Posts Tagged ‘lights’
As many WABA members know, we–led by our D.C. Bike Ambassadors–annually give out hundreds of lights to cyclists who are riding unlit at night. This program is funded through by the District Department of Transportation, so the lights are given out only in D.C. It is a wonderful program, and we would love to expand it regionally and to targeted areas.
If your business or community organization would be interested in helping to fund the purchase of additional lights that can be used in other parts of the region or as part of additional outreach in D.C., please email us so that we can discuss the details. We will be placing our main order within the next couple of weeks, and we invite groups interested in helping to provide lights to be in touch.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to help out! This post was written by WABA member and volunteer DC Bike Ambassador Jason Clock.
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 email@example.com
Thank you to WABA & DDOT for making free bike lights possible!
WABA will be hitting the streets tonight to begin our “Got Lights?” program for 2012, giving away 1,000 free sets of front and rear lights (provided by DDOT). The program is designed to target bicyclists riding after dark without lights. This post is a personal story from Gina Arlotto, who handles WABA’s Planning and Organizational Development, about teaching her kids about bike safety and the importance of having lights (and other safety equipment) on bikes.
One Parent’s Perspective
It will come as no surprise to you to learn that kids really don’t like being told what to do. And they dislike it even more when they hit adolescence. Trust me, having to repeat the same lessons (pick your battles!) a million times gets old from a parent’s perspective, too.
Happily, teaching and practicing safe bicycling habits is one of those battles that we pick. It’s how I combat the anxiety I feel about them riding to school alone every day. I know they have the skills to control what they can–by following the rules of the road, by signaling, by stopping at stop signs and red lights–and the proper safety equipment. And I hope they can handle what they can’t control, especially the drivers commuting through our neighborhood without regard for bicyclists. My kids know that following the rules of the road and having the proper bike safety equipment is not only the law, it’s also the safest way to ride.
My son (15) has taken many of my lessons to heart, but he takes the Metro to school (and as a teenage boy, will be a safety work-in-progress for some time regardless). I usually ride with my daughter (9) to school before I head into work, so I am able to observe her bike behavior closely.
A Bike Safety Prodigy
But for my 12-year-old daughter MaryGrace, it is imperative that she follow our safe cycling rules as she rides the 10 blocks to Stuart Hobson Middle School alongside car commuters. If you’re at all familiar with middle schoolers, you know they especially don’t like being told what to do, and my daughter is no exception. For a long time, I couldn’t be sure if all our lessons on bike safety were sinking in.
Thankfully, I periodically get reports from neighbors complimenting her for stopping at red lights and riding safely around the neighborhood. And if I needed any more reassurance, I only have to think of her response when I praised her on a long ride about how well she was doing. “Mom, I’m a bike safety prodigy,” she said with all the attitude of a typical 7th grade girl. Nevertheless, I could tell she was proud of herself.
Bike lights as critical bike safety equipment is a common theme in our house. We installed lights on the kids’ bikes before they rode them for the first time, so the conversation mostly consists of reminding the kids to turn the lights on, even during the daylight hours. When we’re out and about on Capitol Hill we see a lot of bicyclists riding around without lights, and my kids are often the first to point them out. “Wow. That’s not safe,” they say, “You can’t even see them!”
Needless to say, I was thrilled when, a few weeks ago, I came home to find MaryGrace out on the sidewalk installing a set of lights on her friend’s new bike. When MaryGrace saw the bike, she said the first thing she told her friend was that she needed a set of lights. After school let out they rode to our house and, after rummaging around in my husband’s basement work bench, fortunately located a spare set. Not content to just give the lights to her friend to mount on the bike later, MaryGrace had grabbed a screwdriver and they worked together to get everything attached for the now-dark ride home. A “bike safety prodigy” indeed!
Visibility is Your First Priority
All of this is to say that if a slightly stubborn (but always adorable) 12-year-old middle school girl can recognize the importance of a set of bike lights, then you probably should too. And to any other parents out there, sometimes you really do have to repeat an important lesson a million times before it sticks. If you’re very lucky, you’ll be there when it does.
WABA’s “Got Lights?” project begins today and will continue in various locations throughout the District until we’ve given away all 1000 sets. 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 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to help out!
We all knew this season was coming. It seems like only yesterday we were riding around in shorts and cranking up the AC, but here we are in December already, and that means cold-weather bicycling is on everyone’s minds. Right about now, some of you are probably thinking, “Why on earth would I want to ride my bike in the winter?” In fact, the winter isn’t all gray skies and gloom, and the best way to learn that is to get out there and see it. If you’re at all troubled by Seasonal Affective Disorder (and really, who doesn’t feel a little down when it’s cold and dark for so long), then winter riding can be a great way to get some sunshine on your face and get the blood pumping. Plus, you get to stay active during the calorie-filled holiday season! To top it off, the reduction in bike traffic means you have those lanes and trails mostly to yourself.
Here are WABA’s helpful tips to face the winter head-on and stay warm, happy and safe.
Riding in the Dark
First of all, winter riding means riding in the dark, especially for the evening commute. Everyone should know that the law in DC, MD and VA says a front white light and either a red rear light or red rear reflector are required. But that’s only the bare minimum you can do to make sure you are visible out there:
- Reflective clothing – These days, you can find reflective material on all sorts of gear, from gloves to shoes to jackets to pants. Even if you don’t want to go the full reflective vest route, a few points of reflectiveness on your arms and legs (your moving parts) will make a big difference in how quickly drivers can spot you. Don’t look now, but WABA sells a fantastic reflective pant cuff!
- Light it up – Cars can only avoid you if they can see you, and driver visibility is reduced in rain, snow, sleet and fog. So use extra lights and make sure they are on the “blink” setting–they will attract more attention than solid lights.
- Ride visibly – When you control the lane, you make sure that you are in the most visible place on the roadway. Remember, visibility is your top priority!
- Know where to ride – Specifically, get to know which roads have good ambient light available and which do not. Ride smart and err on the side of caution–just because you can see them does not mean that they can see you!
Riding on Snow & Ice
This is the tricky part where a lot of three-season riders simply might say “you’d have to be crazy to get on a bike with that stuff all over the road.” But we’ll be riding in it and we think you should too. There’s nothing like the feeling of riding through a lightly falling snow, with the only sounds the crunch of your tires and the rush of the wind. Come on out and join us, won’t you? But first, here’s what to expect:
- Pedal smoothly – Try to maintain a steady pace, but you don’t want to go too fast if conditions are bad. Watch out for the rear tire slipping when you start from a standing stop.
- Brake OR turn, NOT both – Start braking early and shed a lot of speed before you start turning. When turning, try to keep pedaling smoothly and your weight centered over the bike. Keep your eyes up and focused about 100 yards ahead of you, along the line you will take when you finish the turn. This will help you keep both your body and the bike where you want them.
- Feather your brakes – Wet, cold rubber is not as effective at stopping you than dry, warm rubber. Tap your brakes lightly before you need them to dry them off slightly.
- Not all snow is created equal – Dry powder is easy to ride through, but can cake on your rims, brake pads, etc. Wet snow is hard work to ride through, but if you’re heavy enough, you can cut right down to the pavement. Ice can be hard to spot, unpredictable and may be best avoided if you can. Packed snow behaves like ice when it’s cold out and like a combination of ice and wet snow when it’s warm. You will learn to recognize these types and the gradations between them pretty quickly.
- Caution, roadway narrows – Winter Bike Law #1: When there’s snow on the ground, plows will deposit it in bike facilities. Don’t expect anything other than main roads to be plowed, and don’t even expect those to be well-plowed. Take the lane. Oddly, drivers are often more respectful of cyclists in the winter.
- Not everyone knows what they’re doing – Also, don’t expect drivers to be experienced at winter driving. Do your best to be predictable so drivers don’t have to react to you. Follow the laws and communicate with them through hand gestures and eye contact. Again, err on the side of caution!
- Watch for metal and paint – They get very slippery when wet. This means manhole covers, metal bridge surfaces, grates, metal construction plates, crosswalks, stop lines, bike lane markings, etc.
- Think about lower tire pressure – Most tires have a range of acceptable tire pressure (85-95 psi, for instance). On the lower end of that range (or even below it), you will get better traction out of your tires. Just beware that your chances of a pinch flat go up when your tires are under-pressurized.
- Be ready for extra maintenance – Winter riding puts different kinds of wear and tear on your bike. Extremely cold temperatures can make your tires, chain, brakes and any parts with bearings (hubs, headset, pedals & bottom bracket) behave differently, so keep an eye or ear open for anything abnormal. Consider a tune-up before winter really begins and again after it’s over. At the “before” tune-up, ask the bike tech for some all-weather chain lube and wet weather brake pads. Oh, and the cold will also drain the batteries in your lights faster!
Remember folks, practice makes perfect! If you’re at all unsure of your winter riding skills, wait for a snowy/sleety/rainy/freezing day and head out to a parking lot and practice for a while. Get the hang of starting, stopping and turning. That way, you’ll be prepared for whatever January and February throw our way.
Continue reading Part II: What to Wear
What do you get when you mix a sunny holiday, a cargo bike, and a couple hundred lights to give away? At WABA, you get an 8-ward ride handing out lights to cyclists who don’t have them.
Yesterday, I decided to take advantage of the holiday and just ride around the city installing lights for cyclists who didn’t have them. To make it a bit more fun, I set a goal of installing a light in every ward. It turned out to be less challenging and more fun than I had expected.
I left from the WABA office, headed north, then generally worked my way around the city in a counter-clockwise loop.
- Group of kids at King Greenleaf Rec Center who saw me give lights to one person, then ran to get everyone in the neighborhood who rode a bike at night without lights. They drew a decent crowd.
- James, the veteran who bikes to and from work daily because he says the Metro costs too much and the bus is too slow. He was riding his backup bike that didn’t have any lights because he needs a new rear derailleur for his main bike.
- Reggie, the handyman who’s expecting a slowdown in work this winter and is interested in helping WABA to install bike racks during his downtime.
- Keisha & Nelson, on their way to the zoo on the nice day. Nelson’s bike has a Hot Wheels machine that makes engine noises as he goes. Now he has front and rear lights as well.
- Al, who lives near Benning & Minnesota but works in a restaurant in Adams Morgan and bike commutes daily.
- Lowlight: The young mother with a toddler in a stroller outside the Anacostia Metro who had read about recent incidents where strollers were struck by cars asking if she could have a light for her stroller.