Trail Safety After Dark

It seems to me every morning the darkness lasts a little longer. Then again I’m usually driving in it, so it’s noticeable. Evenings are getting shorter too, so it seemed appropriate to us to talk a little about safety after dark. Here are our top ten tips for safety after dark. If you can think of others, add them in the comments section and share them with everyone.

Safety After Dark can apply to you if you’re walking, jogging, running, cycling or just trick-or-treating. The more of these you can try then safer you’ll be. The good news is, none of them are very expensive.

  1. Lights – Seems like a no-brainer. If you’re behind the wheel then it is, you’re required to turn on your lights and your vehicle has some, which it will happily use every time you turn the key, hit the pedal, press the button, or just think about sneezing. Sadly bicycles don’t come with lights already attached and despite being required to use them, many cyclists fail to do so. Then again, people on foot aren’t even required to use lights and mainly we don’t. Depending on where you’re walking, running or cycling, a powerful (but not blinding!) light may be your best, cheapest, easiest and most cost-effective approach to safety after dark.
  2. Be visible – it ties in with the point above. Lights help you see your route and will help others see you, but they have an even better chance if you’re dressed in light clothing (White? Yellow?) and have reflective something on your clothes or bike – plenty of it in fact. The glow-in-the dark laces that came with your kids new sneakers don’t count.Bike and rider equiped for safety after dark
  3. Loose the noise – sure we all like our tunes, phones and other head-phone equipped devices, but they prevent you hearing all the things that are going on around you: from people shouting a warning to the bear in the bush by the pathway, you have no idea what easily avoidable trouble you’re about to walk in to.
  4. Walk or run towards oncoming traffic so you can easily see what’s coming your way and move if needed. This should be a year round, all day thing but it’s especially important to keep you safe after dark when visibility is reduced. If you’re on a bike, use the lanes & routes set aside for bikes, or travel with the traffic and use the lights you brought after reading step 1.
  5. Carry some ID with you. Sure, no-one plans to get hit by a car, but it’s better to have ID in your wallet, purse, pocket, etc. than to get into trouble and EMS have no idea who you are or who to contact. If appropriate, carry your medical plan/insurance card or papers too.
  6. Choose the right routes to and from your home. After dark is not the best time to go exploring new and unfamiliar trails. If you can choose routes that are well light, then even better. If it’s practical, try to avoid routes where there is no raised pavement and you’re essentially walking (or biking or whatever) in dirt next to the traffic.

    Black bike kit

    Go back to step 1 and try again

  7. Carry a phone – if you’re injured or get lost then these things can save your life, especially if you stray off the trail and into the local backcountry. Even if you’re only a couple of minutes down an unfamiliar trail (just long enough, perhaps, to realize you’ve gone the wrong way) an injury like a broken ankle can leave you stranded and very alone in the dark. Also remember your cell phone is probably a good source of emergency light (see point 1) but it’s not a substitute from carrying proper lighting!
  8. Walk, run or cycle with others – go with the safety in numbers approach. A large group is always more visible to drivers than just you. If you can’t do this, then it may be appropriate to let someone know where you’re walking/cycling to and what time you’ll be back.
  9. Be aware of other people. So you’re cycling alone, dressed in dark clothes,  without a light, head down, listening to your tunes…. No wonder you couldn’t see the other person you collided with.
  10. Go with your instincts – you know your routes & areas better than we do. If you think something would make you more visible, then do it. If you think you shouldn’t be going somewhere after dark then don’t. And if your ‘gut’ is telling you to get out of there fast, go now!


About Tony Howarth

Tony is a First Aid & CPR Instructor Trainer with Sea 2 Sky Safety Training Services and the company founder. Tony started with the British Red Cross in 1994. Has acted as first aid attendant for hundreds of events & treated many hundreds of people as a result. He is experienced in training a wide range of courses. He previously worked as an ambulance attendant with the British Red Cross. He is now in BC as a first aid instructor, and an instructor trainer (one who trains others to become instructors) Finally, Tony works at Squamish General Hospital as the pharmacist manager when not busy training safety
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2 Responses to Trail Safety After Dark

  1. Paul says:

    I think there is another aspect that is not mentioned here and that is to be aware of the dangers of attack. Women in particular should try and not be out alone at night. I am a firm believer that a woman should carry mace (IN HER HAND) when she is out alone and never go to dark areas or anywhere where someone may be lurking. When my wife goes into the city with her girlfriends I make them carpool so they are NEVER alone.

    • Tony Howarth says:

      Thanks for the reminder. It isn’t something that comes to mind right away but well worth the reminder. You never know what could happen.

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