Motorists need to watch closely for hard-to-see joggers and cyclists on dark nights, but joggers and cyclists can take measures to make themselves seen, too, says columnist. (Stock photo)

Motorists need to watch closely for hard-to-see joggers and cyclists on dark nights, but joggers and cyclists can take measures to make themselves seen, too, says columnist. (Stock photo)

Opinion: Be safe and be seen on miserable winter nights

Joggers and cyclists can do more to improve their visibility on Nanaimo’s roadways, says columnist

None of us hold a monopoly on doing stupid things.

In my lifetime I’ve done my share and continue to, so I allow myself to point out when I see someone else behaving like a Darwin Award nominee.

I was driving home along Nicol Street a couple of nights after the snowfall this month. It was dark, traffic was heavy and visibility amounted to the glare of vehicle and street lights through a smeared windshield, so by the time I saw a jogger running with the traffic in the slow lane, my right front fender was just a few feet from nudging that person’s behind off the road. I passed that person in disbelief that I’d just seen someone, entirely dressed in black, jogging in the traffic lane on one of Nanaimo’s busiest streets on a winter’s night in rush hour.

Yes, it was unsafe to run on the sidewalks that hadn’t been cleared of snow. The black jogging attire did have tiny bits of reflective piping, and a little flashing LED light bouncing around on a running shoe accessorized the ensemble, even if such nods to safety do little to alert blinded drivers.

I’ve made my share of questionable choices, but never one that sent me jogging on a miserable West Coast December night on a busy arterial. There’s no shortage of quiet side streets in Nanaimo or gyms with treadmills if I really want to run when roads, sidewalks and trails are clogged with snow.

When I was a kid – in another century long, long ago – I was taught to always walk facing traffic, so you could see what’s coming and drivers could see you, and to dress in some colour other than black, but these days I see people of all ages walking and running on the wrong side of the road.

I regularly see cyclists – serious ones, with expensive road and gravel bikes – riding in the dark in all-black riding gear. I’m a cyclist too, love riding, but as a driver, I can say from experience that on a rainy night when there’s glare and reflections from street and vehicle lights combined with rain and road spray, it doesn’t matter how many flashing lights are on a bike. They just blend in and drivers will have a hard time seeing them, especially if they’re not wearing bright colours.

ICBC mentions a thing or two about pedestrian safety. Based on statistics from 2016-2020, roughly one in five people who died in vehicle collisions in B.C. – more than 50 each year – were pedestrians, and another 2,400 each year were injured. The majority of those collisions happened between October and January. ICBC lists driver distraction, failing to yield the right of way and weather as the top contributing factors. The insurance corporation didn’t mention all-black running and riding gear among its list of contributing factors, so I don’t know how ICBC would categorize the jogger I saw on Cedar Road a couple of nights ago – again wearing all black and not facing traffic – in a section of the road where there are no street lights.

Regardless of responsibility placed upon drivers for the safe operation of their vehicles and regulations that give pedestrians the right of way, it would be nice if some folks would simply come to the understanding that a 180-pound jogger or cyclist, given the physical laws of our universe, is not going to come out the winner of an encounter with a 4,000-pound vehicle.

READ ALSO: Bright ideas for driving at night



chris.bush@nanaimobulletin.com

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