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Thread: Any reason not to ride RCP at night?

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    Default Any reason not to ride RCP at night?

    I recently moved back to DC and, until it closes for construction, will be riding Rock Creek Park trail to/from Pennsylvania Ave and Calvert. At least twice a week I will return home in the late evenings (between 8pm and 10pm). I've done the ride three times so far, and not once have encountered a single cyclist or pedestrian on the whole stretch. This is weird for such a useful length of trail.

    Are people avoiding the trail at night out of misplaced perceptions of danger, some actual risk (as demonstrated by past assaults), or for some other reason? I searched this forum and the web but couldn't find any instances of cyclists being assaulted on RCP trail.

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    Quote Originally Posted by secstate View Post
    I recently moved back to DC and, until it closes for construction, will be riding Rock Creek Park trail to/from Pennsylvania Ave and Calvert. At least twice a week I will return home in the late evenings (between 8pm and 10pm). I've done the ride three times so far, and not once have encountered a single cyclist or pedestrian on the whole stretch. This is weird for such a useful length of trail.

    Are people avoiding the trail at night out of misplaced perceptions of danger, some actual risk (as demonstrated by past assaults), or for some other reason? I searched this forum and the web but couldn't find any instances of cyclists being assaulted on RCP trail.
    Yeah, I can't think of any incidents on the paved trail. The few incidents that have happened were in the hiking trails in the woods, I think. And pretty much every trail in the area empties out by 8pm or so, particularly as the days get shorter, so don't take emptiness as a bad sign. The only trail I. The immediate area I'd be wary of is the Metropolitan Branch Trail, but even that is still pretty safe overall.

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    Hi secstate – welcome (back) to DC. I hope someone has an answer for you. My commute takes me on some other trails late at night. Following the collective wisdom of this Forum, I now carry readily-accessible mace and a shriek alarm, and I turn on extra lights. If it’s approaching midnight, I take alternate routes that avoid the spookiest section of trail. You might want to do the same.

    Even as the bicycling population in our region is growing, it seems like very few of us actually use the trails at night. I wish more people would join us. That would make it safer for everyone, plus it’s a refreshing time of day to be outside in nature….cooler temperatures, cleaner air, and all sorts of crickets, birds, bats and frogs to keep us company!

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    Thanks both for your replies and for the welcome. I'm glad to hear that you haven't heard of any incidents, though the advice to be well-lit and consider carrying mace are useful reminders. I'll continue to use the trail in the evenings and will post my sad story here if I run into trouble!

    As a side note, I was in Minneapolis for the past two years. One of the most useful commuting trails out there runs through a rough neighborhood and has periodic safety issues. Although they are fairly rare, and the trail is well-lit (making it easy to spot potential trouble ahead), the incidents are widely publicized and tend to lead cyclists to use less convenient (and slower!) on-street routes at night. Still, there are usually cyclists about until at least 10:30 or 11pm, and there is definitely safety in numbers.

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    Statistically, you are probably safer on the trail (crime) than on the streets (getting hit). In 20+ years I've never heard of an assault at night along the trails with the exception of the Metropolitan Branch. There have been a small handful of daytime incidents, although only one I can recall that involved a cyclist. Others here may remember more, but for all intents and purposes, there is no crime on the trails.

    I agree that after dark most of the trails go dormant. I ride after dark a lot and other cyclists are fairly rare.

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    The Mt Vernon Trail at least as far south as the airport gets a lot of cyclists at night all year round. I don't hesitate taking the stretch from Georgetown to DCA late at night (but I have excellent lights including a helmet mounted light). I get off in Crystal City.

    I generally avoid riding the trails at night in the summer because of the bugs, not people. Most of the area's trails are situated next to waterways which are bug magnets. Also the Capitol crescent attracts lots of deer, foxes and raccoons at night.

    I've never taken RCP at night.

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    Welcome to the forum and to the local bike trails! I occasionally ride RCP both at day and late night between Georgetown and Taft bridge to visit friends that live up at the zoo. On my late night rides, I have been the lone cyclist, albeit being of any sort, on the RCP. I have a Nite Rider 500 lumens headlamp on my bike and I click on the high beam when it's dark, so that I can see (and be seen) pretty far ahead on the trail in the dead of night.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve O View Post
    Statistically, you are probably safer on the trail (crime) than on the streets (getting hit). In 20+ years I've never heard of an assault at night along the trails with the exception of the Metropolitan Branch. There have been a small handful of daytime incidents, although only one I can recall that involved a cyclist. Others here may remember more, but for all intents and purposes, there is no crime on the trails.

    I agree that after dark most of the trails go dormant. I ride after dark a lot and other cyclists are fairly rare.
    I agree that incidents on the trail are statistically rare. I just wanted to remind you of the incidents on Custis around Ballston about a year(? 2?) ago.

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    I will be something of a dissenter here. There have been numerous incidents on RCP, though most did not involve cyclists. Yes, the odds are low.

    When I commuted that way (for about 10 years), I took parallel streets to either Harvard Street or Park Road, then rode on Beach Drive the rest of my commute.

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    Quote Originally Posted by secstate View Post
    I recently moved back to DC and, until it closes for construction, will be riding Rock Creek Park trail to/from Pennsylvania Ave and Calvert. At least twice a week I will return home in the late evenings (between 8pm and 10pm). I've done the ride three times so far, and not once have encountered a single cyclist or pedestrian on the whole stretch. This is weird for such a useful length of trail.

    Are people avoiding the trail at night out of misplaced perceptions of danger, some actual risk (as demonstrated by past assaults), or for some other reason? I searched this forum and the web but couldn't find any instances of cyclists being assaulted on RCP trail.
    I would be very surprised by any people-related safety concerns. With that said, I avoid it because I find the bumps, sharp right turns at the bridge, and sand at the foot of the other bridge to be exceedingly annoying. The few times I did it in the dark, I went much slower than I usually would knowing how nasty some of the bumps were.

    I haven't ridden it since earlier this summer though so maybe they've finally repaved/reoriented parts of it. I guess the other hidden factor may be deer. I rode it home in the dark a few Thanksgivings ago (started on road and moved to MUP) and almost had t-boned a big deer.

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