[…] Any time you ride in the dark, always remember that “light makes right.”

Angelo “Andy” Douglas Azzato, 47, was found dead on the side of the road on Nov. 7 after apparently being struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver.

“Most likely it happened sometime in the night,” said California Highway Patrol Officer Robert Grieve.

The case reminded me of a recent close call I’d rather not have happen again.

I was driving one night when I nearly wiped out a young cyclist who was riding outside the bike lane, wearing a black hoodie and black jeans. This young man has no idea that my cautious driving did more to save his life than his white socks and the built in pedal reflectors.

Until the cyclist came fully into my headlights, all I saw was a flash of white and orange. By the time he came into full view of my headlights I had gone from 40 mph to about 15 mph or so, and he was much too close for comfort as he crossed the street. My evening would have been filled with much less stress had he been riding with at least a plain white T-shirt. If so, I may have seen him from another 20 yards out.

“In most bicycle collisions visibility is a factor,” California Highway Patrol Officer Matt Hunt said. “For overall bicycle safety, making yourself visible is paramount.”

In my experience, motorists are constantly balancing distractions and real driving dangers as they drive at speeds usually above the posted speed limit. A bicycle takes up a small percentage of a driver’s field of vision. If you’re clothed in camouflage, or drab clothing that matches the environment, you draw even less attention from a motorist.

The CHP states bicycles at night must be equipped with a headlight that is visible from 300 feet to the front of the cycle and the sides. Reflectors must be red on the rear, and white or yellow on pedals.

In my close call, I figure there was less than 100 feet of distance between me and the cyclist. A 300-foot light would have alerted me in plenty of time.

But the CHP standard is a bare minimum, and cycling safely at night takes more than the minimum. The CHP also reported Azzato’s bike did have a rear reflector, but he was wearing a long dark jacket which may have covered it.

I spent a year primarily riding at night due to my work schedule. I learned these few things made me feel safer in night traffic.

First, white is bright. The more white clothing the better. I wore a white satin-like jacket, white helmet with reflective tape, and oh-so out-of-fashion knee high white socks, with an even less fashionable reflective belt strapped across my back.

Second, light is right. Get the highest quality of headlight you can afford, and get as many lights as you can afford. I rode with a handlebar mounted cycling specific light, I mounted a contractor’s headlight to my helmet and had a lighted taillight on the bike’s seatpost.

Third, choose your route wisely. I always sought out the best mix between well lit but less traveled streets. It definitely feels better to not encounter a car at all when you’re concerned you won’t be seen. But sometimes, I’d take a busy street if it had plenty of streetlights.

Even if you unexpectedly find yourself having to ride at night, you can still prepare. Even making small substitutions helps. Borrow any kind of small flashlight; wipe any dirt or dust off your bike’s reflectors; take a longer route if there are better lit streets. Call a friend for a ride.

Make a statement to every motorist on the road that you’re riding a bike and want to get home alive and healthy. Put on whatever armor of light you have, and don’t let the darkness swallow you.

— James Quigg, Chief Photographer

Source: vvdailypress.com/articles/light-44199-right-turn.html