“Be Bright – Use a Light” is the new message that representatives of the Cambridge Bicycle Committee and the Cambridge Police Department’s (CPD’s) Bike Patrol want to deliver to area cyclists. Since nearly half of all cycling deaths occur at night without lights – even with only 3 percent of bike riding occurring after dark – the two groups are co-sponsoring a focused, weeklong campaign to increase nighttime visibility among bicyclists.
Through Sunday (April 6), CPD will be writing extra citations to cyclists riding at night without lights. Some violators will be given a bike light donated by a Cambridge resident along with their citation. Participating area bike shops are offering a 10 percent discount on bike lights (sale items not included) through the month of May to anyone who brings in a citation or newspaper article about the program.
“Bicyclists should know that being well-lit is one of the most important safety measures they can take,” said Sgt. Kathy Murphy of the CPD Bike Patrol. “It is critical that motorists and pedestrians are able to see cyclists on the road.”
In addition to being dangerous to bicyclists, the 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.”
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 and drivers. The CPD 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 “Be Bright – Use a Light” campaign will promote awareness of this requirement through public education and an enhanced enforcement campaign by the CPD. It is hoped that the effort will result in fewer nighttime collisions, near misses, injuries, and fatalities. Cambridge police will be trained to note in police reports the presence or absence of a bicycle light.
The following bike shops have agreed to participate in the program: ATA Cycle, The Bicycle Exchange, Broadway Bicycle School, Cambridge Bicycle, and Wheelworks. For more information, visit http://www.cambridgepolice.org/bikes.html and http://www.ci.cambridge.ma.us/~CDD/envirotrans/bicycle/index.html.