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I almost killed a man Saturday evening. I did not mean to, and he wasn’t looking for it. Our paths diverged just in time, for if we had met, he would be dead or maimed, and my life would be altered, marred, forever.
I was on my way to a friend’s house for the evening. Driving east, I made a decision to turn left, north, at an intersection, taking my preferred route. It was dark out, but the intersection was decently lit. As I approached, the turn lane signal changed from green arrow to blank, signaling I could make a left turn, if I cleared oncoming (westbound) traffic.
So, I eased into the intersection with my turn signal on and watched for a longer break in oncoming headlights. Sure enough, the light traffic provided a safe turning opportunity. Mindful of the chance that oncoming cars might accelerate, I was careful to turn into the correct, inside lane. That saved a man’s life, and saved me from a life of bad consequences.
Almost through the intersection, aiming for the inside lane, I caught a thin, dark silhouette out of the right edge of my windshield and passenger-side window. It was the shape of a man on a bicycle, wobbling as he adjusted speed and direction to avoid collision. He had not been in the opposing traffic bike lane.
Apparently, he entered off the sidewalk and was planning to cross on his bike, in the pedestrian cross-walk. That was likely legal in Mesa, AZ where I was driving. He apparently was trying to beat the crosswalk light, as it counted down. He was also all but invisible in the dark.
The street lighting does not help you if you wear dark clothing, with no reflective material or light. This bicycle gave off no reflection. There was no light on the front, nor, as we changed aspect, was there the edge of a red flash from the back. Mesa requires bicycles operated after dark to have lights.
10-1-16: LAMPS AND OTHER EQUIPMENT ON BICYCLES: Every bicycle, when in use at nighttime, shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet (500′) to the front and with a red reflector on the rear of a type which shall be visible from all distances from fifty feet (50′) to three hundred feet (300′) to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of five hundred feet (500′) to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector. (227,1665)
Note that the red light is optional, the bicyclist need only have a red reflector on the back. The white light is not optional, and it is not there for the primary purpose of ensuring the bike rider does not run into debris. It is to make the rider visible, hence the 500-foot requirement.
Yet, we regularly encounter bicyclists pedaling in the bike lane, or on sidewalks, without any light or reflector at all. From time to time, I’ve considered stopping and handing out glow-sticks, civilian chemlights. They are four to eight in a pack for a dollar, at the Dollar Tree. I keep a few in the trunk, to mark the left rear corner when parking on a dark street. Cheapest car accident prevention insurance going. I’ve thought of stopping and offering a light, but then considered the risk function when approaching a stranger, and intending to get into hand contact range. Nope.
So, let this be a seasonal safety story for Ricochet. As most of the country “fell back” to Standard Time, the nights are still getting longer. We also are getting more bundled up, often in darker clothing. Please plan ahead.
Carry at least a penlight! Put reflective strips on book bags, backpacks, and such. Choose exercise clothing with reflective material incorporated, or get a cheap reflective belt or vest. If you are bicycling, the more light you emit, front and back, the safer you are.
Be safe! Watch out for the crazies! Let’s all get to Thanksgiving without any new regrets or safety losses.