“Be Bright – Use a Light.” This is the message that representatives of the Cambridge Bicycle Committee and the Cambridge Police Department's Bike Patrol want to deliver to cyclists. The two groups are co-sponsoring a focused campaign during the week of March 31 – April 6.
Visibility is a critical matter for bicyclists. Nearly half of all cycling deaths nationally involve cyclists riding at night without lights, although only 3% of biking occurs after dark. During the week of March 31, the Cambridge Police will write extra citations to cyclists riding at night without lights, although some violators will be given a bike light donated by a Cambridge resident along with their citation.
Participating area bike shops** will offer a 10% discount on bike lights (sale items not included) through the month of May to anyone who brings in a citation, or a newspaper article about the program. “Bicyclists should know that being well-lit is one of the most important safety measures they can take,” said Sergeant Kathy Murphy of the Cambridge Police Bike Patrol. “It is critical that motorists and pedestrians are able to see cyclists on the road.”
"In addition to being dangerous to bicyclists themselves, lack of lighting is a hazard to pedestrians as well. Pedestrians can't stay out of your way if they can't see you coming," said Astrid Dodds, pedestrian activist and Cambridge resident, "especially at dusk, in snow or rain or fog."
"Both drivers and pedestrians can be startled when a bike appears suddenly in front of them," said Bryce Nesbitt, member of the Cambridge Bicycle Committee. “Their concern about avoiding a collision can make them very upset.”
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.
** The following bike shops have agreed to participate in the program:
ATA Cycle, 1773 Mass. Ave.
The Bicycle Exchange, 2063 Mass. Ave.
Broadway Bicycle School, 351 Broadway
Cambridge Bicycle, 259 Mass. Ave.
Wheelworks of 145 Elm Street, Somerville, 480 Trapelo Road & 22 Church Street, Belmont.
For more information:
Bike information is available on the web at www.cambridgepolice.org/bikes.html and at http://www.ci.cambridge.ma.us/~CDD/envirotrans/bicycle/index.html
Sergeant Kathy Murphy, Cambridge Police Bike Unit, email@example.com, 617.349.3204. The officers of the patrol, who are responsible for general police duties, use bicycles for mobility.
Cara Seiderman, Community Development Department/Cambridge Bicycle Committee, firstname.lastname@example.org, 617.349.4629. The committee works to promote and enhance conditions for bicycling in the city.