Bike light

This article by Maria Contreras Tebbutt of the Woodland Bike Campaign is cross-posted from the Davis Enterprise.

The holidays are over and solstice has passed and here we are in the coldest and darkest months of the year. Time to ride a bike? Well, maybe. With a little preparation, you could be enjoying one of the greatest thrills of your life.

Riding a bike after dark feels like flying. Your senses are alert, houses light up like a Thomas Kincade painting and the wonderful smells of fresh air and cooking trigger your imagination. Owls can be seen and heard, and there’s the feeling of lightness that comes with moving smoothly through space.

Riding a bike at night is a hurdle that for many is almost taboo to those who are averse to going out without a ton of metal wrapped around them. Getting over the car habit, especially at night, can be a challenge.

That used to be me. I rode my bike only on perfect sunny days. Then a few years ago, I read a book about “driving lite” and I decided to cut down on driving trips by considering anything within 5 miles bikeable. To reduce the temptation to get in the car for a short trip, I put a cover on it. The ease of jumping on my bike to run an errand far outweighed the hassle of removing that car cover.

I gradually customized my bike to fit my needs with a flashing LED light on the front and a red one on the back. The flashing is highly visible and the batteries last longer. A side bag (pannier) and a bungee cord have greatly increased the usefulness of my bike. Fenders are nice in the rain. Throw on a bright green reflective vest and helmet, and there aren’t many places you can’t go on a bike in town.

Within a year, we discovered that our second car was rarely used and we got rid of it, saving us about $10,000 per year (2011 AAA statistics). This will buy you a lot of great rain gear.

None of us needs more complications, and we certainly don’t need more guilt. But bike riding at night is fun. There’s no club to join, nothing to schedule, just take off from your own driveway and start saving money while you get fit.

Night biking gets us outside and moving when the darkness conspires to keep us locked up inside. There’s less traffic and this can be the perfect time to get out and enjoy a leisurely ride. Watch out for yard debris piles on dark streets. Choose streets that are well lit.

There is something special about night air, it is calmer and yet more alive.

— Maria Contreras Tebbutt is a community educator, enthusiastic bike advocate and the founder of the Woodland Bike Campaign. A Davis resident for more than 40 years, she rides her bike whenever possible to avoid driving. Reach her at