I recently wrote a post about driving safely at night; however, I never talked about riding your bicycle at night. Without the proper gear and experience, you may be putting yourself and others on the road at serious risk. If another motorist has to make a sudden adjustment to avoid you because you lack the proper gear, you find yourself partially liable. None of the gear mentioned will protect you in the case of an accident. In this post, I would like to cover what you equipment you are legally required to have and what you should carry with you at all times.
You are legally required to use a front lamp that emits white light seen from a distance of 300 feet. Having a functioning lamp on the front of your bike will help alert oncoming traffic of your presence. Additionally, a functioning and properly positioned lamp will help you avoid obstacles and hazards on your path. As with all other equipment on your bike, you should check it before you ride. You may even want to carry extra batteries in your pack to ensure your light stays bright. Many cyclists also use a flashing red light on the back of their bike or backpack to warn drivers.
You are legally required to have visible reflectors on your bicycle. Specifically, you need a red reflector on the rear of the bicycle that is visible from over 500 ft away. To put this in perspective, this reflector must be visible for over 1 ½ football fields. This reflector is designed to give drivers ample warning of your presence on the road. Additionally you are legally required have reflectors on both pedals or shoes or ankles visible from a distance of 200 feet. Further reflective tape on your backpack or clothing is highly recommended as it helps drivers identify you on the road. Reflective tape on your helmet is another easy way to increase your visibility to other drivers.
While you are not required by law in the state of California, there other precautions you can take to ensure your safety while riding. Steps like riding cautiously, taking note of and possibly reporting inebriated drivers, and always using hand signals are some common sense measures. Carrying some basic gear with you while commuting is also a best practice. Wearing a properly fitted helmet, having a cell phone to easily contact emergency services and first aid kit can help tremendously in case you are involved in a collision.