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PDOT to launch new safe cycling campaign

Posted by on November 13th, 2006 at 7:09 pm

PDOT’s Transportation Options division is working on a new safety campaign tentatively called “See and Be Seen.”

The program will encourage cyclists to use lights and increase their visibility as well as reminding motorists to take extra care around cyclists.

They’re still working on final pieces of the program but I’ve gotten word that a Bike Light Parade kickoff event leaving from the Community Cycling Center is planned for Last Thursday (11/30).

The program also has support from TriMet and will include ads on busses, shelters and benches.

More details coming soon.

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  • Vladislav Davidzon November 13, 2006 at 8:37 pm

    I must be missing something… they are spending money on advertising use of bike lights?

    Is it just me or is this the silliest idea to come out of PDOT, second only to banning bikes on certain roads that — or was that ODOT, recently?

    Why don’t they get a contract with one of the bike light companies and buy a ton of bike lights really cheap, and give them away? Maybe apply a bit of pressure on one of the big bike store chains (cough a certain gallery cough) to help fund it?

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  • Jonathan Maus November 13, 2006 at 9:16 pm

    Vladislav,

    Full details of the program haven’t been released..but I’m sure the program will be very far from “simply spending money on advertising.” I’m not exactly sure where you got that idea.

    Sounds to me like it will be an educational and awareness building effort to cyclists and motorists.

    I will know more about the program after tomorrow night.

    And by the way, the City of Portland has already done what you suggested with lights. Have you heard of the bike light program that spread from Shift to the Police Bureau?

    Let’s reserve judgment of this program until we actually know more about it!

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  • Vladislav Davidzon November 13, 2006 at 9:31 pm

    Sorry, your post made it sound like a big marketing campaign. And I am not clear of any better way to promote use of lights than to give them out to cyclists.

    I am, for one, yet to hear any cyclist say they don’t use lights because they hate them ;) It is mostly issue of cash priority/availability. Yes I’m familiar with the get lit program.

    I do find it kinda strange that in a world where all cars are required to be equipped with lights, we do not require bike manufacturers to equip every new bike with appropriate front and rear lights (although reflectors on the wheels are, in fact, required). Considering the cost of a new bike starts at $250 or so, the cost of $3-4 (at cost of manufacturer) for a set of lights seems trivial.

    I wonder if perhaps a city ordinance would help here — if there was a law that required every bike sold in the city to come equipped with a set of front and rear lights…

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  • Jonathan Maus November 13, 2006 at 9:49 pm

    Marketing will be a part of it for sure. And I’m glad to see TriMet pony up for some ad space (I’m sure they donated it).

    And by the way, just giving lights away free sounds great…but you still need to raise awareness of the issue…and raising awareness is what PDOT Options is great at.

    It also won’t hurt that the guy behind this program is one of Portland’s pioneer bike activists and a veteran of Shift to Bikes, Timo Forsberg.

    I like your idea of a city ordinance. Despite the Get Lit program (from both Shift and the cops), there are still lots of cyclists out there without lights.

    And as for manufacturers including lights with bikes…I think the main issue here is that the vast majority of bikes sold in the U.S. are recreation-oriented bikes. The commuter/transportation niche is growing but it’s still just a niche compared to carbon road bikes and f/s downhill bikes.

    Another issue with manufacturers is that light purchases are likely an important revenue stream for shops and I doubt they’d be happy to lose it.

    Also, the bike industry runs on pretty slim margins. Adding front and rear lights may not seem like much to you, but it lowers the profit margin across the board.

    No manufacturer would start doing this unless they felt or heard demand from dealers and consumers…and until we get more people riding bikes for everyday transportation I really don’t see that happening.

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  • Bjorn November 13, 2006 at 11:25 pm

    how about making stealing a light off of a bike on par with the crime of smashing a cars headlights with a crowbar. I generally always try to take my lights with me, but if you forget and you are across town at night you can’t get a new light. Currently bike light theft would probably be the kind of things that a cop wouldn’t even deal with, but really it can be pretty dangerous. Just another case of the law not being concerned with bike issues because the dollar value of the damage is less.

    Bjorn

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  • Dabby November 13, 2006 at 11:26 pm

    I believe I understand this as a good idea, as a light program like this can only lead to more light users, and possibly more funding for free light programs to continue, so those who can’t afford to buy lights, or simply are seen without them, have more options.
    I do not see it is such a big issue, as most that I see ride with lights.
    But bringing awareness to it, and possibly saving even one life makes it very worth it.

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  • Dabby November 13, 2006 at 11:30 pm

    And, though I dislike TRI MET dearly, I agree that we should use the big annoying buses to promote bicycle idealisms such as this.
    And , with the mess they create in this town, and the loss of bike racks and bicycle access downtown due to the upcoming destruction ( I mean bus/ death trolley mall), Tri Met should just donate on up the sign space on the side of them there buses.

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  • Ayleen November 14, 2006 at 10:45 am

    To learn more, tune in to the KBOO Bike Show on the 1st Wed in December when Sara and I will interview folks from the See and be Seen program.

    You can catch the program live from 9-10 am at 90.7 or KBOO.fm. You can podcast it later at BikeShow.PortlandTransport.com.

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  • tonyt November 14, 2006 at 12:18 pm

    Vlad,

    We’d need to change the law on lights too. Currently the law only requires a front light and a rear reflector. Obviously a front and rear light should be the norm.

    We need to exert a bit more friendly peer-pressure too and bug our “no light” friends. With the people I know, money is more of an excuse. In reality it’s more of a priority issue, with beer money winning out over lights. I think we need to make it uncool to ride without lights, in the same way that it became uncool to litter.

    And how about manufacturers making lights that are harder to steal? When they make them quick release, it just means you have to take them off and take them with you, and if you forget, poof, they’re gone.

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  • chris November 14, 2006 at 12:19 pm

    We did a ‘buy lights before the clocks go back’ campaign in October. We got ALL the cycle shops to offer 10% off.

    We’ll do a bigger campaign next year

    http://cyclingedinburgh.info/2006/10/20/trycycling-unites-shops/

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  • Lenny Anderson November 14, 2006 at 12:22 pm

    I’d take the money and get Bureau of Maintenance to clean the leaves off the bike lanes and bikeways. Why do we have to wait forever for this the biggest hazard of winter riding, except for gravel after an snow event. Again where is PDOT? where is Commissioner Sam on this? It would just take a phone call.

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  • BURR November 14, 2006 at 12:48 pm

    If you’ve got good reflectors, they work just fine. I would not make changing this statute a priority, there are much bigger fish to fry.

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  • BURR November 14, 2006 at 12:52 pm

    Lenny – The Bureau of Maintenance has repeatedly shown their inability to grasp the fact that cleaning major bike routes of wet leaves and/or gravel should be one of their top priorities. The fact that no one in City Hall cares either, is a telltale sign that this city doesn’t really understand what it takes to achieve Platinum.

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  • Garlynn November 14, 2006 at 12:55 pm

    I think this outreach program is a good idea, but I also like the idea of requiring all bikes sold in the city of portland to be equipped with a set of front & rear lights before they leave the store.

    Also, why can’t we make it harder to steal lights? Sure, clip on/clip off lights are convenient, but couldn’t there also be locking mount systems for lights that use keys? I’ve got a set of locking hubs/seat post anchors for my entire fleet of bikes. But, that just covers the wheels & the seats. Why not locking lights?

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  • Richard Wilson November 14, 2006 at 1:05 pm

    This looks like a good program and wise use of TriMet ad space to me.

    Sure it would be great to have a free light campaign and get blinky lights on every bike in Portland, but there’s a lot more to being visible than slapping a cheapo LED flasher on the back of our bikes… I think _all_ of us should take the time to learn more best practices for aiming & positioning lighting systems, effective use of retroreflectives & reflectors and other strategies that can help make us more visible to motorists. Dress a buddy up as you on your bike and drive behind him/her some dark, stormy night and see for yourself whether you’re comfortable with that level of visibility. I did and I wasn’t very happy with what I saw.

    Rather than judge how many cyclists we see equipped with blinky lights as a measure of success, I think we should be talking about what percentage of cyclists we see on the road that are doing a really, really good job at being highly visible from all angles by all drivers and pedestrians in all potential road scenarios. I certainly see a lot more barely visible (or shall I say nearly invisible?) cyclists than highly visible ones when I drive the Pearl-NE Broadway corridor these days. Our road conditions suck in the winter, and bike lanes or not, we share the roads with distracted, unskilled, often idiotic drivers and we have to take more responsibility for our visibility and safety.

    It’s like my motorcycle instructor once told me: “If you’ve got a $50 head, buy a $50 helmet.” Question is: are you a $3 blinky?

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  • tonyt November 14, 2006 at 1:56 pm

    BURR,

    As someone who rides to work everyday, through the winter, I respectfully disagree that reflectors do the job. If a car is at an intersection and looking to pull out, the headlights are pointing in the wrong direction for reflectors to do any good. Factor in rain, water refraction on windows, grime, and early darkness and relying on reflectors is a recipe for disaster.

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  • Elly November 14, 2006 at 1:58 pm

    This sounds like a great program. When I first started cycling, I owned lights but often forgot them, or just didn’t want to take the time to find them, clip them on, remember to take them off at my destination, buy new ones when I forgot to take them off and they were stolen, buy new batteries, change the batteries, etc. Basically it was peer pressure that turned lights (and helmet too) from an annoying inconvenience to a regular habit. That’s exactly the same effect this marketing campaign ought to have. Nice work, Options!

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  • organic brian November 14, 2006 at 2:32 pm

    Lights that are More Difficult to Steal:

    How would this be achieved? I have certainly had bolt-on lights taken from my bike. They could be secured with keyed (the bolt and tool are unique and have to match) bolts, but those are expensive and what does a person do if they have lost the tool or don’t have it and need to fix the light? I think you can see why the quick-release is popular. Just take the light with you when you leave the bike as you would anything else that is valuable! You can also wear both the front and rear lights, which pretty much makes theft a non-issue since the lights are on your person. I wear my rear light, and the front light I take off and put in a pocket when I leave the bike. It just takes two seconds, and two seconds to put it back on later.

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  • Vladislav Davidzon November 14, 2006 at 2:36 pm

    There is always the option of breaking the quick-release :) I have a high-end rear cateye light on which I unintentionally broke the quick-release, only to discover the obvious anti-theft advantage.

    It is worth noting that the quick release mechanisms are rather beneficial to the bike industry as they drastically increase the amount of bike lights sold due to theft ;-) Sigh.

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  • tonyt November 14, 2006 at 2:51 pm

    organic brian,

    I’m not talking making them impossible to steal, just less than a simple theft of convenience.

    After my last lights were stolen, I snipped off the little lever on my Planet Bike lights and they’ve stayed on my bike for a long time now.

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  • BURR November 14, 2006 at 3:29 pm

    “If a car is at an intersection and looking to pull out, the headlights are pointing in the wrong direction for reflectors to do any good.”

    This is why you need a good HEADLIGHT, a rear light is primarily for the benefit of overtaking motoriists, and good reflectors work equally well.

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  • Jessica Roberts November 14, 2006 at 3:46 pm

    Reminds me of the annual “Lights On” campaign in Amsterdam (http://www.fietslichtaan.nl/). The police give out a lot of cheap tickets (20 euros) but that’s only part of the program. I think the ticket is waived if the rider proves they bought a light, but I’m not sure about that. Other parts of the campaign include print ads, tv ads, and giant posters all around the city.

    Riding without a light at night is one of the single most dangerous things you can do. I’m sure Greg will correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe I’ve read that cycling without lights at night increases your chances of getting hit by a car by a factor of 3 to 4.

    I believe that most cyclists must not know how important it really is, or more of them would bring lunch to work for a week to scare up the $25 it costs to get lights. It’s a way bigger deal than the cycling community acknowledges.

    Yes, a few people actually can’t afford that, and I hope those people get connected with the Get Lit program. However, I personally know a hundred cyclists who don’t have lights but do seem to have plenty of disposable income for beer, nice wool gear, extra bikes, etc. Nothing’s wrong with those things, but bike lights are pretty cheap.

    I think this campaign is a great idea and I hope it really does raise the profile of this issue.

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  • Hawthorne Rider November 14, 2006 at 3:51 pm

    Good point, Richard, about judging the quality of your lights – not just if you have them or not. I see many bikers with lights, but often only a back or a front, not both, or very miniscule lights clipped on their bags that aren’t very visible at different angles.

    I invested this winter in a much bigger/brighter tail light & also smaller lights that have a stretchy piece on them (like a small bungy) to put on my helmet. I have found it helpful to be able to turn my head towards cars at stop signs, so they see me & don’t pull out at me.

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  • tonyt November 14, 2006 at 4:05 pm

    “a rear light is primarily for the benefit of overtaking motoriists, and good reflectors work equally well.”

    Equally well? In theoryland.

    If the car’s lights are on, or work well, or if the reflector is clean or works well enough to penetrate a wet, smeary windshield, with a thousand raindrops on it and the refraction of a dozen cars coming the other way. Such is the reality of winter in P-town. With 20 years of bike commuting under my wheels, I’ll stick with lights.

    Being someone who also drives, I also do not wish to live with the guilt of having run over someone who wasn’t adequately lit. My fault or not, and I am a VERY cautious driver, I would be devastated with remorse. I cannot even imagine how I would feel.

    Lights my friends, it really is very simple.

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  • BURR November 14, 2006 at 4:10 pm

    Whatever, but a good flat DOT SAE reflector and DOT conspicuity tape work very, very well, IMO. And I’m not talking about the junk CPSC 360-degree reflectors that come with new bikes.

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  • tonyt November 14, 2006 at 4:15 pm

    Now you’re changing the rules on me BURR!

    :-)

    That tape stuff is great, but it’s not what comes on bikes. Yeah, the CPSC stuff is junk.

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  • Martha November 14, 2006 at 8:02 pm

    I’ve never been satisfied with my lighting options — the LED blinky lights are okay until the batteries start wearing down, but most of those lights use unusual batteries so I can’t use rechargeables. I used to have a halogen headlight, which I loved (oncoming cars dimmed their high beams for me!), but it was crazy expensive and the NiCad battery pack died after a year. Plus, the charge didn’t last all that long and the light/battery system was bulky, so I always had to plan ahead (fine for winter commutes, but not so good for spontaneous summer evenings). I have a couple of bikes, but lights don’t come with extra mounts so transferring systems is a pain. Arrghh!

    Does anyone have a light that they love?

    And BURR, what’s the best source for the brightest reflector material?

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  • tom November 14, 2006 at 9:21 pm

    I love my Dinotte LED taillight, Martha. $100 + dollars …but the well worth the money IMHO. Blind-ing-ly bright.

    I like Dinotte’s headlights because they’re light …and they take Double A batteries ….but they aren’t as bright as a 15+ watt Halogen light or a HID light. Love that I can put in a AA battery to “recharge” ..but they aren’t as bright as I hoped. Cost was ~$130 dollars for it.

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  • Wyatt November 15, 2006 at 8:04 am

    i got nightrider’s commuter light – the ultra fazer max. it was around $30 i believe. i use 2 rechargeable AA batteries that i pop into the recharger each night (not necessary, but it’s a good habit to get into). it’s bright enough for the springwater trail when it’s dark and has a really bright blinking setting for when i’m on the road. the ultra fazer max is rated for 3 hours of runtime. the new UFMs can be recharged by just plugging the charger cord-plug-thing into the light. less hassle of removing batteries to recharge.

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  • clinton rider November 15, 2006 at 9:07 am

    After following this discussion yesterday, I paid extra attention to visibility during a long walk last evening. Starting abuot 5:30 PM (peak commute time) we went from 45th and Division, via Lincoln, to the top of Mt. Tabor and back.

    Lots of bikes on Lincoln and Tabor. Interesting lighting (or lack thereof) on runners, walkers and bikers. Most riders had good visible front lights, but rear lighting was poor. Very few had lights beyond the minimum front and rear lights (e.g. headlamps, helmet blinkys, etc).Rear lights appeared to be plagued by dying batteries; covered by backpacks, fenders,or raingear; or simply no lights. Minimal reflective clothing or decals.

    Most walkers had reflictive clothes and shoes, but no lights (saw a dog with a blinky “disco light”… way cool!)

    The runners were the worst of the bunch. Most dressed in all black with very little reflective or powered lighting.

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  • Richard Wilson November 15, 2006 at 10:05 am

    Martha – I have a generator system on my Cargobike that is the best thing since sliced bread. Just flip the generator down onto the tire and you’re set. The lights are securely fastened to the rear fender and front fork so it’s not easy for anyone to walk away with them. It’s really an eye opener to have the lights “built-in” to the bike – I’m going to put a dynamo hub on my regular commuter bike as well so I’ll never be caught off guard. I still supplement the generator system with bright front and back blinky (or 2 back ones on nasty nights, one on bike aimed at windshield level, one on back of helmet unobstructed by backpack or bag).

    When it’s rainy I think the front blinky really helps to keep people from pulling out in front of me from parking spaces and intersections. Even though the steady headlight is pretty bright it can get lost in the dazzle of brighter car headlights pretty easily in heavier traffic like on Broadway. All you have to do is look in your rain spattered rear view mirror when you’re pulling out of a parking space next to a bike lane sometime to see how hard it is to see oncoming bicycles! I second tonyt’s anxiety about running over somebody and it really angers me to see cyclists out there in the winter with such crappy visibility who feel it’s their right not to have to make an effort to be seen – and then have the gaul to be righteously indignant when someone cuts them off or almost runs them down…

    The passive visibility of retroreflective tape and reflectors are all well and good, but when I’m pulling out of a parking space or intersection with the car how am I supposed to see you coming from behind, BURR? Several times over the past few weeks I’ve nearly run into several grumbling cyclists with no front lights at side street intersections in NE when cruising around my _bike_. These people are beginning to piss even me off – and I’m on their side as a fellow cyclist! Imagine how the majority of less sympathetic drivers feel… Why give the car-centric masses more reason to believe we’re “impeding the natural order of things” as Paul Steely White says in the “Holy Rollers” article in this week’s New Yorker?

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  • BURR November 15, 2006 at 11:16 am

    I second generator lights. Once they are installed and properly adjusted, you’ve always got a light, no batteries to mess with; and it’s securely bolted to your bike, bright enough to light the road and the newer lamps have standlights in them so they stay when you’re not rolling.

    Halogen Dynamo lamp bulbs: http://www.reflectalite.com/halogenpage.html

    Reflective tape: http://www.identi-tape.com/hi-intensity.htm
    http://www.identi-tape.com/conspicuity.htm Identi-tape is an Oregon business

    DOT SAE reflectors and reflective tape can usually be found in your local hardware store, as well.

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  • Jessica Roberts November 15, 2006 at 11:32 am

    Sanderson’s Safety Supply (1101 SE 3rd Ave) is a great source for cheap, plentiful reflective tape and stickers of all kinds.

    And it’s full of all kinds of fun other stuff too.

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  • Richard Wilson November 15, 2006 at 11:43 am

    Nice links, BURR – thanks.

    I’d put a vote in for the 3M SOLAS tape, it has a little stretchiness so lays flat on curved tubing – and since it’s made for Coast Guard style applications it’s very durable and performs well when wet:

    http://www.identi-tape.com/solas.html

    Peter White does a great job explaining the latest generator lighting options on his site:

    http://www.peterwhitecycles.com/lightingsystems.htm

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  • Jasun Wurster November 16, 2006 at 12:56 pm

    PDOT’s Transportation Options is a great organization and Timo is an even greater guy. My question are the following:

    1) What what are the statistics of cyclists being hit during limited visibility conditions verses being hit at day?

    2) What are the stats after alcohol is factored out. The reason I would like to know this is because I suspect that an impaired driver most likely will hit you regardless.

    3) What is planned to educate motorists to see cyclists on clear days when the sun may be in the motorists eyes?

    Damn numbers, I know. Perhaps speed limits should be lower during during limited visibility conditions and in-climate Oregon weather … oops wait they are, since vehicles are to use their judgment to drive at speeds according to conditions. A speed limit is the maximum that one can operate a vehicle on a dry sunny day.

    Again the gang at PDOT’s Transportation Options are great folks. I feel that this program is a bit misleading since from what I have seen thus far is making cyclists who *are* following the law (i.e. using a front light and reflector) out to be just as dangerous as the ones who are not.

    If people are so upset about only having a rear reflector talk to your local state Rep ( if you are too lazy there is always the BTA you can feed money to) and make the change to the below ORS.

    ORS 815.280

    (A) The lighting equipment must be used during limited visibility conditions.
    (B) The lighting equipment must show a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front of the bicycle.
    (C) The lighting equipment must have a red reflector or lighting device or material of such size or characteristic and so mounted as to be visible from all distances up to 600 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlights on a motor vehicle.

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  • Martha November 17, 2006 at 3:28 pm

    Thanks for everyone’s input on lights and reflectors!

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  • adam November 30, 2006 at 12:45 pm

    any chance that trimet can mention to the drivers not to try to run us over?

    and, while we are at it, how about a policy that prohibits drivers from allowing assailants to leave the bus to administer justice.

    keep your stupid ads and your stupid customer service. http://www.trimet.org/advertising/money.htm

    I am not impressed with the tri met leadership, either.

    this gentleman – http://www.trimet.org/about/organization/management.htm – makes more than most readers of this blog. six figures, baby…SO?

    apparently, he is no genius with labor, either….http://www.nwlaborpress.org/2006/7-21-06ATU.html

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