Monday, May 20, 2013

because the night belongs to lovers

Sometimes, not often, I have to come in to the office really early, like at 5am.  This week it was Thursday and I had to be in at 5:30.  Actually it would have been better if I'd been here at 5:15 but the calendar entry said 5:30 and that is when I arrived.  Oops.

Gettings up at 4:00 is not a great pleasure to me.  My days of unhappy infants are done with and also I am well over the hill and extra appreciate a decent night sleep.  I miss my family something awful when I do not see them in the morning, I don't mind at first but when I see that they would be getting up and I am not there to greet them I feel a bit low.  But we're talking a few times a year here, people, and I can handle the missed morning a few times a year, plus there is one thing which is totally wonderful about bicycling in to the office at 4:30 in the morning and the name of that thing is...

....pretty much zero traffic.

I love bicycling at night.  I love the way the air flows around you.  I'm reminded of those car commercials that show a car in a wind tunnel with the air flowing smoothly around it except instead of being an ugly old car I am a bicyclist, small and quiet and fast.  Something about bicycling at night reinforces the truth of air being composed of atoms of nitrogen and oxygen.  It is not emptiness, it is not a vacumn, it is a sea that parts around us as we fly along.

Traffic lights trigger immediately or are in a default state of flashing yellow or flashing red.  The occasional cars are calm and sober and easy to side-step.  The drunk cars are long gone home by 4:30am and the few remaining cars do not need to jostle for space and be aggressive horrorshows.

The lighting is not good in the bicycle lane on Sand Hill so I skip it and bicycle in one of the two empty car lanes.  Here the lighting is much better and the pavement is nice and smooth and finished and there is almost no broken glass.  Bicycling in such a huge clean lane makes me feel posh and expensive.


  1. Chafe,

    It's a nice, atmospheric post.

    Sometimes in London, I used to have to get the 5.25am train to Paris, for which one was meant to check in at 4.55am. I'd leave home at 4am to ride the seven miles across London to St Pancras. It was quite an experience powering through the nearly-deserted centre of one of the world's great cities, my luggage all carried in panniers on the rear. As you note, it was great to be able to use without worry routes that at any other time would have been impossibly scary. I'd go down the main A23 road from my house at a steady 20mph.

    Now I live in New York, I'm more often cycling home late at night. That can be great if it means one doesn't encounter much traffic. But, when I was cycling home at 1.30am on Saturday, I discovered that, yes, many New Yorkers really do think that the only real use for the Hudson River Greenway late at night is as a place to smoke pot. I had to dodge a group of a good 20 or so standing about blocking the greenway, in the knowledge that these were people whose reactions were either dimmed or well on the way to being so...


    1. I envy your 7 miles through London. To someone who has lived mostly in the US it sounds ineffably elegant. There is however a definitely sweet spot to the night ride. Too early and you encounter drunks. To late and you see commuter traffic.

      Sorry to hear the pothead are blockig your way. If only they could get stoned on the pedestrian side of the road ;-)

  2. This morning I had the same experience. 6.45am in Urmston, a suburb of Manchester, UK. No cars, no wind and the wonderful sound of the birds singing before they high tailed it away from the humans who dominate their world.

    It is wonderful to be a cyclist in the morning before the world wakes up. Dave Lee Roth wrote about it in his autobiography where he advised that we all do what you Chafe, and you Invisible Man have done. Long may we continue to enjoy our peaceful and tranquil pedalling adventures.

    1. I had forgotten to mention the birds. I love their early calls. Generally speaking, on my commute I hear only cars :/