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Nighttime Traffic Safety TipsPublic Works

When travelling at dusk and in the evering hours everyone is encouraged to use extra caution and awareness of other people driving, walking and bicycling on the road and street conditions.

Drivers are to be alert for pedestrians at intersections, and attentive to bicyclists in the roadway. When driving, do not use the cell phone for texting or phone calls, and eliminate other distractions. Keeping windshields and mirrors clean increases your ability to see traffic and more vulnerable road users, such as people walking and bicycling at sunset and evening hours.

When walking or bicycling at night don't assume that drivers can always see you and consider these three safety tips: illuminate, reflect and route selection for a safe trip.

Illuminate

When walking at dusk or at night, consider carrying a flash light or wearing lights to increase your visibility to people driving.

In California, you are required to equip your bicycle with a white light that illuminates the roadway in front of the bicyclist and is visible from a distance of 300 feet in front and from the sides of the bicycle (CVC 21201.1).

In addition to a high powered light, consider the option of keeping inexpensive blinking LED lights on your bike at all times. The lights will not have enough firepower to illuminate your path, but the flashing LEDs make you much more visible to motorists and pedestrians.

Reflect

The California Vehicle Code also requires a red reflector on the rear of bicycles that shall be visible from a distance of 500 feet (CVC 21201.2). The law does not require a rear tail light, but it is highly recommended to install red rear lights that flash to catch the eye of the person driving a vehicle.

The law also requires a white or yellow reflector on each pedal, shoe, or ankle visible from the front and rear of the bicycle from a distance of 200 feet, and a white or yellow reflector on each side of the bicycle, except for bicycles that are equipped with reflectorized tires on the front and the rear (CVC 21201.3 and 21201.4).

If your bicycle is not equipped with reflectors, consider reflective ankle straps or installing reflectors. The reflective pedals or ankle straps draws motorists eyes to the pedaling motion and the person riding the bicycle can be more quickly seen and recognized as a bicyclist, giving the driver time to react. Reflectors on the spokes or reflective tire sidewalls make the cyclist more visible from cross traffic at intersections.

Consider adding reflective vests or jackets to your attire when walking, jogging or bicycling. Even the brightest hi-visibility (neon) clothing becomes hard to see in low-light conditions. Make sure your riding, walking, or jogging apparel has plenty of reflective details and consider wearing reflective ankle straps or shoes. Consider adding reflective tape to your bicycle or helmet.

Consider your Route

With the time change, it is easy to get caught in the dark when walking or bicycling in the evening hours, consider a less stressful route when possible:

  • If your bicycle route follows a busy thoroughfare, consider cutting over one block to a quieter side street.
  • Try to walk on streets with more street lights.
  • When crossing over Highway 101, consider using one of Santa Barbara’s pedestrian/bicycle bridges at Ortega, Anapamu and Junipero streets.
  • When making left turns along busy roads on your bicycle, never make a left turn from the right side of the roadway or bike lane, always check over your shoulder and make a lane change. Consider walking your bike at intersection crosswalks, if you are not comfortable leaving the right side of the roadway.
Last Updated: Nov 14, 2013