I can honestly say that I feel safe living, working, and commuting in Toronto; however, I still tend to get nervous at night in certain areas, especially now that it’s getting dark earlier.
After my move earlier this year, I quickly learned that the bus that drops me directly in front of my new home stops running around 10 pm. Since I don’t drive, this means that any late night outings will require a ten minute trek from the closest bus stop at the top of my street to my front door.
The walk isn’t far at all and there are street lights along my block. But despite its brevity, this quick trip home often feels like a scene from a horror movie, complete with creepy sounds, unknown faces and aggressive raccoons (seriously).
This only gets worse with winter’s accelerated nightfall, when it can get dark as early as 5 pm!
This is something that I deal with on the regular and since ride-sharing every night can get very expensive, I’ve come up with some solutions to make my nightly commute a little bit more bearable.
1) Get familiar
There are countless advantages to getting to know your neighbours. As a night time commuter, one of the biggest benefits will be a greater sense of safety while I walk home.
When unknown figures in the dark become familiar faces, it can ease the anxiety of walking home alone. Furthermore, when you build relationships with folks in your neighbourhood, you can commit to looking out for each other and forge a true sense of community.
In high school I took a self-defence class and although my martial arts skills are still subpar, one of my biggest takeaways came courtesy of the instructor, who urged us to always take our headphones out while walking alone at night.
As much as I enjoy having my 24/7 soundtrack blaring from my phone, I totally understand why it is essential to unplug. Listening to music completely cuts off one of my senses – unplugging allows me to focus on my surroundings.
If you find yourself overwhelmed with anxiety during your nighttime commute, music can put you at ease. However, I know that I feel more secure when I’m able to hear everything that’s going on around me so I go music-free most nights.
3) Turn your location on
Even though it’s best to keep your headphones out, it can be beneficial to keep your phone on hand. If you find that you are especially nervous about your evening journey home, let your loved ones track your location via the Companion app.
Companion was created by university students in Michigan, allowing users to share their location with selected contacts and send prompts to those contacts when they are feeling nervous throughout their commute.
The app uses GPS to keeps tabs on your whereabouts and uses sensors to verify sudden changes in movement, like if you start running or rip your headphones out.
In these cases, your companions will be prompted to check on you or contact 911, which you can also do yourself through the app.
Alternatively, you can keep a friend on speed dial. When I’m trekking home after dark, I call either my mom, my best friend, or my boyfriend while I’m still on the bus and give a detailed play-by-play as I’m approaching my house.
Try putting these tips into practice during your next nighttime commute and stroll the streets unafraid!