A guide to stay safe as we lose daylight
Daylight saving time ended at 2 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 3 and with it follows the shorter days and longer nights. Next time you complain about “fall back” or “spring forward,” you can thank a Pittsburgher for this time-changing innovation.
But the time change doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy commuting! Biking and walking are great ways to get through the dark-before-six blues. A blast of crisp fresh air beats a stuffy car interior any day. Don’t have a bike? Use Healthy Ride or add some walking to your daily commute. Walking can help you achieve the recommended moderate-intensity physical activity: children ages 6+ are recommended 60 minutes of daily activity and adults 150 minutes/week.
Unfortunately, Allegheny County crash data shows an increase in pedestrian crashes in the City of Pittsburgh during the months with the shortest days of the year.
Safety Tips for Everyone
Shorter days lead to more of us are commuting during times when visibility is especially bad. Here are some safety tips for everyone – people who walk, people who bike, and people who drive.
- Danger zone: Know that this is a more dangerous time of year for using our streets and keep that in the front of your mind. Be extra vigilant and cautious.
- Plan ahead: Commuters, as always, give yourself extra time to get where you need to go so that you won’t feel rushed.
- Enhance your vision: Although this time of year is often dreary, you should still prepare to deal with sun glare. Have sunglasses with polarized lenses at the ready, or wear eyeglasses with an anti-reflective (AR) coating.
Pedestrians and Transit Riders
- Cross consciousness: Always cross at an intersection. Lighting is often better there, and at major intersections there are typically pedestrian signals to follow and crosswalks to help you be seen.
- Be aware: Don’t assume that a driver or bicyclist for that matter sees you. When crossing the street, be extra aware of drivers who are driving towards the sunrise or sunset, as they will have a harder time seeing you.
- Dress to be seen: While more responsibility falls on the driver to drive at a safe speed and for the conditions, pedestrians can help drivers see them better by wearing lighter color or even reflective clothing. Prefer dark clothing? Balance it with a piece that is reflective or bright.
Illuminate yourself. Try reflective wheel stripes and stickers for your bicycle. You can find these hi-vis bike accessories at Fiks:Reflective.
- Make yourself visible: Wear reflective materials and/or bright-colored attire (A high visibility helmet, jacket, socks/shoes, and gloves are pieces you can obtain at a local bike shop). Reflective tape on your gloves helps others see hand signaling movement. Reflective tape or stickers for your bicycle or gear are also a great investment.
- Illuminate: Use a white headlight and a rear reflector (or better yet, a red tail light) when riding in the dark. Try rechargeable batteries and keep your bike lights charged.Sick of dealing with batteries? Maybe a generator hub and light set is a better option for you. It’s the law in PA that the reflector and lights should be visible for 500 feet. Take a friend and check each other from a distance to see just how visible you truly are.
- Assume drivers don’t see you: Err on the side of caution and never assume that the driver sees you, even when you have the right of way. Give traffic an extra look before crossing at intersections.
- Be extra cautious: Decreased visibility calls for more vigilant driving. Keep your eyes peeled for bicyclists and pedestrians.
- Slow down and pass with care: Increase the recommended safe distances to allow three or more seconds between vehicles and bicyclists. The more space you have, the more time you have to react. Slow down around bicyclists and pedestrians and always give them extra space when passing. Always yield to pedestrians trying to cross the street.
- Beware of glare: Clean your windshield outside and inside. A cracked or dirty windshield can magnify glare. This also goes for your glasses and sunglasses. Be sure to have your sunglasses ready for sunrise and sunset or wet, snowy, or icy conditions.
- Be patient: Know that people who are walking or biking bundled up may not be able to hear or see you as well, and take more time to react or maneuver especially with wet or icy conditions. Honking can startle or alarm bicyclists creating a dangerous situation.
Those are the main things that an individual has power over to be safer on our streets. However, good street design goes a long way in helping people move safely via any mode of transportation. While we work towards a complete streets ordinance and better bikeways vision, here are some things our decision makers can do in terms of design to help keep us safe.
City Planners and Engineers (and Elected Officials)
- Light us up: Choose LED lights that better illuminate the streets especially at intersections.
- Traffic calm: Neck downs at intersections are a great addition to make pedestrians more visible while giving them a shorter crossing distance. In neighborhoods add speed humps to slow down drivers.
- Give us refuge: On longer crossings, add a pedestrian refuge island
- Give peds a head start: Add a pedestrian advance signal
- Wider stripes: Wider crosswalk markings are easier for drivers to see
- Preserve Pedestrian Rights-of-Way: Developers and construction workers are allowed to close sidewalks and just tell people to cross the street in mid-block in Pittsburgh. This is a disaster waiting to happen. Our zoning code needs to be revised to mandate that construction companies protect pedestrian movements.
- Ticket: Please ticket people who don’t yield to pedestrians. It’s one of our biggest pet peeves of Pittsburgh drivers — very few yield to pedestrians.
- Ticket: Please ticket cars parked in bike lanes. The roads were not designed for parking in the bike lane. We observed several near misses, not just between bikes, but also between cars and pedestrians, as people parked wherever they wanted. Parking in the bike lane effectively closes down the infrastructure and wastes the City’s investment in car-free transportation alternatives.