Thursday, January 25, 2007

Get A Light!

“Hey Moron! Get a light!” I regretted the words almost the instant they’d left my lips. The unlit cyclist was bundled up in a dark hooded sweatshirt and riding an old Magna and my bike’s own lights had very little to reflect off of. So when I did finally perceive the rider and swerve to avoid him, I guess my reaction was understandable. He mumbled something like “Sorry” as we passed, still a bit to quick and close for comfort. But as my adrenaline levels dropped to normal and I reflected on this dim and sudden encounter, I felt bad about my choice of words.

First off, beginning an exchange with “Hey Moron” really does nothing to predispose the listener to hear the rest of your message. But more importantly, I don’t think this fellow had the means to act on my advice, even if it had been delivered in a friendlier and more constructive manner. He might have been on his way to some low-paying job, or maybe he was jobless. I probably had more invested in my left shoe than he had spent on his entire bike. Dashing off to the bike shop to pick up a headlight and a rear blinkie is something I would do, but it would probably never make it to the top of this fellow’s economic priorities.

The old proverb says "it is better to light a single candle than to sit and curse the darkness." A few years ago in Portland, Jeff Bernards thought about the problem of poor, unlit cyclists. He scraped together some money and started a program called Get Lit. I called up Jeff, got the scoop on his program and decided to make the same thing happen here in Washington.

Planet Bike has agreed to supply lights at a very reasonable cost. For each $25 we raise, we can equip two low-income cyclists with front and rear lights. And until March 30th, 2007 the Bicycle Alliance of Washington will match every dollar donated to Get Lit (up to $2,500). So if you donate $25, you basically are buying lights for four low-income cyclists.

And that’s the point of this note. I’m asking you for money. If you ride your bike at night, you should have lights. If you don’t have lights on your own bike, take care of that first! But if you have taken care of that and you want to do something to make the streets and trails safer for all of us, send $25 to:

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

Make checks payable to “The Bicycle Alliance of Washington” and make a note that this is for the "Get Lit" program.

The goal of the program is to specifically target low-income cyclists and we’ll be working with groups like Bike Works and the Union Gospel Mission here in Seattle and similar groups statewide to make sure the lights go to the truly needy. We’ll be out on the roads and trails giving out lights in Seattle, Spokane, Everett, Bellingham and other places were there is a need. It’ll be nice to replace the words “Hey moron! Get a light!” with “Hey buddy, need a light?”

Kent Peterson
Commute Program Director
Bicycle Alliance of Washington
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