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Birmingham, Alabama

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Danny Feldman
Danny Feldman
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Cyclists need to use lights and wera reflective devices when riding in dark conditions

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It should go without saying, that in order to be safe on the road, you must be seen. Whenever a motorist strikes a cyclists, one of the most common refrains of the motorist is – something to the effect that I never saw the bicyclist. By the way, this often is the same thing a motorists says when they strike another motorist. Motorists have a legal duty to "keep a proper lookout" and motorists are charged with seeing what a reasonable motorist would see if keeping a proper lookout. Accordingly, without in any way excusing a motorist’s negligence in failing to see a cyclist, I think it’s fair to concede the point that bicyclists are harder to see than cars. They are just not as big. Of course, trucks are easier to see than cars, so conceding this point does not excuse a motorist from failing to see a cyclist.

All of that being said, cyclists should do what they can to help motorists see them. This is especially true when conditions are dark, whether it is in the very early morning hours or at dusk or sunset. Lighting systems are available that are very good, and clearly when riding in the dark should be used – not only so that the cyclist can see, but so that the cyclist can be seen. Likewise, reflective devices, whether these be lights or Velcro strips can allow a cyclist to be seen. In Alabama, the law actually requires that a cyclist have a reflective device so the failure to use one can give rise to the motorist’s claim that the bicyclist was guilty of contributory negligence. Different studies show different things about which devices may be more or less effective.

The bottom line is though, that cyclists need be seen. Using lights, reflective devices, and wearing contrasting clothing, all should be high on the list for any cyclist who doesn’t want to be hit.