We had cold rain over the weekend, and right on cue, our first tule fog of the season showed up this morning.
Tule Fog, from Wikipedia:
Tule fog is a thick ground fog that settles in the San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento Valley areas of California’s Great Central Valley. Tule fog forms during the late fall and winter (California’s rainy season) after the first significant rainfall. The official time frame for tule fog to form is from November 1 to March 31. This phenomenon is named after the tule grass wetlands (tulares) of the Central Valley. Accidents caused by the tule fog are the leading cause of weather-related casualties in California.
For those who haven’t experienced it, tule fog is a heavy, wet fog that blankets the low lying areas of Northern California this time of year. It’s responsible for many traffic-related deaths each year, and it poses a definite hazard to bike commuters. For those who venture out into tule fog, bright lights and extreme caution are a must. Because it’s such a heavy, wet fog, rain gear’s not a bad idea either.
As much as it sounds like a negative thing, I have to admit to enjoying the quiet and solitude associated with riding through a thick blanket of tule fog.
Here in the U.S. we currently operate under Daylight Saving Time from the second Sunday of March through the first Sunday of November. You can really feel it this time of year, with the sun rising as late as 7:30 am here in California. I’m looking forward to the brighter mornings starting next week. Of course, the light we gain in the morning is only stolen from the afternoon/evening; we’ll be experiencing after-dark evening commutes soon enough.
The University of the West of England in Bristol has conducted their own version of the ever-popular “commuter race”, with predictable results. Four commuters—a motorist, a bus rider, a runner, and a bicyclist—all started at the same location during rush hour, approximately 3.5 miles from the school. The motorist made the trip in 53 minutes, averaging 4.68 mph; the bus rider made it in 39 minutes, averaging 6.35 mph; the runner made it in 28 minutes, averaging 6.94 mph; and (drum roll please), the bicyclist made the trip in just 17 minutes, at an average speed of 12.39 mph.
The dark has really been coming on lately. I know people who essentially park their bikes over the winter, even in the relatively mild climate we have here in Northern California. Around here, I think it’s a general unease with riding in the dark, more than the cold and wet, that causes some people to put their bikes on a hook until spring. The thing is, riding in the dark can be exhilarating (it’s one of my favorites, second only to cruising on a cool spring morning), and with a good set of lights, it’s at least as safe as riding during the day where we blend in more with our surroundings and share the road with many more motorists. I’d highly encourage anyone who hasn’t tried night riding to pick up some lights and give it a try; it truly is a blast.
Here are a few of our articles on bike lights: