Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Get Lit Washington

While reflectors do increase the visibility of night riding cyclists, reflectors alone are not enough. Lights are key to making the bicyclist a visible and safe user of the roads and paths. Washington law states that "For night bicycle riding, a white front light (not a reflector) visible for 500 feet and a red rear reflector are required. A red rear light may be used in addition to the required reflector (RCW 46.61.780)". Unfortunately, many cyclists ride without lights after dark. Get Lit Washington is a program designed to directly address the problem of unlit cyclists and raise awareness of the need for cyclists to use lights at night.

The Bicycle Alliance of Washington is currently soliciting donations to fund the Get Lit program in Washington state for 2007. For every dollar raised between December 20th, 2006 and March 30th, 2007 (up to a total of $2,500 in donations) the Bicycle Alliance will match dollar for dollar to fund this program. Checks payable to the Bicycle Alliance in any amount may be sent to:

Bicycle Alliance of Washington
Get Lit Program
P.O. Box 2904
Seattle WA 98111

Get Lit Washington is directly inspired by the original Get Lit program in Portland, Oregon. Created by Jeff Bernards, Get Lit simply and directly addresses the problem of cyclists riding at night without lights by providing front and rear LED lights to unlit bicycle riders. By directly giving lights to riders, Get Lit Washington will have an immediate positive effect on the night cycling safety of those riders. Additionally, Get Lit will raise awareness of bicycles as vehicles and draw attention to the legal requirement that cyclists have lights.

The bulk of the funds for this program will go directly into the wholesale purchase of lights. The distribution of lights will follow the model successfully pioneered in Portland, Oregon. Volunteers will specifically target low income bike riders who are currently riding at night without any form of lighting on their bicycles. Lights will be installed directly on the bikes and the bicycle riders will be instructed on how to use the lights, including instruction on how to remove the lights to prevent theft. A self-addressed stamped survey card will be given to each bicycle rider receiving lights under the Get Lit program. These cards will be used to gather various data needed to track and evaluate the success of the program.

Volunteers will work directly at dusk or dawn along various bike transit corridors to find bicycle riders in need of lights. Additionally, the Bicycle Alliance of Washington will work with various shelters and low income programs to identify low income cyclists in need of lights. It is important that the Get Lit program does not in any way undermine or seem to undermine the various bicycle shops in the community or the commercial concerns of the lighting vendor. To address this issue, the program specifically targets low-income bicycle riders, those people unlikely to purchase a bicycle light or even be aware of that lights are commercially available. Press coverage of the program will serve to promote understanding of the problem of unlit night riding bicyclists and should serve as a catalyst to spur increased use of lights in general, including those sold via the various local retailers.

Planet Bike has agreed to provide head and tail lights in bulk quantities at very favorable prices. While most of the lights will be distributed by volunteers there will be some printing and postage costs to create survey cards to measure and evaluate the success of the program. There will also be some small administrative costs in compiling the data and transporting the lights, but most of the funds will go directly toward the purchase of lights. For $2500, the Bicycle Alliance of Washington will be able to equip 200 low-income cyclists with front and rear lights.

The Bicycle Alliance of Washington will work with communities and local volunteers to make the program available in various locations across Washington state. If significant funding comes from a single regional source (ie. a county or town), the program can be targeted to that specific community. The main limit on the program will be funds and the availability of local volunteers. The program may scale up as needed, but because of the pricing structure of the light supplier, lights must be purchased in lots of 100 sets.

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