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Off Hour Commuting for You and Me

by Bike Shop Girl

Night Riding on the Casseroll

Sometime around 2004-2006 my daily commuted was from my parents home in Annapolis, MD to work in Adams Morgan of Washington, DC, where I worked at the service manager of City Bikes.  The commute normally included driving my car to the end stop of the metro line near College Park, MD.  Parking my car and then riding my bike into the city, roughly 14 miles through neighborhood streets and then into Washington D.C.

Little did I know, I was riding on some of the most dangerous intersections and roads that I would find in my lifespan.  My commute into the shop normally started around 8:30am, navigating through the end of rush hour.  My evening commute ranged from 6pm, or 2am..  The 1am time is why I commuted by bike, as the local metro line shut off early during the week and would leave me stranded in the city if I didn’t ride a bike.

The ride home after 10pm became the peaceful, calming and the one things I looked forward to everyday.  The ride alone is what kept me from moving into the city and cutting my commute into a 1/4 the distance.  During this late night commute I saw many things including drug bust, drunk drivers and other kooky bike commuters.  The lack of cars on the road gave me a false feeling of safety and the night wrapped her arms around me keeping me safe.

The New York Times has an article about The Night Riders. The unique individuals that find them on the streets long after others.

“There weren’t too many cars on the street, and those that were, it always seemed as if they were watching for me,” said Ms. Casner, 53. “I seldom had to stop or even slow down, and no one honked they way they do during the day. It was just, as I said, almost magical.”

No firm numbers exist for the number of New Yorkers who commute by bicycle during the wee hours. But in a city of inveterate overworking undersleepers, it’s a near certainty that many of the tens of thousands of regular bike commuters are doing so. Often festooned with lights and reflective clothing, these night riders find an almost monastic commute in the slowed-down streets.

Originally found at NYTimes

What is your latest or earliest commute.  How do you feel being on the road when there are no others?

 
The Chariot Summer Sale - 2013

19 Responses to “Off Hour Commuting for You and Me”

  1. Mark says:

    I think the latest I’ve ridden was probably 2 or 3 in the morning, although that wasn’t really a commute as such, and it was only a mile or so. I rather enjoy having the road mostly to myself, although I don’t let myself slack off in terms of safety. I figure, drivers might think that they can drive faster and less carefully than usual since there’s nobody else around, so I should keep an eye out.

  2. J. Ryan says:

    My daily commute into work starts at 6:15 am and my ride home begins at around 4:30 pm. I seem to be right in the middle of rush hour traffic and it can get very stressful for me. I left work 1/2 hour early (4:00) once and it made a world of difference. The traffic was light and the ride was so much more enjoyable.

  3. Sean says:

    I will often head to the office at 6am or earlier so that I arrive at the office and am showered and changed by 7am. Less cars makes for a very pleasant ride and I find it allows me to relax and mentally drift a little, rather than being as on edge as I tend to be in heavy traffic. Of course I can also leave a little early too, giving me a jump on traffic and getting home before dark to spend time with my family.

    My latest/earliest night rides? These tend to be around midnight – 2am when we break out the mountain bikes and poach trails we aren’t supposed to ride on anymore :)

  4. Sean says:

    BSG:

    It’s funny you mention the DC area. I worked a few summers at the Canadian Embassy and used to commute from Tyson’s Corner/McLean area down to Georgetown, back in the early and mid-90′s. I don’t think I’d be so bold these days – those roads are terrible for commuters.

  5. Andy says:

    I generally commute between 730-930am and 400-600pm. I have city meetings that get out around 9-10pm, and those are my favorite rides home. Very few cars on the road, so passing is easy and much safer. I also much prefer to ride in darkness than near dusk. Lights stand out so much more when you’re the only thing on the road for a driver to see from a distance. I’ve considered shifting my schedule, but haven’t moved it much except for heading home before dusk in winter.

  6. Sean.H says:

    It is an interesting experience being a third-shift bike commuter (Fairfax City to Tysons Corner) . My commute start time varies from day to day, generally between 5:00 to 8:00pm. My home run consistently starts at 6am.

    My only dedicated late-night run is a bi-weekly trip to the grocers. It isn’t extremely late but by far the quietest of my trips.

  7. Rob E. says:

    Growing up in the country, I used to love night time rides. You practically had the streets to yourself. In those days I don’t even think I had lights. If a car was coming, I would see it and/or hear it so far in advance, that I’d simply cross the street so it would pass me easily and safely whether it saw me or not. These days my job is strictly 9am-6pm. When I do any late night riding, it’s usually entertainment-related, coming back from a movie or concert. There have been a good number of 1am or 2am rides, but now that I live in the city, I don’t really have the streets to myself, not on the weekend, anyway, and there’s always concern that drivers are returning from the bars and are not as alert as they should be, so it’s not as peaceful of a ride. Until I hit the greenways, that is. Once I’m free of the roads, I’m alone again, it’s more like the peaceful rides of my youth.

  8. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    I, like, to leave for work at 6:15 and if I live at 6:25 there are more than twice as many cars.. and school buses.. Very often will something keep me late past 4:30- 5:00 till 9 or so and the ride home is so much quiter.. It would be soooo nice if cities would build trails so we experienced the quiteness all the time..

    I use to commute on the midtown greenway and then to a trail that went by lakes, I loved commuting during rush hour then….Trying to do thirty with 3 ro 4 drafters… and gasping for breath to say “see ya later” as I turned off.. The park serive may build trails so I leave the house, go one block and get on a trial that crosses very few roads and almost all the way to work. But the last mile will be tough as it is suburb traffic road riding..

  9. modendahl says:

    Commuting at night has turned into one of my favorite aspects of riding. Riding around our area during daylight hours means doing battle with phone-talking soccer moms in Yukon XL’s and taking your life into their hands (gulp!). The culture of suburban driving does not take bikes into account at all – though people driving at night seem to be more than happy to give a bike some extra room (maybe it’s the 2 NiteRider Cherry Bombs that scare the hell out of them).

    Funny thing is, at my store, I leave at 10PM and everybody is overly concerned. If I leave at 5:30PM at the height of rush hour, nobody bats an eye!

  10. BluesCat says:

    I’m usually out the door a little after 5:00 AM. There is so little motor traffic in Phoenix at that time that sometimes I will take the big, four-lane thoroughfares and just ride wherever I want.

    At 4:30 PM, when I leave the office, it is a totally different story. I have a different route home, using quieter neighborhood streets and the parking lots of shopping malls.

    The latest I have been out on the road was a “mental health run” at 1:30 AM. Didn’t even see any COPS out on the road at that time of the morning!

  11. Britt in Spokane says:

    I ride fairly conventional hours these days (leave home about 7 am, leave work around 6 pm), but when I was in graduate school, I kept typical hours for a lab rat: in before noon, home after midnight. I loved those middle of the night rides! I would have my Walkman blasting my favorite cassette tape (remember those?), and ride down the middle of the road singing along. I could ride down the middle of the street and not worry about the cars. In a way I still feel safer at night because I’ve got blinking lights and am covered head to toe in reflective clothing. The cars have to look at me to figure out what the heck is coming down the road towards them! I’m also more aware of the cars coming up behind me because of their headlights and noisy studded snow tires. That said, I do still worry about drunk drivers late at night.

  12. ha1ku says:

    I loooove night riding. Here in Georgia, the Summers are so hot I like to run my errands at night. Sometimes I would wait until 11pm or later to do my grocery shopping. If I could work my office hours this way during the hot season, I would.

    As all of the previous commenters have probably already stated, I also enjoy the quiet solitude of a nighttime bike ride. I get to hear animals, crickets, the wind — pretty much everything that is normally drowned out by the din of traffic during daylight hours.

  13. 2whls3spds says:

    I have commuted at all hours of the day and night depending on the job. I worked rotating shifts at a hospital for several years. Then was the closing bartender for a few more. I agree riding late at night when the rest of the world is sleeping is great. Nothing like having an entire eight lane roadway to yourself. Night rides were also when I would see the most wildlife. Inside the city proper I have seen red and gray fox, skunks (the entire clan) deer, racoons and the like. You seldom see them during daylight hours.

    Aaron

  14. Paul from VA says:

    On my daily commute I leave as early as 5:30 am and head home usually no later than 7:30 pm. I actually do enjoy riding in the dark. Cutting through parks and riding through the neighborhoods, I often find myself the only one on the road (especially in the Winter). The darkness seems to slow down everything around me and as a result make me feel like I’m going faster. In reality, I’m probably going slower than normal – enjoying the quiet and in no hurry for the ride to end.

  15. Mike says:

    Back in the Early 90′s I worked for a very well known coffee shop in the Dupont Circle area. I would have to either open or close shop, so I bicyled in way before dawn or bicycle home after midnight. waking up 3:30 was difficult but my ride in was always enjoyable and almost surreal. No cars, i had the roads to myself. The rides home were different (still enjoyable) because the Dupont area had a very active night life and people were all over enjoying life. Once I got out of the city, I had the roads and trails to myself. My favorite part of the commute were the bridges between DC and VA. I take the sights of DC for granted when I am in a car, but the bike made me slow down and let me appreciate everything about this beautiful city.

    Mike

  16. Sean says:

    I work 3rd shift
    midnight to 8 a.m.
    Thursday through Tuesday
    so my commute is always
    opposite everyone else.
    Add to that that most of it
    is on rural country roads
    with no lighting or lane markings.
    I get to see deer and raccoon
    possum, skunk and of course
    the usual dogs that like
    to chase me.

    It is easily the best part
    of my work day

  17. john in pdx says:

    I work from 3:30 am. I feel that the cars that are out there, even though few in number, almost certainly don’t expect to see a biker. For that reason, I view every one of them as a threat.

    I take a bike only bike route for half of the way, even though it isn’t the shortest route.

    The paper is being delivered when I ride, so the portion of my ride that is in the neighborhood is the most dangerous part. It seems that every time I see the paper carrier, they are looking down at some thing in the car, while moving. Very foolish.

    Aside from the danger, I enjoy the ride very much.

  18. Night rides are what really got me into wanting to take longer, and longer bike rides. I used to go for late night rides with my friend around the Penn State main campus (we live in State College, PA) in the summer, and it was the best time to ride. Here in State College, the summer is when all the students are gone and the locals get their town back. The roads are usually empty by 11 p.m., and even during the day traffic is very slim. Once the semester starts and the students come back is when it’s sort of scary to commute around on the roads at any time of the day.

  19. Dann Golden-Collum says:

    Reporting for Portland, OR:

    Mornings, I leave the house between 4:10am and 5:30am, depending on when I need to start my day. The ride is just under half an hour for 12 miles one way. At this time of day, I rarely have to watch for much traffic.

    Nights, I leave the workplace between 2:30pm and 4pm – sometimes as late as 9pm. During this portion of the commute, I have about four miles of tricky riding where I have to dodge in and out of traffic – even with bike lanes.

    Back in the early 80′s in Iowa, I worked 7pm to 3am, and rode in all kinds of weather.

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