Last night we drove our car across town between 7:30-8:30pm. In that time, we counted 8 bicyclists without lights or reflective gear of any kind – this was among a total count of 12 bicyclists. It was plainly obvious how easily I could have lost sight of any of the non-lighted bicyclists among the chaos of automobile lights, traffic signals, and advertising that was assaulting my visual field.
Studies have shown that a majority of fatal collisions involving bicyclists occur between the hours of 6pm-9pm. After my experience last night, I’m not surprised. Unfortunately, most of the bicyclists without lights appeared to be “non-enthusiast” (for lack of a better term), so it’s unlikely they have access to the information or resources necessary to ride safely.
Over the past few years, a number of bicycle advocacy groups and city governments have initiated free bike light programs; examples include Portland’s Shift and Police Bureau programs, New York DOT’s bike light giveaway, the Sacramento Area Bicycle Advocates’ “Light On” program, and more recently, Chicago’s “Share the Road” giveaway.
I believe this is an important issue that warrants the attention of any organization interested in promoting bicycle safety.