Cycling experts say ‘ride with lights’ day and night at La Jolla bike summit

Independent bicycle dealers, industry representatives and bike advocates attended the Rider Safety Visibility Summit, hosted by California Bicycle, Inc. at 7462 La Jolla Blvd. on June 22. Together, they drove a message home: To increase road visibility, bicyclists need to use lights for both day and night rides.

NiteRider sales manager Mike Ely, whose mantra is “Lights, lights, lights, no matter what,” told the group, “six or seven years ago, while riding to work one morning, I saw an automobile, a motorcycle and a bike … two of the vehicles had lights on. The bicycle did not.” That’s why he’s dedicated the last few years to persuading cyclists that having and using lights can make a difference in the safety of a ride.

“We need to arm ourselves with whatever we can to be a little more noticeable on the roads. It just takes that second — when you pop out of the environment, not blend in with the environment — to not be hit,” Ely continued.

Former La Jolla politician and bike enthusiast Nathan Fletcher, added, “It’s a cultural change; it’s hard and it takes time, however, just like the cultural change to wear seatbelts in a car and helmets on a bike, it’s possible.”

Still, Skii Fleeton-Essenfeld, program coordinator for the San Diego County Bike Coalition, interjected, “That’s fantastic, however, in San Diego we know the best way to keep people riding bikes is infrastructure. We need to step back from forcing people to wear helmets, have bike lights, and put safety in numbers.” She said her husband was in a collision while riding his bike, even though he was “lit like a Christmas Tree.”

Ely agreed that the push for safer cycling infrastructure needs to continue, but “while we push for those things, if cyclists were more visible, the collision and fatality rates would go down, and if that made people feel safer, and they rode more, we’d have more chances (for more bike lanes). One of the things I hear the most is, ‘Are you going to take space away from cars for the seven people who ride bikes?’ ”

Like a Christmas Tree

At the bike summit, sports industry consultant Edward Clancy demonstrated products that could advance visibility. For example, a Bluetooth-activated helmet with lights and blinkers to let other vehicles know where the cyclist plans to turn next, light-reflecting sweatshirts and jackets, and a rub-on that makes the skin shine in light.

Bicycling advocate Bob Bandhauer said during the day, the most important thing a cyclist can have is a bright, blinking front light. “The rear light (although recommended), is not quite as important in the daytime,” he said. He recommended LED lights around the wheels and the bike frame for night rides. “Your wheels are lit up (and motorists) can see you from every angle. They cost $10-$12 per wheel installed.”

Another bike shop owner, Brent Garrigus, said he’s been fighting the battle solo to get bicyclists to wear lights for many years. “Now, if we can get the bike shop owners to work as a group, we can use that leverage with the larger (bike) clubs and say, ‘We’ll only sponsor your club if you have all people who join ride with front and back lights on, all day long,’ ” he said.

Distracted Driving

“Lights are great, we sell them all day long, but there’s a bigger factor; distracted drivers,” Garrigus continued. “The big thing is text messaging. We have customers who won’t ride (because they don’t feel safe),” he said. “If the ticket for texting and driving was $2,000, it would stop.”

Circling back to the meeting’s first point, Fletcher offered, “No light is going to solve the whole thing, but if everyone was more visible, it would help.”

Rules of the Road for Bicyclists

  • Cyclists under age 18 are required to wear helmets in California.
  • Bicyclists are entitled to share the road with motor vehicles, and required to obey traffic laws just like motorists.
  • Cyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic, yield to pedestrians and signal with their arms when changing lanes or turning.
  • During darkness, bicyclists should avoid wearing dark clothing and must have: 1) a front lamp emitting a white light visible from 300 feet; 2) A rear red reflector or solid flashing red light that is visible from 500 feet; 3) a white or yellow reflector on each pedal or the cyclist’s shoes that is visible from 200 feet.
  • When passing a bicyclist, other vehicles should allow at least three feet of distance, slow down, and pass when it’s safe to do so.
  • Bicyclists may occupy the center of the lane when conditions, such as a narrow lane or road hazard, make it unsafe to ride in a position that allows other vehicles to pass.

Source: California Driver Handbook