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East Bay group shines light on bicycle safety

on November 4, 2014

At a downtown Broadway corner Monday evening, Bike East Bay volunteers hollered invitations to passing cyclists to stop and receive free bike lights to stay more visible and safe on their homeward-bound commutes – rides that are darker now after the end of daylight saving time.

Now in its third year, the nonprofit advocacy organization’s giveaway of 100 light sets aimed to bring cyclists into compliance with the California vehicle code, which requires that bikes have a front headlight, a rear reflector, pedal reflectors and side reflectors. The handout was funded by GJEL Accident Attorneys, a personal injury law firm.

Bike East Bay member Mimi Torres holds up a measure BB sign at the organization's bike light giveaway. Photo by Vanessa Reyes Walker

Bike East Bay member Mimi Torres holds up a measure BB sign at the organization’s bike light giveaway. Photo by Vanessa Reyes Walker.

Bike East Bay Executive Director Renee Rivera said the group sees cyclists riding unlighted bikes, or wearing all-black clothing when they should be wearing bright colors at night. “Above all, be visible and be well-lit,” Rivera said. Cyclists have a better chance of being visible by riding in the middle lane at night, she said, instead of on the side. The Oakland Police Department didn’t return calls for comment on bike safety.

Along with raising safety awareness, Bike East Bay members like Mimi Torres waved signs and promoted Measure BB, an Alameda County transportation measure on Tuesday’s ballot that would impose a 1 percent sales tax to bring in $1 billion for improvements to keep the streets safer for cyclists, motorists and pedestrians.

Cyclists interviewed at the handout expressed concern about risky and aggressive riding.

“I have friends who habitually don’t use lights,” bicyclist Caroline Charuk said after stopping by to pick up a free light set.

It’s frustrating when cyclists cut across lanes and drive in the wrong direction, cyclist Justin Davis said. When he’s driving his car, he said he notices these dangerous practices more. “I think my car will take a little less damage than your bike,” he said.

An Oakland cyclist gets lights installed by a Bike East Bay member during a bike light giveaway. Photo by Vanessa Reyes Walker

An Oakland cyclist gets lights installed by a Bike East Bay member during a bike light giveaway. Photo by Vanessa Reyes Walker.

Cayden Mak, who commutes from East Oakland to Berkeley every day, said he doesn’t like it when cyclists ride against traffic without lights at night and when they “lash through stop lights.”

Torres, who’s been a Bike East Bay member since 2009, said she calls out other cyclists who ride the wrong way, or “ride like idiots,” taking risks such as running stop signs.

There’s “never a guarantee a driver will see you at night,” Bike East Bay Education Director Robert Prinz said. Cyclists should slow down when riding in the rain and anticipate what others are doing around them.

Just like drivers of motor vehicles that have to stop at stop signs and turn on their lights at night, cyclists have the same responsibilities, members of the group said. For cyclists wanting more information, Bike East Bay offers free classes teaching techniques for safer night riding.


  1. Robert Prinz on November 4, 2014 at 11:47 pm

    Thanks for covering our Oakland bike light giveaway! Anyone who is interested in learning more about biking after dark or in wet weather is invited to participate in a free 1-hour Winter Biking Workshop at the Oakland Main Library on Saturday, Nov 15, from 3-4pm (more info at

    We also have free 2-hour Urban Cycling 101 classroom workshops coming up in Oakland and other East Bay locations, at which participants receive a free, Bike East Bay reflective vest, bike maps, and more. Dates and locations are online at

  2. Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog San Francisco on November 5, 2014 at 3:15 am

    […] East Bay Distributes Lights to Night Riders (Oakland North), In Time for Daylight Savings […]

  3. The Odd Duck on November 5, 2014 at 6:36 pm

    If you want a good website different things that are reflective try Don’t Get it has things for you and your bicycle. As a trike rider myself I believe is my best defense is to be seen. I also have a reflective sash that I wear as I walk at night.

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