Monday, 29 October 2012

Commuting after dark

On Sunday morning, the clocks went back; which means many fewer concious hours in daylight for the next few months.  My next evening commute in daylight will be be Feb/March time & from the back end of November, I'll have six weeks of commuting in the morning in darkness.
When working office hours, the first commute in the dark comes as a shock since it'd been light until six on Friday & today it was getting  dark as I was leaving work.  & the first nigh-time commute of the season is always a little anxiety provoking; especially with a new bike.  I also had the opportunity to try the lights in anger for the first time, as well as to see whether traffic reacted differently.
The opening 2km were a huge traffic jam that took me nearly 20 minutes to clear (I really don't want to filter just now).  Whilst that was annoying, it was a good opportunity to test how well I was being seen.  The answer was, as ever in the VM, far too well.  As the road opened out, I held primary at 40 ish km/h & traffic held back & passed wide when it did go past.  So I was either far more visible than I normally am on the road, or it was magic...  Despite the comments of someone who is clearly a risk to bollards, children and prams (NSFW language used in link, be warned!), I'm going to guess that it was the former.  I have never had road room like I did today.  OK, it helps that I'm holding a bit more speed, but even so.  Tonight, on a bit of dual carriageway, a driver slowed and flashed me out having noticed the roadworks in my lane.  Said driver can only have had me in his eyeline for less than 2 seconds &, as he passed, I saw that it was a black cab driver: not your stereotypical cycle-concious driver.  (Chapeau, sir, if you are reading this, that was a courteous & aware piece of driving).  & a bus driver picked me in his side mirror from 50+m away (I was slowing to let him out of the bus stop (partly out of politeness & partly in fear that he hadn't seen me), but he didn't pick that I was slowing.  I had to actually stop for a couple of seconds before he moved.  I'm guessing he saw me, despite being in a huge vehicle with limited visibility, poor lighting for night vision & a huge number of distractions).
Night commuting by velomobile is OK, then.  It takes a chunk more concentration and I am really glad I got mirrors on both sides, but I didn't feel worried at all once I got going.  Once again, it outperforms my other machines by a good margin as a commuter.
So if you hear someone tell you that VMs or recumbents are difficult to see (or that the riders "would be better off going to Dignitas"), point them in this direction & point out that thousands of Glasgow drivers can see me incredibly clearly, even in the dark.  If you, as a driver, can't see recumbents, maybe it's time to stop driving since you appear to be in 99.9th percentile of incompetence...

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