Be Safe, Be Seen: Bike Light Campaign Underway

The City of Missoula Bicycle/Pedestrian Office, Missoula In Motion and the Missoula Police Department join Mayor John Engen in renewing efforts to keep people safe when riding bikes at night.

Fall weather means great conditions for people on bikes. But as daylight arrives later each morning – and darkness arrives earlier each night – more Missoulians are riding to and from their destinations in the dark. Every fall after the end of Daylight Saving Time, the Mayor’s Bike Light Campaign promotes extra attention to safety messages and enforcement, and it puts 150 bike light sets into police patrol cars so that officers can offer an immediate solution to cyclists riding dark.

Riding at night without lights creates two serious safety hazards. First, bicyclists can be very difficult for motorists to see. “I continue to receive calls from residents who narrowly missed a bicyclist they couldn’t see at night,” said Ben Weiss, Bicycle/Pedestrian Program manager. “Drivers and other riders are scared they’ll hit someone who is wearing dark clothes and has no illumination.”

Second, riders risk injury from road hazards like potholes if they don’t use a decent light. For these reasons, both local and state laws require that bikes have a white front light and red rear reflector at night. The City’s bike/ped specialists recommend adding a red rear light as well.

This is the 12th year for the Mayor’s Bike Light Campaign. Mayor Engen launched it during the fall of 2006 following the death of a young person who was hit by a vehicle while riding a bike near the intersection of Beckwith and Higgins Avenues. Mayor Engen said then, “We think bike lights save lives. And we know the police see this every day. We’re happy to give them the tools to keep people safe. If we prevent even one tragedy, it’s worth the effort.”

Bike lights range from very inexpensive models that make riders visible to others to more expensive models that put out enough light for riders to see clearly. The light sets provided by police officers are inexpensive models that meet the legal requirements and allow people on bikes to be seen. The program is so well established and valued that the cost of the light sets is now built into the budgets of the Bike/Ped Office and Missoula in Motion, the City’s program that promotes sustainable transportation. The light sets given by police officers may or may not come with a ticket, at the officer’s discretion. The City of Missoula reminds cyclists, “Be Safe, Be Seen.”