8 Tips for Nighttime Riding in the City

It’s officially that time of year when we can’t hold on to summer any longer: the days are getting shorter, and winter is coming. Even if the weather hasn’t quite shown it yet. 


Ned Stark saying "Winter is Coming"

Courtesy of Giphy


You will definitely be facing some low-light conditions on your evening rides. To help, we’ve compiled the best tips to keep you safe and pedaling during the cold season.


1. Light Up:

It might sound like a no-brainer, but the first thing you need to be night-ride-ready is a set of lights on your bike – white in the front and red in the back. And remember, bike lights are required by law, so there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.


With the amount of light pollution in urban areas–street lights, advertisements, buildings, cars–it is best to find a set of lights with a pulse setting. Blinking lights draw eyes to you, and keep you visible to motorists. Need help picking up the perfect light set? We’ll be having several bike light giveaways this month in every borough, so stay tuned on Instagram for the dates and locations, or check out Recycle A Bicycle’s shop in the meantime.


Remember: Charge your lights so they don’t die halfway through your ride. And, if you’re on a greenway or protected bike lane, take off the pulse setting and angle the light toward the ground to avoid blinding fellow cyclists.


Parked bicycle with rear light on: a must for nighttime riding

Courtesy of Canva


2. Be seen:

Avoid dark clothing and use all the city lights in your favor by using brighter, fluorescent colors to bounce the light back. If you’re able to use reflective materials, go for it! Yes, a neon green cotton shirt is more visible than black, but clothing and gear with reflective strips is designed to take light and throw it straight toward the source. 


You can try the following:

3. Signal Earlier:

Although it is crucial to always signal when changing lanes and stopping, it is even more important to signal at nighttime. We recommend signaling earlier than you would during daylight, as it may take others around you more time to see–you can also use gloves with reflective patches to increase your visibility when signaling.


Hand signals for cyclists

Courtesy of Bike New York


4. Go with the Flow:

Of traffic, that is. Beyond it being the law, riding against the flow at night is extremely dangerous to you, fellow cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists. In the end, it comes down to biology: no matter how much light there is around you, oncoming car headlights will force your pupils to dilate, and it’ll be difficult to see details in the surrounding darkness. Besides, riding against traffic makes you less visible to drivers at intersections and driveways.


Bike Laws graphic that emphasizes stopping on red lights, riding with the flow of traffic, using bike lights for nighttime riding, and giving the right of way to pedestrians

Courtesy of New York City Department of Transportation


5. Take Space:

Are you sharing the road with cars? Make sure upcoming motorists can spot you quickly. Taking space–around three feet into the lane–makes you more visible and asserts your presence on the shared road.


6. Scout Your Routes:

We recommend taking night rides on familiar routes that you have ridden during day time. Not only to avoid danger but also because riding at night requires increased attention to the roads. Take the time to survey your typical ride routes for conditions that might be challenging at night, and plan accordingly.

Riders on protected bike laneCourtesy of Bike New York


7. Time for Layers:

With temperatures falling, you may want a windbreaker, rain jacket, or long-sleeve shirt for your evening ride –and don’t forget your helmet!


8. Buddy Up:

Not only is it fun, but it is also safer. The more cyclists on the road, the more visible bikes will be to drivers. Are you looking for group rides this winter? Check out our community calendar.


Brooklyn bridge at dusk

Courtesy of Canva


Have fun and ride on! Cities–especially New York–can really come alive during the nighttime. So get friends together for a loop around your favorite park or a late-night cruise over the Brooklyn Bridge. And don’t forget to tag us on your nighttime ride pictures at @bikenewyork.