Bikers urged to 'light up' for safety
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
The Cambridge Bicycle Committee and the Police Department's Bike Patrol are sponsoring a campaign during the week of Oct. 20-25 to remind people to use lights at night. When Daylight Savings Time ends on Oct. 26, all cyclists will be required to use lights after 5:15 p.m., a time when many people are still out and about.
Visibility is a critical matter for bicyclists. Nearly half of all cycling deaths nationally involve cyclists riding at night without lights, although only 3 percent of biking occurs after dark. During this week, Cambridge Police will be making extra efforts to enforce the bike light laws. In addition, police will be stopping a few lucky cyclists that have the proper equipment and giving them another light to give to a friend or family member, with the message, "Friends Don't Let Friends Ride without Lights."
Participating area bike shops will also offer a 10 percent discount on bike lights (sale items not included) through the month of October to anyone who brings in a citation, a newspaper article about the program or a copy of program information from the city's Web Site at www.cambridgema.gov.
"Bicyclists should know that being well-lit is one of the most important safety measures they can take," said Sgt. Kathy Murphy of the Cambridge Police Bike Patrol. "It is critical that motorists and pedestrians are able to see cyclists on the road."
The program seeks to correct common misconceptions some cyclists have about lights. For example, reflectors alone do not make a bicycle visible at night. Light from a reflector bounces directly back to where it came from, so reflectors are of no use when car headlights are not pointed directly at the bike. Only a front light makes the bicycle visible to pedestrians. Only a front light is visible to a driver about to open a car door into the street. Only a front light helps make a bicycle visible to drivers who are backing up. The Police and the Committee see front and rear lights as basic bicycle equipment, even for short or occasional nighttime riding.
Massachusetts law requires bicyclists to use a white front light from 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise (Chapter 85/11B). The "Light Up" campaign will promote awareness of this requirement through public education and an enhanced enforcement campaign by the Cambridge Police Department. It is hoped that the effort will result in fewer nighttime bicycle injuries and fatalities, fewer collisions, fewer near-misses and a safer, more pleasant city overall. Cambridge police will be trained to note in police reports the presence or absence of a bicycle light.
Technology has improved the bicycle light. Affordable lights are available that use LED technology, offering hundreds of hours of operation on a single set of batteries. New hub-based generators work far better than the tire-based generators many people remember using as children.