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Cyclists - Light up or die!

Nearly half of all cycling deaths nationally involve cyclists riding at night without lights, although only 3 percent of biking occurs after dark.
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.

homepage: homepage: http://www.townonline.com/cambridge/news/police_logs/cam_bricclightms10222003.htm

That's kind of ass-backwards.... 15.Dec.2003 11:16


If you can't afford a light, you'll get pulled over and punished. If can afford a light ,you get pulled over and get another light.

Better idea 15.Dec.2003 11:33


Whay don't they just give out lights if they care so damned much about it? That would ensure that nobody would have to go without. But, I guess that's a bit too expensive... I mean what business would be interested in a tax write-off?

to skidmark 15.Dec.2003 13:19

get it together

even though i understand being poor and all, buying a set of lights is not that expensive($30 at most). i think its lame that you bring up this argument. this shouldent be about the money, its about safety.

you also seem to blame others for your own lack of responsibility. stop giving the rest of who are responsible a bad name! get it together and stop bitching, punk!

ride safe.............

Tailight the most important in the city 15.Dec.2003 14:17

Luke from DC

It seems to me that the tailight is the most important for city riding. You can see what's ahead of you, so if you ride without a headlight(or are rationing battery charge for that long ride home through dark suburbs) you can simply assume that nobody can see you from that direction and ride accordingly.

On the other hand, you don't have eyes in the back of your head, so you cannot watch the cars from behind very well. When I was in Philly for R2K, I was on an unlit $3 bike with only reflectors, and I hated riding at night having to constantly crane my neck and make eye contact with all cars-what a pain in the neck(literally!) That bike soon got a taillight, since it survived that operation. Tailight batteries (and the new LED headlight) batteries seem to last forever.

High powered headlights needed for riding at night on a dark suburban street or sidewalk by a 6 lane highway are another matter. Mine puts out about 15 watts, but only for 90 minutes. It uses a 7.2V RC model car rechargeable battery($30+$20 for a charger) feeding a $20 6 volt "10 watt" halogen headlight module. With that short burn time, I save that light for the serously dark riding. If I were to burn it all the way home on a run from the city back to my home, it would go out before I arrived and be dark when needed the most, leaving me in near-total darkness. It lacks a "high-low beam" feature, being a simple homemade item.

As for law enforcement, just imagine being a cop trying to pull over a bike for no lights when he refuses to stop and you can't see him more than 20 feet away...

Any time you ride at night without headlights, assume every car door will open in your face and stop before passing any street intersection you can't look up into for car headlights. If you usually wear black(like I do) don't ride after dark without tailights at all, unless in a desperate emergency.

My lack of responsibility? 15.Dec.2003 19:38


I wasn't speaking for myself, I was speaking for others less fortunate than me. If you read the thread "can you see the cyclist?' you would know that I have a headlight that I switch from one bike to another and a taillight on my bike or on my messenger bag. As a matter of fact I use my lights in the rain, during the day, not just at night. Even though I ride a fixed gear bike with toe clips, I stop at stop signs and I don't run red lights. I rode motorcycles for years and I don't feel like going across the hood of another car that "didn't see me". I stand by what I said : they should give the lights to the people who need them. Don't blast me for what you don't know about me or for sticking up for poor people.

For Luke and all his like-minded friends 15.Dec.2003 19:51


If you have adequate rear reflectors, any motorist in a vehicle with its headlights on coming from behind will easily see you. The reason a headlight is so important for cyclists is because without one, cars pulling out in front of you from side streets CANNOT see you, and oncoming cars turning left in front of you may not see you either. These are the most common types of car-bike crashes, NOT being hit from behind by an overtaking car. This is a reason the law requires a headlight on you bike. Pedestrians won't see you coming either. Plus, if you're in an *accident* on your bike at night and you didn't have a headlight, figure on being declared at fault and suffering the consequences, like having to pay all your own medical bills, if you're still alive.

Inexpensive headlights aren't that hard to find; duct tape or zip-tie a flashlight to your handlebars if you have to, for christ's sake. My preference is a dynamo with a halogen headlamp; no batteries to recharge or replace, they start at about $25 at CityBikes  link to www.citybikes.coop

If you can't see what's coming up behind you and it makes you uncomfortable while cycling, GET A REAR VIEW MIRROR. IMO, a rear view mirror may be a more important piece of bicycling equipment than a helmet.

One More Thing 15.Dec.2003 19:54


For all of you whiners that say you can't afford lights for your bicycles; the cost of a decent set of bicycle lights is probably less than what y'all spend on a week's worth of beer, coffee and/or recreational drugs....

Burr 15.Dec.2003 20:09


I think it is ignorant for you to assume that everyone who can't afford a light is spending their $ on beer and drugs. Some people are genuinely poor and a bike is their only transportation. The last thing a truly indegent person needs is ticket. Do you think a single mom should have to choose between buying diapers and toilet paper or buying a light for her bike?

Come on now... 15.Dec.2003 20:35


If you're really so poor that you can't afford a light for your bike, I'm sure the Community Cycling Center will help you out.

Diapers and Toilet paper, or a bike light? Can you be any more dramatic?

reflectors are useless 15.Dec.2003 22:51


...in the rain. I occasionally drive, and my observation has been that the sheen of the water on the asphalt tends to reflect ambient light (street lights, red neons signs, etc). Bikers who wear reflectors give off the same illumination from my headlights as the reflection of a red neon sign on the wet street. They are not very visible at all. I can still see them, and I drive slowly and carefully enough to keep from hitting them, but most people don't. The point is that bikers should not ride as though drivers are going to act as they should, they should ride as though drivers act as they do. When you ride a bike, you should assume that avery driver you encounter is drunk, blind, and fucking retarded. You CAN'T TRUST MOTOR VEHICLES!!!! The brighter you are, the safer you are, especially if you are blinking, because you might cause an epileptic seziure in a driver behind you and cause them to run off the road before they actually hit you. Ok, that was a tasteless joke, but I couldn't resist.

btw 15.Dec.2003 22:55


you can always improvise bike lights with flashlights until you are able to buy real bike lights. Flashlights are real cheap, and they are safer than darkness.

lights $5.95 at fred meyer 16.Dec.2003 08:25


see the title.

if you really can't afford that in order to save your life--well, i think you're full of shit.