How to walk safely by yourself at night
I love taking a walk at night. Consequently, I’ve found a few ways to walk safely no matter the time of day. Seeing how Lucy (my sweet Aussie-Border Collie mix) has adopted my sleep schedule, she too loves to take a walk at night. Admittedly, our neighbors probably don’t love it because she likes to wake up her furry friends in the neighborhood but I think it’s their fault for leaving their doggies outside. But that’s neither here nor there. Walks around your neighborhood and other familiar places are only part of what I’m talking about.
Exploring new cities on foot is the best way to truly experience it. If you’re a night owl, that may mean walking around after dark. Although it sounds like it might be a bad idea, that’s only the case if you’re not smart about it. Nighttime walks can be done safely!
Late Night Adventures
I have walked through the streets of downtown Atlanta around midnight. I trekked over a mile both ways to a gas station in Mobile, Alabama after 1 am. After returning my rental car, I walked nearly three miles in Lansing, Michigan. Although my Lansing walk was around 6pm, my cell phone died, I had no charger, no one knew I was planning to make that walk, and I wasn’t exactly sure how to get back to my hotel. Indeed, it was quite the adventure.
Along the way, I’ve had a few times I’ve thought, “What the hell am I doing!?” These moments have led me to adopt some practices to keep myself safe when exploring new places as well as when I take my LuLu around our usual terrain.
Should you choose to take a nighttime walk, it’s important to put your safety first.
How to walk safely at night:
Make sure someone knows where you are.
Whether it’s letting a friend know you’re going for a walk or telling someone your route, it’s always a good idea to make sure someone knows. When in a new city I recommend taking a screenshot of the map on your phone that marks your location and sending it to a friend. Here’s the one I sent a close friend when I set off to the gas station in Mobile.
Pay attention to people you approach and pass. Also, keep an eye behind you. Don’t let anyone sneak up on you.
Have your cell phone out and accessible.
Almost all cell phones let you dial 911 from your lock screen. Better safe than sorry. The police are unwaveringly sympathetic to a lone pedestrian who’s creeped out by the stranger lurking behind them.
Have your phone out and accessible… but don’t be on it.
Being on your phone screams easy target. It tells others on the road that you’re only half paying attention (if at all) to your surroundings meaning you’re easier to sneak up on.
Stay somewhere you know, or scope it out beforehand either in person or on a map.
Don’t ever go in blind. Even if you only have a vague idea of the way the area is laid out, it will still allow you to navigate your way back to some general area. For example, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Lake Michigan is always east. If you’re not sure where you are, walk east. Eventually you’ll either find a trafficked area or else you’ll find the lake which you can follow until you find a populated area.
If you’re walking around a big city or somewhere you know very little about, do some research.
You should know if there’s a high crime rate or if there are low numbers of police. If there’s a high rate of armed robbery, you probably should wait until daytime to adventure. Don’t just cross your fingers and hope you’re in a low crime area. It’s a risk not worth taking. Regardless of the precautions you may take, you can’t walk safely if the area itself is extremely unsafe.
Walk with a purpose.
If you look like you belong there, people will generally leave you alone. That doesn’t mean you need to walk fast, but walk with direction. Give the impression you are going somewhere and not merely wandering around.
Stay where it is well-lit.
If you go to turn down a road and notice the street lights are out, it’d be wise of you to turn down the next better lit street. Don’t make yourself an easy target. Not only will you be able to walk safely, but you’ll have a better peace of mind.
Now go explore and enjoy the night! But most importantly, stay safe!