Get Lit!

The days, they are darkening. The time hasn’t even changed back yet, and still I find myself getting caught, homeward, in darkness, or leaving before the sun comes up. The clouds don’t help, certainly: even though it’s not full-on rainy season here yet, the spattering of showers and fallish clouds makes the light of days go by, fast.

It’s time for bike lights!

(photo by Ben Latterell)

At the Community Cycling Center, we have this great program called Get Lit. Basically what we do is find a busy, bikeful intersection and at a predetermined but unpublished time, stake it out–in time for the typical commute home. Then we set up shop and install lights on unlit cyclists. For free.

It basically looks like a festive mix of blinky red and white Plant Bike lights, a few Community Cycling Center people armed with screwdrivers, and a whole pile of unlit cyclists lined up to get visible. A typical Get Lit evening will find us giving away about 60 pairs of front and back lights to people who are otherwise ninja stealth bikers, unseen in the darkness.

There’s a distinction, of course: we’re not giving lights away, we’re installing them on unlit bicycles. That means that you can’t just cycle by and grab a few lights for your unlit friends. You actually have to bike by on a bike with no lights, and we’ll put the lights on your bike for free. Planet Bike generously donates the lights, and with help from The Portland Bureau of Transportation, Kristin Lensen Consulting, and DK Whitaker Engineering, it’s possible to give away nearly 600 free lights a year. Assuming everyone gets both a front and rear light (not everyone ends up needing both), that’s at least 300 more cyclists who are visible and safe at night.

(photo by Ben Latterell)

This is one of my favorite programs to be part of, since it feels like Christmas or something. There I am, surrounded by other Community Cycling People (have I mentioned how much I love the people I work with there?), giving lights out, for free, to people who are nothing but thankful. Some of them have had their lights stolen, some of them can’t afford lights; some of them have super schmancy bicycles that they just haven’t had time to light up yet, some of them have beaters where it’s a miracle when they still roll down the street. Regardless of bike or biker, everyone’s happy to be getting lights, and everyone’s leaving just a little more safely than they came in.

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