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More Lights for L.A. Night Bicyclists Needed, Coalition Says

The Los Angeles County Bike Coalition's "Operation Firefly" program to get lights to riders at night is in its first campaign, and needs donations to buy more lights for distribution.

Riding your bike at night in Los Angeles when the sun goes down poses safety concerns for cyclists and motorists alike, and there is even a state law on the books to require that riders be visible.

The Los Angeles County Bike Coalition launched "Operation Firefly" last fall to ensure Angelenos riding bicycles have front and rear lights, but one of its organizers says they are running out and need donations to continue the light purchases.

"It's tough enough as it is to make a motorist see you riding during the day, let alone at night," said Colin Bogart, education director of LACBC. "I found myself ridng behind a kid the other night who nearly got hit by a driver turning left, because he didn’t have a light. Our goal is to get people to have a light, particularly that front light. I have seen police pull over bicyclists and citing them. Those can be, from what I understand, pretty expensive."

Drivers in L.A. kill pedestrians and bicyclists at a significantly higher rate than drivers nationally, according to a federal study cited in a recent Los Angeles Times story, Bogart added.

"We're doing street distribution of lights around town, focusing on lower income communities and most likely people riding without lights who need them," he said.

"Operation Firefly" started with 500 sets of lights and in December had already given out more than 300 sets. LACBC also has the lights for sale.

"We've recooped about one third of our initial investment," he said, "but we could really use community's help for donations and light purchases. Eventually, we're going to run out and I'd like to keep this program going throughout the winter months until [Daylight Savings] time changes again."

Bogart said they've done four street distributions and in each case, they went through 40 to 50 lights in about 90 minutes.

In addition to front and rear lights, LACBC is distributing "Operation Firefly" spoke cards in English and Spanish, which will provide a summary of the California Vehicle Code requirements while riding at night, along with additional tips for enhanced visibility when it's dark.

Bogart added that LACBC is working with bike co-ops spread throughout L.A. to help distribute the lights, spoke card and its message. Some of those co-ops include:

For more information on LACBC's "Operation Firefly" program, click here.

Niall Huffman January 17, 2013 at 12:28 AM
Which I and the other bicyclists commenting on this article 100% agree with. I just have a different understanding of what constitutes safe riding and the best ways to manage risk.
Niall Huffman January 17, 2013 at 12:34 AM
Are you seriously complaining that bicyclists hold up traffic in left turn lanes? How much longer does it take a bike to make a left turn than a car? 3 seconds, maybe? And it's prudent to wait in the center of the left turn lane rather than on the right edge, for the same reason it's prudent to stay away from the curb when riding straight through an intersection: it discourages people from accelerating ahead of you and cutting you off to make a quick right turn.
Niall Huffman January 17, 2013 at 12:58 AM
I would also point out that bikes have been a fixture on the streets of Southern California for well over 100 years. They're hardly a new phenomenon. And no one will argue with you that people on bikes need to ride legally and safely. It's unfortunate what happened to you in Topanga Canyon; what that guy did was genuinely dangerous and stupid, and it sounds like he was a jerk to boot. I don't condone that type of behavior. I merely attempted to refute your original claim that people on bikes feel a unique sense of entitlement, or are the only road users getting a free pass from the police.
Niall Huffman January 17, 2013 at 03:13 AM
To answer your question, Glenn: No, I'm not trying to teach drivers a lesson. I'm merely trying to get home safe and taking responsibility for ensuring that I'm visible. And I'm VERY visible with two rear LED lights (one solid, one flashing) and a headlight that emits 150-350 lumens (bright enough to stand out amongst a bunch of car headlights), in addition to reflective patches on my bike, clothing and backpack.
Glenn E Grab January 17, 2013 at 06:46 AM
of course bright lights at night are a good idea, but riding on a fast moving street at night (like Washington Blvd) with a lot of half drunk motorists isn't....I'd just take the sidewalk....

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