Nighttime cycling dangerous, lights required

Dear Street Smarts, Q: I don't know if it is the recent change in time or what but lately, I am noticing more and more bike riders at dusk -- and just beyond -- riding without adequate lights on their bicycles. This is particularly dangerous if they are also wearing dark clothing. Is there any way to let them know they are almost invisible to drivers? It just might just save a life! Any ideas? Thanks, Eve Roberson, via email A: This is a popular topic. Read on... Q: Since we seem to have a steady stream of serious bicycle accidents here in Santa Cruz, I’d like to ask the following question: Riding a bicycle at night with no lights or reflectors is an offense, as is riding on the wrong side of the road, riding across cross walks, failing to stop at stop signs or a red traffic light, riding on the sidewalk, and riding with no brakes. As a motorcyclist, I have had several near misses with night riders appearing from nowhere on the wrong side of the road, no lights, dressed in black and failing to stop at a stop sign or cross walk. Do you know how many citations are issued for these offenses in Santa Cruz? It would be good to find out. We need to enforce these rules if we want cyclists -- and the people they may collide with -- to be safe. Jim Munro, Live Oak A: Year to date, Santa Cruz Police officers have written 55 citations for cyclists disobeying California Vehicle Code Section 21201 subsections D1 and D2, said Lt. Dan Flippo. The cycling equipment requirements law reads in part: "A bicycle operated during darkness upon a highway, a sidewalk where bicycle operation is not prohibited by the local jurisdiction, or a bikeway ... shall be equipped with ... (1) a lamp emitting a white light that, while the bicycle is in motion, illuminates the highway, sidewalk, or bikeway in front of the bicyclist and is visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and from the sides of the bicycle. (2) A red reflector on the rear that shall be visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle." Read the entire section at "We have also documented serious injury collisions in which a bicyclist with no lights in a dark area were struck at an intersection," said Flippo, while noting the department has logged eight injury cases, two represented crashes with vehicles. "Bicyclists are typically found at fault during these situations." Nighttime cycling safety also is a concern in other local jurisdictions. "We average between 10-20 bicycle collisions per year," said Sgt. Matt Eller of the Capitola Police Department, who added that "reflective clothing is a good idea, but not a requirement." Capitola's cycling-related traffic collisions "almost always involve injuries, even when they are solo collisions," Eller continued. "The bicyclist is at fault around 50 percent of the time. This is not a hard number, it varies. Alcohol consumption of the bicyclist is also a factor some of the time." Scotts Valley is a slightly different animal in that, since January, it has logged 13 cycling-related traffic stops for things including improper lighting after dark but there have been no crashes involving automobiles, said Sgt. David Ball of Scotts Valley Police. "I think we're lucky here in Scotts Valley, where most of our bicycle traffic is related to the junior high school, which is mostly in the morning and afternoon," he said. "Occasionally, at night, we stop people for not having the required lighting equipment. Meanwhile, Theresia Rogerson of the Community Traffic Safety Coalition can vouch that officers countywide are writing tickets to cyclists for being invisible while riding at night. Some of them make an appearance in the group's Bike Traffic School, which is offered year-round to everyone who wishes to take it, whether they are a traffic scofflaw trying to avoid harsh punishment or just curious about traffic laws as they pertain to cyclists. "We are doing our best to educate cyclists on following all of the rules of the road," said Rogerson. "I would also advise motorists at this time of year to slow down your speeds, clean your vehicle's windows for good visibility, check that your headlights and other lights are working properly, get new windshield wipers to prepare for the rainy season, and most importantly be more observant of all pedestrians and bicyclists." Learn more about Bike Traffic School at  
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