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I've been seeing a lot of that lately. One example: I was driving down Grosvenor Lane a few nights ago and a guy crossed in front of me at Fleming Rd (where the on-road Bethesda Trolley Trail crosses) with a never-you-mind, no lights or reflectors. Had to brake hard, as did the person driving the other way. In fact, the only clue I had that someone was about to cross in front of me was that the other driver saw him first and I saw him brake. The cyclist rode on seemingly oblivious. I hope he made it to his eventual destination.

So, yeah, please don't cycle at night without any lights or reflectors, and if you do, for Christ's sake, make sure people see you before you cross a road. The driver who kills you might also be a cyclist.

Too bad about Mr. Blackford. Condolences to his family.

I think part of the problem is that most motorists at night have been rendered night blind from staring at the lights of on-coming traffic.

Conversely many pedestrians and cyclists are able to still see clearly and fail to realize that the motorists can only see things lit up like the Hindenburg.

JeffB, that's a good point, but even reflectors will make a big difference there. The guy I'm talking about didn't even have those. And it wasn't dusk; he wasn't merely caught out a little late--it was around 11 p.m.

And I've seen a bunch of folks doing that sort of thing lately. I'm worried we're going to turn into Florida.

if people didnt speed, and if speeding were enforced, with the other laws of the road( following distance, etc..), no one would be hit even if they were lightless and wearing blackface...

i hop the asshole who killed him is charged for speeding or reckless driving. if you hit a pedestrian because they didnt have lights iit wold still be criminal.

by the way: its still the easiest way to kill an enemy in this culture: hit them with your car. the chances youll suffer any major consequences make the hit worthwhile.

I'm certainly not going to defend speeding or improper following, but it is really unfair to expect a driver to properly maneuver around someone they can't see.

My wife used to do some traffic law. As I recall, in a crash where you hit someone from behind the blame shifts to you. But if you can show their taillights didn't work (and it was night) then the blame shifts to them. It was the classic example of when the rearended driver would be to blame.

The need for lighting is real. The laws that require it are good. And unless I hear that the driver was speeding and/or drunk I'm not going to blame them for this one.

but it is really unfair to expect a driver to properly maneuver around someone they can't see.

What if they are driving faster than their headlights allow them to see?

According to this site, http://www.ou.edu/oupd/nightdr.htm, at about 30 MPH one's stopping distance exceeds their ability to see objects.

Yes, out of self-preservation, we need to festoon ourselves with headlights, taillights, running lights, beacons, flashers, flare guns, etc, etc, etc.

But where's the expectation that motorists should operate their vehicle safely?


A vehicle being operated safely is not protection against a cyclist or pedestrian darting out in front of it, even in fully lit conditions. There's always a limit at which there's simply no one can stop in time to avoid colliding with someone doing something unexpected. This applies to cyclists as well--if a pedestrian decides to jump out from behind a bush in the dark in front of my bike with no warning, is it really my fault when I hit him?

It's *everyone's* duty when interacting on roadways to communicate his or her intent to the other users. For cyclists at night, this means basic lighting and reflectors (or completely avoiding potentially unsafe interaction).

I come down on the side of "better safe than in full possession of moral superiority, but dead". That's why come dusk, I'm running more red lights than an Amsterdam brothel.


Yes - I'm not arguing that all users on the road have an obligation to use appropriate lighting.

I am arguing that it is *everyone's* duty to operate in a safe manner irrespective of the unsafe practice of another.

I think summarily dismissing this accident because the cyclist didn't have the required lighting shows a bias against expecting *everyone* to behave responsibly.

What if we later learn that the motorist had been driving 110 MPH? Would we change our minds then? If you would why? After all the cyclist didn't have lighting so what does it mater then what speed the motorist was doing?

If you think driving 110 MPH would have been irresponsible then what speed would have been responsible?

One possibility would be the speed at which one could reasonably see and react to an obstruction on the road.


Apologies if I misinterpreted your prior comment.

According to the article and the excerpt, several vehicles had to swerve to avoid hitting the cyclist, which suggests that it wasn't one crazy driver going too fast. I didn't think anyone was dismissing the accident--I certainly wasn't--rather I think my point and perhaps washcycle's was to learn something from it.

In addition, there is this article:


which states that the cyclist was "believed to have been under the influence of alcohol at the time," for what that's worth.

When I was in Florida recently, I couldn't believe how many cyclists I saw riding without lights at night, riding out into traffic obliviously, weaving back and forth for no apparent reason, etc. The Florida cycling death statistics started to make a lot more sense to me. I'm sorry to hear about Mr. Blackford, but I'm increasingly concerned at the unsafe behavior I've been witnessing here in the D.C. area recently. I can personally attest that lighting is important--the one time I got stuck riding home without a front light (because it had failed to hold its charge), I almost turned into a pancake--a split second difference and it might have been largely the driver's fault, but I'd be the dead fool with no light. I have redundant front lighting now (bar-mount Cateye Single Shot and helmet-mount Light and Motion VIS-360).

I was just playing Devil's advocate.

Have you ever had some motorist give you the admonition you should be careful out there? That is really code for "you should be careful out there - because of how I drive ".

Too much of our infrastructure is designed for exclusive use of cars. Unless you are wrapped in several thousand pounds of steel & glass you're not welcome. So proceed at your own risk (that pretty much describes the entire state of FL).

In another time and place Mr Blackford's actions would have been foolish. And just that foolish. But in the car-centric world of Northern Virginia they turned out to be deadly.

I see too many cyclists riding at night without lights. Sometimes I'll point out that they need lights (but only if they don't look like a wild man with a hair-trigger temper).

I don't see some of these riders until they are very close, and I tend to ride more slowly at night. If I were driving at even 15-25 mph, I probably wouldn't be able to see most of these cyclists before a collision. I can't see them when I'm riding on a bike at speeds much slower than 25 mph.

It's not unreasonable to ask all cyclists to have working lights on their bikes when riding at night, whether or not it's the law. Just out of self-preservation, it's a good idea.

This is not to say that there aren't a lot of dangerous car drivers out there. There are. But cycling at night without any lights is a really bad idea.

IIRC, the PG County Green Party candidate who was killed last year was also riding without lights, in the early hours of the am.

I don't think that was ever established.

JeffB, re admonitions, sometimes, sure. And sometimes it's code for "You should be careful out there. I'm a cyclist too, and I know from experience." And, several times, I've had drivers say to me, "Thanks for using proper lighting," as they pass.

And on that note, I'm going to go turn on my two front and three rear lights (the VIS-360 has side markers too), and ride home now. I also have wheel-mounted reflectors, a reflective sash, and my bright yellow Ortlieb panniers with extra reflective markings. If someone hits me, it won't be because he didn't see me--it'll be because he hates Christmas trees. ;^)

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