#ride the night


In the wee hours of Sunday morning, I rode in Melbourne’s inaugural Ride the Night. It was a midnight to dawn ride through Melbourne, raising money for YSAS (Youth Support and Advocacy Service), based in St Kilda.

Midnight to dawn is a bit of a misnomer, I suppose. With 2800 riders, we were let off in waves, and my posse of Beth, Danni and myself found ourselves in the last wave, heading out closer to 0100. We zoomed for a bit, only to be stuck in a queue at the lights as we came out of Birdwood Avenue and attempted to move from Domain Avenue and onto Albert Road. Despite having 2800 riders, we didn’t attempt critical mass, and so we waited to move 2800 riders through a normally operating set of traffic lights.

Anyway, aside from the rain, that we were suffering congestion and bottlenecks is really my biggest logistical issue. And I acknowledge that the rain was no-one’s fault! I had a very excellent ride, even in the rain, and it was the longest I’ve ever done in one go. I feel like I learnt things about myself as a rider in inclement weather, and it was awesome cycling areas I’m unfamiliar with. Thank you to Bicycle Network Victoria for putting it on.

On a personal level, I can’t read inspirational maps. The RTN map was such, illustrated with some animals for the zoo and the wheel for Southbank. But I struggle to read and remember them. For someone whose greatest skill is ‘ability to navigate streets I haven’t seen in a decade, since I was 8,’ that’s a big issue.

ride the night map of no sense for stephanies
ride the night map of no sense for stephanies

Certainly it explains how I ended up doing the Western Loop, heading towards the end, with no idea how it had happened. I was redirected onto La Trobe Street from Swanston as I headed for the Northern Loop. I thought, oh, damn this map, we must go up Elizabeth or Queen. But there were no people, and no signs to indicate a turn. And always, in the distance, I could see a flash of red, a bike light.

Long story short, I ended up riding by myself through the horror movie wasteland that is Port Melbourne at night, so of course I didn’t stop my bike to check gmaps, so the best I knew of it was when I arrived at rest stop G and they yelled ‘hooray you’re at the last rest stop before the end!’ And for me, personally, what would have solved this was a proper map, with street names and landmarks and stuff. You know. Like a proper map. It could have been a mud map, that would have been fine. I know it would have been big. Maybe this could have been solved by downloading the app but I’m running out of space on my phone.

My biggest actual complaint is the detritus. Before the event, Danni and Beth were very eager to get glow sticks, until I told them why I wouldn’t be using them:

  • Due to the chemicals inside them, though they’re made of plastic they’re single use and can’t be recycled.
  • The chemicals inside them are not very nice for the Bay.
  • We live on the Bay.
  • Litter. What if we lose them?

Then I picked up our rider packs, and there were half a dozen cheap glow sticks in each of them. I know they were cheap, because between the three of us we ended up with at least two glow sticks that failed to glow. I caved to puppy eyes at this point, because since we had been given them by RTN and BNV, I conceded we could use them. We secured them with cable ties.

There was no real fear of my being lost after I lost my crew, as the entire ride was littered with the detritus of our ride. Riding so quickly, and in the rain, meant no one was really given the chance for littering other things, but the glow sticks – oh, the glow sticks. I reached a point on my ride, when the rain was heavy and we were doing Beaconsfield Parade in St Kilda, when I seriously considered stopping riding RTN in order to simply start picking up glow sticks. I was so angry, and I still am. My daily commute includes Napier Street, which was part of the ride, and even though it was over halfway through the ride, this location, this morning on my ride I still spotted several lost, lonely glow sticks lying on the road.

REMINDER: There is nothing between storm water drains and the Bay. When something goes into those drains on the road, you know the ones, that’s it. They go straight into the Bay, no filtering or whatever. So many people assume there’s filters. There’s not.

I’m really disappointed that we were encouraged to use a thing that’s so environmentally unfriendly and is so easy to litter without even noticing.

However I did have a really great time and I look forward to future Ride the Nights. And thanks so much to my donors.

My recommendations for future Ride the Nights:

  1. Different start points or scheduled start times. Especially with the rain, waiting in a queue for 45 minutes before we started cycling, and then getting stuck in traffic at 0100, made the experience unpleasant before it could even begin.
  2. A proper map.
  3. Road blocks or traffic control as an extension of this management.
  4. No glow sticks. Use that money on reflective face paint, or another light, or something less damaging and encouraging of poor habits.
  5. Clearer signage.
  6. Delicious vegan breakfast options.

Danni has also written about Ride the Night.