The Davis Enterprise: July 31, 2009
Davis Bicycles! column #23
Author: Maria Tebbutt
The author, Maria Tebbutt, poses for a photo during a night bike ride. Pedaling through Davis at night is a freeing experience that awakens the senses, she says.
FRED GLADDIS/ENTERPRISE PHOTO
Riding a bike after dark feels like flying. The human senses are awakened, houses light up like a Kincaid painting, wonderful smells of gardens and cooking tease you, 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 thrill, but it seems taboo to those averse to going out into the night without a ton of metal around them. Getting over the car habit, especially at night, holds people back.
That used to be me. I only rode my bike when I was “going for a ride,” usually on a perfect afternoon. 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 our second car. I found the bother of having to remove the cover far out-weighed the ease of jumping on my bike.
I gradually customized my bike to fit my needs with a basket in the front (in which our dog enjoys riding!), a side bag and a couple of bungee cords. There isn’t much that can’t be carried with this set-up. Within a year we discovered that the second car was rarely used and we got rid of it.
Yet my riding at night was still to come. One summer while running errands on my bike it struck me that it made sense to wait for cooler evening temperatures. Trips on a bike in the evening became an outing instead of a chore. The stress of driving was replaced with a sense of freedom.
Instead of getting into a car whose interior had hit temperatures that could cook a chicken, I enjoyed the delta breeze and evaporative cooling effect that happens on a bicycle even on Davis’ hottest days.
None of us needs more complications, and we certainly don’t need more guilt. But bike riding even at night is easy. No club to join, nothing to schedule, just take off from your own driveway, pedal to a friend’s home, stay and visit or invite them to join you.
There is something wonderfully serendipitous about not knowing where you’re going or what’s going to happen next, what you might see or whom you may connect with. Night biking gets us outside in Davis when the heat has kept us in. The evening is the perfect time to get out and enjoy a leisurely ride.
I would suggest that biking at night is very safe. Modern LED lights last long and can be very bright. A flashing red rear light is quite visible to cars, and it’s impossible not to hear and see cars at night from one’s bike. Just watch out for the yard debris piles on dark streets. Thank you to everyone who keeps his or her piles away from the routes of nighttime bikers.
Davis has a lot to offer to the bicycle enthusiast, but something has been missing. That’s why Rainbow Vogt started up the Davis Cruisers, a group of bike and art enthusiasts who ride through Davis together about once a month in the evening, listening to music that plays from their bikes.
Their first ride took place last summer with a new moon ride using two sound systems. The ride ended at the N Street Co-op to take in the music of Nancy Cassidy.
“Our goal was to incorporate arts and culture into the ride,” Vogt observes.
Watch for Davis Cruisers rides, and join the Davis Bicycles! ride to the Aug. 11 meteor shower party at Fairfield School (see accompanying box).
There is something special about night air. It is calmer and yet more alive. Davis’ night air helps to recalibrate our sense of self in relation to others and the world around us as we lose sight of our bike and melt into the star-filled night.
Maria Tebbutt is a community educator, enthusiastic volunteer and Davis resident for more than 40 years. She rides her bike anywhere in and around Davis to avoid having to drive.