WABA Volunteers Light Up DC

WABA’s “Got Lights?” project gives away 1,000 free sets of front and rear lights (provided by DDOT) and will continue all year in various locations throughout the District.  We are committed to giving each and every light set to cyclists who are riding without lights when we find them. If you already have lights on your bike, please consider helping us put these lights on the bikes that need them. Call 202-518-0524 x200 or email bikeambassador@waba.org to help out! This post was written by WABA member and volunteer DC Bike Ambassador Jason Clock.

WABA's branded bike lights for the Got Lights? giveaway

The Dark Ages

Daylight Savings Time ended on November 6th, and since then WABA has been waiting for their bike light sets to be paid for/arrive (as a volunteer, information isn’t always easy to come by). The first few weeks after the time change are statistically some of the worst to be a pedestrian (or a bicyclist), as the number of crashes jumps up.

But for most bicyclists, evening commutes stay dark well into the late winter/early spring, so even though WABA’s lights only arrived last week, the need for lights on bikes hasn’t gone away. This is definitely the time of year when many cyclists are not visible due to lack of lights and reflective clothing.

Bike Lights For the Lightless

WABA’s goal is to target cyclists “riding dark”, i.e. people who don’t have any lights on their bike at all. Whether it’s due to a lack of knowledge about the laws requiring lights, an inability to afford them, not knowing where to buy them, or just plain forgetfulness, these people are the ones who are the most vulnerable.

So when the DC Bike Ambassadors were asked to sign up for the Bike Light Blitz–riding around with a bag of light sets and handing them out with a smile and a “Got Bike? Get WABA” business card, I was happy to help out. Here’s my timeline of the evening.

  • 6:00 PM: I arrived at WABA HQ in Adams Morgan and grabbed a bag of bike lights. 15 white front lights and 15 red rear lights in the “knog” style, single-piece lights with a silicon strap that loops around handlebars, seat posts, or pretty much anything else.
  • 6:10 PM: I decked out my bike with a few light sets to draw attention and designated a pocket each for front lights, rear lights, and WABA cards. Joined by the rest of the Bike Light Blitzers, I headed out. We were allowed to pick our own routes, and I chose to head towards downtown, riding along the 15th street cycle track with an eye out for “stealth riders” to start blitzing. I quickly encountered a few “False IDs”–riders with rear red lights but no front white lights. I told them that a front light is not only good for visibility, but is required by law when riding at night.

  • 6:30 PM: Feeling like a bike messenger, I pushed hard to chase down one stealth rider after another, standing on the pedals and hoping for a red light that would give me a few seconds to pull up alongside and enlighten them. The adrenaline rush helped break the ice, since most riders were a little suspicious at first. “I am just going across the street,” complained one single-speed cyclist–decked out in dark clothing on a black bike. “How much?” asked another rider. “No trick here,” I assured him, “I’m just shedding some light on the stealth riders of the District.” My pun went unnoticed, but the bike lights were appreciated.
  • 6:45 PM: I fully expected that the morning’s rain would keep the number of cyclists low in the evening, but I was shocked to find myself out of light sets in just 35 minutes!  I was surprised by how many cyclists did not have lights.  Many of them also wore dark clothing which certainly did not help visibility. And worst of all, most people didn’t even realize they were putting themselves in unnecessary danger.

A Brighter Future

I have to say I had a blast helping out with the Bike Light Blitz, and I plan to grab a few more bike light sets to keep on hand for when I come across stealth riders on my normal commute.  And, after counting dark cyclists while walking my dog, I might stash a few sets in my coat pockets for those times when I’m on foot, too.

You Can Help Too

Become a volunteer Bike Ambassador and help spread the word about bikes to your community, workplace and friends. We educate cyclists and motorists about safe cycling and have a good time doing it. You can contact Daniel Hoagland, WABA’s Bike Ambassador Coordinator by emailing bikeambassador@waba.org

Thank you to WABA & DDOT for making free bike lights possible!