Portland Bus Driver Says Let There Be Light…on Bikes

Usually when we talk about someone having a windshield perspective on this blog, we don’t mean it as a good thing. But today, courtesy of Streetsblog Network member Bike Portland,
we bring you a windshield perspective that is actually quite helpful.
TriMet bus operator Dan Christenson has written a guest column about
how happy he is to see more bicyclists using lights at night — because
it means he sees them so much better:

311205200_5adb8c6f59_m.jpgPhoto by Jonathan Maus of Bike Portland.

In
the last 6 months I have seen a huge jump in the percentage of
bicyclists who are using lights at night. No joke, starting about
midway through last summer the number of glowing bikes has gone way up.
That has prevented many of what I like to call “OH MY GOD!!” moments.
I’ve asked around for other drivers to pay attention and they also
confirm my observation, a few have even given me head counts….

[W]hat is super fantastic is the almost arms-race-like growth
in the quality of the lights. I’m talking lighted vest, helmets,
gloves, undergarments…(just kidding). Bars of lights, spinning lights,
pulsing lights, double-pulsing lights,
cylon-light-bouncing-back-and-forth lights, pulsing and moving lights.
Hey, I thought I was high tech when I got a light that went on my
helmet, but I am falling way behind on the light race. It’s stunning,
dazzling and most of all it’s way safe.

There are times
that I can see bikes further away then cars. I can look up in the dead
of night and say “that, my friend, way way way up there is a
bicyclist.”

Elsewhere around the network: Transit Miami looks at some bleak statistics on cycling safety in Florida; the Oregonian’s Hard Drive column reports on Platewire.com, a site where dangerous motorists get called out by license plate number; and Urban Review STL provides a wheelchair perspective, shall we say, on the obstacle presented by sidewalks without curb cuts.

  • DaveO

    Is is the law in SF? i swear, there have been several times I’ve had to swerve to avoid a bicyclist who literally is invisible until the last second. And, of course, there was no light.

  • mcas

    CVC 21201 requires a front light only. Of course, to me, I’m responsible for what’s in front of me, and I’d say a back light is way more important with all these distracted drivers on the road so they don’t plow into me, as a ‘slow moving vehicle’.

  • Nick

    SF Bike Coalition had a ‘Light up the Night’ event last winter where they passed out 2,000 free bike lights.

    Having everyone use lights increases our overall presence on the streets not to mention individual safety. When we all use lights people can’t help but think, “There sure are a lot of cyclists out there.”

  • I have a white front light on my bike, a blinking red taillight, and a Monkey Light from Monkeylectric on my front wheel. (The patterns it makes are lots of fun.) Yes, a bicycle rider at night with no light wearing dark clothes is pretty much invisible. So are pedestrians who wear all black at night and jaywalk across the street. A little reflectivity is not a bad thing.

  • Pat
  • tommy

    Good point, nick.

    The only time I got hit by a car was at night. They hit me from the side. I even had a headlight, but it was very old and weak. Ever since, I use two l.e.d. headlights, both aimed up at drivers’ eyes, each angled a little off from the other horizontally, and one focuses a spot of light farther off to either side. Also got two taillights and spoke reflectors. Considering getting a Down Low Glow or something similar. I think lighting is what people interested in safety need to be emphasizing, not helmets.

    California law requires at night:

    * A white front light that lights the road and is visible from 300 feet.
    * A red rear reflector visible from 500 feet in normal headlights.
    * A white or yellow reflector on each pedal, visible from the front and rear of the bicycle from a distance of 200 feet.
    * On the bike front, white or yellow reflectors visible on each side. Usually attached to wheel spokes.
    * On the bike rear, white or red reflectors visible from each side. Usually attached to wheel spokes.

  • CBrinkman

    The Wiggle is frightening at night – so many cyclists without a speck of reflective clothing or a single light. I don’t think they realize how invisible they are to car drivers (and bikes and peds) – and they don’t know how poor many older driver’s night vision is. And by older I mean over 40. We need to give the drivers a chance to see us.

    As a cyclist bombing along at night you can see just fine, but through the windshield you can be invisible to the driver – glare of other lights off the glass, obstructed view, distractions…. and this isn’t like a driver with the sun in their eyes who continues to drive when they can’t see – the nighttime driver can see the road, can see other car headlights, can see bikes with lights – but can’t see the unlit and unreflective rider against a dark street. I would fully support pulling over and warning unlit riders – a fix-it ticket would be perfect – come to the station with your bike lights within the next 5 days or pay a $70 fine.

  • the greasy bear

    My intuition tells me those riding at night without lights aren’t doing so on principle–I can’t think of a principled argument against such lights, can you?–so this issue may simply boil down to educating new riders and cajoling older riders to ‘see the light,’ if you’ll excuse the pun.

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