Be Visible: Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety Guide for Fall and Winter

by Corporal Michael Philbrick, Montpelier Police Department

Living in New England has many benefits in the summer months, including long, warm days and cool evenings. The sun seems to fight off the night, illuminating warm weather activities into the late hours. We’re well into fall now, and the days are already growing shorter and shorter. These lessened daylight hours lead to winter periods where you may be going to and from work each day in darkness.

One of the benefits of our work as police officers is being on the move outside, in our scenic state, as part of our job. The downside is we are out there regardless of the hour or what Mother Nature throws at us. Snowy crash scenes, rainy foot patrols, and calls for service in freezing temperatures challenge us and affect our safety, day or night. You’ll notice our police vehicles are covered in reflective material and bright emergency lighting, and our officers are equipped with reflective clothing and powerful flashlights. We essentially do everything we can to make ourselves as visible as possible. We do this because it keeps our officers and the community members we serve safer, no matter the environment.

Why are we sharing this information with you?  While you probably won’t be out directing traffic in a night-time snow storm, you may be crossing the street while walking home at dusk or riding your bike to work early on a crisp fall morning. Each of these seemingly innocuous activities places you in a roadway, in the company of vehicles, often times in a low-light environment or bad weather. It is very important that you be visible to other roadway users for your protection.  Fortunately here in Montpelier, we have very few pedestrian- and cyclist-related crashes each year, but they do occur.Here are a few basic guidelines that will improve your safety as a pedestrian or cyclist at night:

Whether walking on a sidewalk, running in the roadway, or cycling with traffic, wear light colored, reflective clothing, armbands, or vests.Consider carrying a flashlight (most smartphones have them built in), wearing a headlamp, or clipping a flashing light to your clothing when on foot. Vermont law requires cyclists to have a white light visible on the front of a bicycle and a steady/flashing light or large reflector to the rear.

Make eye contact and use hand signals to get the attention of other roadway users before crossing the street. Cyclists are required by Vermont law to use hand signals to indicate turns when riding in traffic. Do not presume a motorist can see you simply because you have the right of way.·Any activity while wearing headphones or using a cell phone limits your situational awareness when navigating crosswalks or roadways and is not recommended.

Finally, be where other roadway users expect you to be: pedestrians cross at crosswalks and cyclists ride with traffic and follow all applicable rules of the road.

As your police department, we do our best to improve public safety in Montpelier. Please do your part: be visible! Following the guidelines above will help community members walk, ride, and drive safely.

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