Got an email from a woman who is about to start cycling to work. It's only a 4 mile commute each way, and she is more than comfortable with the distance. But between her own neighbourhood and her office is an area known to have high crime rates. She is concerned about passing through it, especially on her way home after dark. "I would not walk there alone. How do I know if it's safe to ride my bike?"
Personally, I feel far more comfortable cycling through questionable neighbourhoods than walking there or waiting for the subway/bus. But overall I live in a decent area. We have occasional shootings and bank robberies here, but none of the places I ride through feel too rough or dangerous. And while I've had a few uncomfortable encounters over the years, the bike allowed me to ride away and avoid serious conflict. Still, in the past I've lived in cities with definite "don't go there" zones. I had not thought of what I would do if I had to commute there by bike.
What determines whether you consider an area safe for cycling? Do you take special precautions in neighbourhoods that are known for high crime rates, or do you plan your route so as to avoid them altogether?