller one behind has 20" wheels and I would guess is for children up to about 8 years old.
Note that children's bikes here come equipped for regular use because they'll get regular use. They come from the factory with carrier racks, mudguards (fenders to Americans), chainguards, kickstands, sensible tyres, a lock permanently mounted on the frame and... dynamo lights. All the things you need for everyday cycling. The manufacturers expect that children will cycle a lot and that they will cycle in the dark.
These bikes were parked outside when I arrived and still there when I left. There is proper cycle parked at the shop, but they clearly didn't want to use it, and obviously it's not dark enough to be wanting to ride home yet.
This photo shows another family buying Oliebollen (a type of donut. Delicious, but you need a good cycle afterwards to work off those calories) at a stall next to the DIY shop.
Again it's one adult and two children, with their bikes and intending to ride home in the dark some time soon.
Finally the last photo shows another cyclist who I photographed on the way home. This one doesn't have working lights. It is a legal requirement to have lights, but it's pretty popular for people not to bother anyway. Only about half of the cyclists I saw tonight had lights.
What's more, absolutely no-one had extra bright lights, or more than one set of lights on their bike. Also, no-one at all was wearing any reflective clothing. In fact, most people seem to prefer black clothing for their night riding.
It doesn't matter if it's day or night - cycling is safe here, and seen to be safe. As I've pointed out before, Dutch cyclists are substantially safer than those in the UK or USA whether or not they have lights at night. The environment has been made passively safe for cyclists, not relying on everyone to do everything right all the time. Lights and fluorescents have only a second order effect in comparison to having a truly safe environment. After all, how often are motorists known to tell cyclists that they've not seen them even in broad daylight ?
Our children also cycle after dark on their own. It feels safe to let them, and it is safe.
Sorry about the blurry photos. I turned off the flash on the camera to try not to swamp the photos and two of them were taken as I cycled along and I had to brighten them up somewhat in the computer to make anything visible. Oh, and in case you're wondering, my lights were switched on and working.
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