A friend of CAA, Zane, writes about an unlikely superhero hitting the streets as the winter nights draw in, determined to make sure those on bikes sparkle safely.
Daylight savings hit this week like a black cloak, making it even more important to think about Biking Bright.
One lone Auckland Transport Cycling ambassador headed out on Tuesday and Wednesday evening as the sun set. His task: to make sure those mounting their humble steeds at public transport hubs or out on the roads got home safely to their loved ones.
Armed with a handful of small ‘safety’ lights (designed to make you visible to others), some 20% off vouchers for better lights (designed to light your way; download your voucher here), and a plethora of relevant information, plus a will to make a difference… our Ambikeador was off!
He hadn’t even left home base on Tuesday before he found another cyclist about to tackle her ride home to her family. She’d ‘lost her light charging cables’ since last winter. Cue: free little lights, and a voucher for more…
Then our hero was off to Akoranga Bus station. Just after sunset, as dusk deepened to darkness, our lone Bike Bright Bike-Light Fairy was stopping cyclists before they left the station and checking their safety situation before they embarked on their murky ride home.
The BBBLF’s first two encounters that night were with badly lit men. One of them didn’t realise that it was a legal requirement to have lights on your bike at night (he’d only started riding in summer, and never ridden in the dark, which might also explain his entirely BLACK ensemble). The second was a young man who knew he needed lights but ‘hadn’t got around to it’ as it’s only 1km home for him along Esmonde Rd and into Lake Rd. If you know those roads, you know there’s a LOT of traffic on them: NOT the place to try and blend into the tarmac.
With a smile, a wave and a cheery ‘Ride safe!’ our little ambikeador was on his way, heading to the Bayswater ferry. Arriving at 6.45 (just a few minutes too late to catch it) he encountered five other cyclists leaving the ferry. The first gentleman when asked if he could use some lights for his bike said ‘Sorry, I just forgot!’ and turned on his lights – an easy save! Of the next three, though, two had zero lights and the third had forgotten to charge up his single rear light. Saved again by the BBBLF!
All up on Tuesday and Wednesday, our little Ambikeador met about 50 cyclists, put lights on 34 of them, helped pump up tyres, fixed a wayward bike rack and even helped remind two cars and one motorscooter rider that they’d forgotten to turn their lights on (the motorscooter had blown a bulb, apparently).
These sudden changes in the daylight when you have your routine set can be a shock to the system.
The many people met had many excuses for not having lights, including:
- I forgot to charge my lights
- I lost the charger for my front one and the back one’s broken
- I left my lights at home (the BBBLF met this young chap as he pulled into his house)
- Oops, I forgot to turn mine on!
- I didn’t think I needed them, I only live a kilometre from the bus station
- I didn’t think it would be this dark (6pm and it was dark!)
- I left the battery on charge at home
- We only ride on the footpath, said the couple catching the ferry to town for dinner (very romantic! but maybe not the most legal or safe)
- Oh, we’re just riding back from the supermarket (ALONG DOMINION RD, in the dark, at night, the bit where there is no cycle lane…)
- I only got my bike yesterday, this is my first ride (Yay for you! Now put some lights on, it’s 7pm and VERY dark!)
- My friend gave this bike to me, I was wondering if I needed lights…
Winter’s a great time to ride: the fresh breeze, the cooling showers, those crisp mornings when you feel like you’re the only warm thing silly enough to be out in the cold air.
Keep cycling – the turning of the wheels through winter can be a challenge, but it can also be very rewarding.
Just remember to Bike Bright, and beat the dark!
Ed: Remember that the fine for not having a light and not wearing a helmet are the same. But I think all of us would rather be seen and not hit, than rely on our helmet to protect us in a crash.