By Diana Diamond
Let’s blame car drivers, not the pedestrians wearing black clothes!!??Uploaded: Feb 22, 2019
A recent car column by Gary Richards in the Mercury News offered a reader suggestion that pedestrians and bicyclists should avoid wearing black clothes at night, a sentiment I readily agree with. But the responses perplexed me. One woman called the idea “in very bad taste,” suggesting it was the driver’s responsibility to watch for pedestrians and the notion of lighter clothing was simply “victim blaming.”
Another said it was a “disservice” because it “lets drivers off the hook for their own responsibility.” Another said the idea of wearing lighter clothing was “not cool and not amusing.”
Do these brighter clothing critics know what it’s like to drive a car on a dark rainy night with headlights on and suddenly encounter a pedestrian clad in black crossing a street in the middle of the block? Or encounter a cyclist dressed in black on a bike with no back reflector, no front light, no pedal reflectors? It’s terribly scary, particularly when these bikers soar through stop signs without looking either direction. What particularly worries me is when I see teens on an early winter night dressed in black, pedaling along with only a tiny rear reflector. Don’t their parents care about the bikes their children ride?
Technically, drivers are responsible if they hit a biker. But I asked a former Palo Alto police chief if such a driver is automatically at fault and he told me (paraphrased), “Not necessarily. The biker also has responsibilities on the road. And no headlights and dark clothing are legal considerations.” Yet I’ve read other reports that say motorists are always at fault.
I checked the official “California Driver Handbook” and it said, “During darkness, bicyclists should avoid wearing dark clothing and must have the following equipment: … a front lamp, a rear red reflector or a solid or flashing red light, a white or yellow reflector on each pedal and on the front and rear wheels or reflectorized tires.”
So residents, how many bikers do you see at night that meets these legal state requirements? And what about that DMV rule that bicyclists must also “obey all traffic signs and signal lights.” We all see bikers that routinely glide through stop signs, without even looking for oncoming traffic.
Of course there are many good cyclists, who ride on well-equipped bicycles and who do obey traffic rules. I salute them. It’s the ones that don’t that worry me.
I also know there are motorists who are careless, especially on right turns, don’t check if cyclists are in the area, and think they own the road. I think these drivers are the biggest offenders because they are licensed drivers of vehicles that are a ton heavier than a bike.
So yes, lighter clothing for both pedestrians and bikers would really help make driving safer. I bought a white winter jacket and feel more visible now as a pedestrian, and my jacket is just as warm as my old black one. That’s one quick solution to a worsening problem.